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Tuesday, 7 April 2009

About Peter Abelard's hymn for Good Friday

The preceding post is the text written by Peter Abelard for his beloved Heloise and her nuns.

I did a podcast of me reading the Latin and of the translation by Helen Waddell, if you'd like to hear it spoken.

The background story is that Peter was a brilliant theologian, teaching in Paris University in the 11th Century. He was hired by Heloise's uncle Fulbert to teach her, and the two fell in love. They got married secretly and when Fulbert heard of it and suspected that Peter was going to deny Heloise, he had Peter castrated. Heloise was set up as prioress of her own convent. A collection of letters from Peter to Heloise exists, together with love letters written by Peter.

Helen Waddell wrote a novel which she called 'Peter Abelard', not only tracing the love affair but examining divine and sexual love, indeed explaining Christian theology through physical love. This may have been, as the critics of Abelard claimed, quite unorthodox, but it does throw light on the atonement, that perhaps would be hard to find elsewhere. Indeed, the atonement is such a big subject that we need light from wherever we can get it.

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