Collection of Letters: Detail
- Peter the Venerable
To Peter, most reverend lord and father and venerable abbot of Cluny, Heloise, God's and his humble servant: the spirit of grace and salvation.
The mercy of God came down to us in the grace of a visit from your Reverence. We are filled with pride and rejoicing, gracious father, because your greatness has descended to our lowliness, for a visitation from you is a matter for great rejoicing even for the great. Others are well aware of the great benefits conferred on them by the presence of your sublimity but, for my own part, I cannot even formulate my thoughts, much less find words for what a benefit and joy your coming was to me. Our abbot and Lord, on the 16th November of the past year you celebrated a Mass here in which you commended us to the Holy Spirit. In Chapter you fed us by preaching the word of God. You gave us the body of our master and so yielded up the privilege which belonged to Cluny. To me too whom (unworthy as I am to be called your servant) your sublime humilit has not disdained to address as sister in writing and speech, you granted a rare privilege in token of your love and sincerity: a trental of masses to be said on my behalf by the abbey of Cluny after my death. You also said that you would confirm this gift in a letter under seal.
Fulfil then, my brother or rather, my lord, what you promised to your sister, or I should say, to your servant. May it please you too to send me also under seal an open document containing the absolution of our master, to be hung on his tomb. Remember also, for the love of God, our Astralabe and yours, so that you may obtain for him some prebend either from the bishop of Paris or in some other diocese. Farewell; may the Lord keep you, and sometimes grant us your presence.
Petro reverentissimo domino et patri, ac venerabili abbati Cluniacensium, Heliosa [sic] humilis dei et eius ancilla, spiritum gratiae salutaris.
Visitante nos dei misericordia, dignationis vestrae nos visitavit gratia. Gratulamur pater benignissime, et quod ad parvitatem nostram magnitudo vestra descenderit, gloriamur. Est si quidem vestra visitatio magna magnis quibuslibet gloriatio. Norunt alii, quantum eis utilitatis vestrae contulerit praesentia sublimitatis. Ego certe non dicam enarrare dictu, sed nec ipso valeo comprehendere cogitatu, quam utilis, quam iocundus vester michi fuerit adventus. Abbas noster, dominus noster, apud nos anno praeterito .xvi.kal.Decembris missam celebrastis, in qua spiritui sancto nos commendastis. In capitulo, divini nos sermonis eulogio cibastis. Corpus magistri nobis dedistis, ac beneficium Cluniacense concessistis. Michi quoque, quam nec ancillae nomine dignam, sublimis humilitas vestra tam scripto quam verbo sororem vocare non dedignata est, singulare quoddam velut amoris et sinceritatis privilegium donastis. Tricenarium scilicet, quod michi defunctae conventus Cluniacensis persolveret. Indixistis etiam, quod donum illud sigillatis confirmaretis apicibus. Quod itaque sorori immo ancillae concessistis, frater immo dominus impleatis. Placeat etiam vobis aliud michi sigillum mittere, in quo magistri absolutio litteris apertis contineatur, ut sepulchro eius suspendatur. Memineritis et amore dei et nostri Astralabii vestri, ut aliquam ei vel a Parisiensi, vel ab alio quolibet episcopo praebendam adquiratis. Vale, dominus vos custodiat et praesentiam vestram quandoque nobis exhibeat.
Heloise mentions a previous visit from Peter when he brought Abelard’s body back to the Paraclete and requests written confirmation of Abelard’s absolution and of masses promised for her soul, and she also asks Peter to help find a post for her son. The child born to Abelard and Heloise, c.1118, was Astralabe, for whom Heloise is seeking a church position. We know nothing more about him. Abelard does not mention him in his letters, but did write a long verse of advice to him, ed. by J.-B. Hauréau, "Le Poème addressé par Abélard à son fils Astralabe," Notices et extraits des mss. de la Bibl. Nat. XXXIV 2, p.153-87.
The Letters of Peter the Venerable, ed. Giles Constable, 2v (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967), ep.167, v1 p.400-01; trans. Betty Radice, The Letters of Abelard and Heloise (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974), p.285.