Nach neusten Recherchen ist die Mutter Heloisas am ehesten in der Region der mittleren Loire zu suchen. Vermutlich handelt es sich um Hersendis de Campania, die Weggefährtin Roberts von Arbrissel und erste Priorin von Fontevraud. In diesem Zusammenhang wurde innerhalb dieser Seiten bereits ein im Olzog-Verlag München erschienenes Buch vorgestellt: Heloisas Herkunft - Hersindis mater. Die folgende Arbeit, die die Ergebnisse dieses Buches umfasst und erweitert, ist in einem Sammelband von Ursula Niggli erschienen, welcher ebenfalls bereits an anderer Stelle vorgestellt wurde: Peter Abaelard - Leben - Werk - Wirkung, Freiburg 2003. Die Arbeit kann als PDF-File (ca. 550 KB; 39 Seiten) für den Ausdruck kostenfrei angefordert werden. Klicken Sie auf das Bild. Tragen Sie in der folgenden Maske Ihre Adresse und eine valide Email-Adresse ein, an die wir das Dokument senden können.
A paper about Hersendis de Campania, the first prioress of Fontevraud and assumed mother of Heloise, from 2003 (about 39 pages, PDF-file 550 KB) can be ordered here. Click on the picture and fill in your name and email adress in the following ask. We will send the dokument via e-mail as soon as possible.
page 51ff. --- chapter 5: Hersendis of Champagne - the mother of Eloisa?
Is it plausible that this dedicated prioress and pious widow gave birth in 1095 to an unrecognized daughter who later many kilometres away in Paris entered the footlights of history as Abelard's lover?
Before we approach this question, the reader needs to think ahead: as misogynous and loathing of the pleasures of the flesh as the spirit of the time and practicing Christianity in 1100 may have been, these people who lived then were nevertheless made of flesh and blood. For them deep religiosity and impulsive passion did not stand in contrast. Heloisa and Abelard are examples of this sort of attitude. In Angevin history there are whole volumes to be found concerning two-pronged personalities, who were on the one side deeply religious and on the other excessively living out their sensuality. The elemental breaking out of passionate feeling often causes people to step over current laws and moral boundaries. Love and hate, piety and sinfulness, impulsivity and apathy, passion and resignation are in the sources quite often demonstrated by one and the same person. It comes as no surprise if high ranking men of the church, clerics and members of monastic orders often lived in a less than canonical manner: forbidden love and secret rearing of children were a widespread phenomenon in this population group. As life expectancy was short and the fear of descent into hell was never ending, many a wrongdoer often suffered agonizing pangs of guilt. Erstwhile formidable potentates quite often mutated into generous benefactors of churches and monasteries in the last years of their lives. But also people from other social classes occasionally accomplished impressive achievements of this kind in the name of the lord as penitent sinners. Robert d'Abrissel on his deathbed let go of his guilty feeling that had troubled him in his life and had spurred him on to his great deeds, with the deepest of sighs, the "singultus penetralium"!
a.) Parallels in the lives of Hersendis and Heloisa
The parallels of Hersendis and Heloisa's lives are impressive. About 25 years apart from one another
- they both chose a monastic career forgoing a mothering role or a second marriage;
- male associates took a decisive part in this decision making;
- they both vigorously assumed leadership of their convent sisters;
- they both founded and organized with astounding talent a convent which lasted for hundreds of years;
- they both experienced dramatic situations and adventures at the beginning of their order's existence;
- they both compensated in exemplary fashion for the polarizing ways of their male exemplars through feminine powers of integration;
- they were both highly educated women;
- they proved themselves to be individual thinkers, to be protagonists of a theology, that overcame the existing barriers of the day, that replaced the loathing of carnal pleasures and rigid dogma with humanity, compassion and social welfare and refused to use executive power as an end in itself;
- they both procured the position of canon for their sons.
[ ... ]
b.) Arguments for Hersendis of Champagne being Heloisa's mother
1. As already mentioned, there is complete agreement in both written records concerning the proper name Hersendis and December 1 as the day of death. Even if it is accepted that there was a comprehensively larger number of women of that name living in France at that time, the number is reduced considerably, if you restrict it to high ranking noble women of the Loire region. In no chronicle or genealogy is there a Hersendis to be found, whose life situation corresponded with that of Heloisa's mother in such a way.
2. The Paraklet death book again gave Hubert as the name of a maternal uncle of Heloisa. Even if there had been a mixing up of the name or person with Fulbert, it is worthy of note that Hersendis of Champagne did in fact have a brother of this name: Hubert IV of Champagne. A later writer of the death book could thus have easily mixed up the name and person. The predominance of the names Fulbert and Hubert in the Loire region has already been underlined.
3. Striking analogies to the history of Heloisa are found in Hersendis' ancestors. A paternal great grand mother was a lady by the name of Eremburg of Montmorency. This corresponded almost exactly to the family relationship that d'Amboise had securely formulated for Heloisa in 1616: legitima agnatione. It just presented a shuffling of a generation. It was not Heloisa herself but her mother who was descended legitimately from the Montmorency family on her father's side! Duchesne had not fully researched this Angevin branch of the family as his genealogy verifies. Therefore he was not able to conclusively give his opinion about the statements of his fellow editor who had ascertained this information by means of oral tradition.
4. In addition there was a maternal great-great grandmother by the name of Heloisa (see appendix). This was a weighty indication because of the extreme rarity of the name in Anjou. On the other hand, the names are frequently repeated in Hersendis' family eg Hubert. Should Hersendis of Champagne have chosen the name of a great- great grandmother for her daughter?
5. Our research has brought forth information about another Heloisa, who could have originated from the same family. She was a local holy woman mentioned in the Acta Sanctorum and there also named as Beata Heloisa. In any case she was of noble lineage and lived reclusively in her cell around 1030 at the Coulombs convent on the Eure, a few kilometers north of Chartres. Possibly she was a daughter of the lady named in No. 4 or was even the same person.
6. The accepted lifespan periods of Hersendis of Champagne and Heloisa's mother are largely congruent.
7. The same can be said of the time of Heloisa's birth. The earlier assumption that Heloisa first saw the light of day in 1100 is hardly tenable on the basis of the sources. Heloisa was probably born in 1095. At exactly this time Hersendis was living a relatively unregulated life in the forests of Craon. Conception and birth in the corresponding periods are therefore thinkable and plausible ie not refutable by any opposing argument. As the second wife of William of Montsoreau Hersendis was in all probability younger than him and still of childbearing age.
8. There is now a plausible explanation for a commemoration service in the Latin Paraklet death book. It can have originated from family connections. It was not expected that Heloisa would commemorate her mother expressly as the Prioress of Fontevraud, due to the compromising character of such an entry.
c.) Deliberations regarding the paternity
If the mother-daughter hypothesis is proven to be correct, plausible arguments for the paternity and sending Heloisa to Argenteuil need to be brought forward. Unfortunately there is not the slightest indication as to who Heloisa's father was to be found. He remained absolutely unknown. On the basis of the chronology at least it can be said that Hersendis' husband, William of Montsoreau, cannot have been Heloisa's father. He died in 1087.
When it is taken into calculation that Heloisa did not grow up in an aristocratic seat, but in a faraway convent in Franzia and brought to Argenteuil, at least the principal father/daughter line-ups are deduced, the complete discussion of which here would lead too far. The following two diametric positions are conceivable.
Heloisa's father was one of the Pauperes Christi. If Hersendis was already converted at the time of the birth, Heloisa would have been of illegitimate descent and her remaining with her mother would have been impossible. In this case Hersendis' means should have been sufficient for her first of all to have engaged a wet nurse for her during the breast feeding period (In the Middle Ages weaning often did not occur until the third or even fourth year of the child) and subsequently surrendered her to a suitable convent for convent care and upbringing. Robert d'Arbrissel is in no way excluded as a potential father as his " sleeping with women" had aroused public anger, as the censure by Marbod of Rennes, who was a personal acquaintance from his time in Rennes, proves. Robert has to have exerted a certain attraction on Hersendis, otherwise she would not have sought contact with him: Robert on his part had chosen Hersendis out of hundreds of women as his closest confidante.
However, if a man from the nobility was the father of Heloisa, he must have been a very powerful man. In this case the conception would have probably taken place before Hersendis' conversion and before her time in the forests of Craon. The father would have had a claim on the bastard child for her to be brought up on his lands and to be destined for a later marriage for dynastic reasons. Perhaps Hersendis wanted precisely to frustrate these plans for her daughter's career, when she, perhaps already pregnant, joined Robert d'Arbrissel's community.
How much a forced wedding of their daughter hung over the heads of the ladies of high nobility like the sword of Damocles is shown in a letter from a high ranking Angevin noblewoman to Robert d'Arbrissel. Ermingard of Anjou was the daughter of Fulko IV, Duke of Anjou, and married to Alain Fergent, Duke of Brittany. Although her husband appeared on the outside to be a pious man, she wanted to divorce him. The reason was, among other things, the marriage of her daughter Hadvisa to the brutal Duke Balduin of Flanders, for which Ermingard suffered terrible pangs of conscience. Because of her spiritual troubles she begged for the pastoral support of Robert d'Arbrissel whose summing up in exact detail of the course of events remains to this day. Robert advised her to push ahead with the divorce: she herself, however, should remain faithful to her husband. Ermingard later entered the convent of Fontevraud for a time on the basis of her connection with Robert.
If then Hersendis of Champagne had a new born child emanating from the postulated relationship with a noble - and sent the child out of Anjou into the crown domains and if she herself was withdrawing from a fresh marriage through her connection with the Paupers of Christ, then supposedly it would have been because Heloisa's father was a powerful man with far reaching authority.
It is not out of the question that she had personal dealings with the ageing and notoriously lecherous Duke of Anjou, Fulko IV, who had been married five times. His frequent change of marriage partner is verified. In these years he was just mourning the loss of his last marriage, to Bertrada of Montfort, who - what a monstrous course of events - had given him his marching orders and had a relationship with King Philip I of France after an adventurous flight.
The sullen Fulko did not then take himself off to a crusade as he had done in previous years but spent most of his time idle in the castles of his vassals. One of his closest confidants had been Hersendis' late husband, William of Montsoreau. It is not so groundless as it first of all sounds that on a visit to William's son and heir Fulko could have sexually assaulted the still young widow Hersendis and this may have induced her to take flight from the feudal prison.
Understandably in this instance it is not a matter of reporting historical fact but of speculation. But this manner of reflection has its justification: as it verifies the fact, that the circumstances of Heloisa's conception and birth, if she really was Hersendis' daughter, would have to have been extraordinary. The achievement of founding Fontevraud brings forth the profile of Hersendis of Champagne in a maternal role, which she had not experienced and she cared especially for pregnant fallen women and girls!
page 58ff. --- chapter 6: Heloisa's Path to Argenteuil
How did the postulated daughter of Hersendis of Champagne get to Paris, that is Argenteuil?
Possibly there is a direct connection with Bertrada of Montfort's move to the side of the French king three years earlier. The sensation stirring flight of the beautiful scandal shrouded Duchess of Anjou had taken place in1092. The couple mostly lived in Paris and its surrounds or in Orleans.
Bertrada already knew Hersendis of Champagne personally from her time spent at the side of Fulkos IV. Both women had probably met numerous times at the ducal court and could even have been close friends. After all, Hersendis had been the wife and daughter of two important followers of Bertrada's first husband. Later Bertrada along with her son from her first marriage, Fulko V of Anjou, proved to be a generous patron of Fontevraud. Accordingly she shared Hersendis' enthusiasm for the teachings of Robert d'Abrissel. She herself, her brother and one of her representatives together with Hersendis of Champagne signed several documents for the benefit of Fontevraud: this personal acquaintance is also verified by reliable sources. Shortly before her death Bertrada entered a Fontevraudian priory at Hautebruyere near her home at Montfort along with some female relatives.
It seems plausible that Bertrada participated in Heloisa's transfer to Argenteuil, if the latter was the biological daughter of Hersendis. At least she had the influence to smoothly manage the time spent at Argenteuil. The convent of St. Mary in Argenteuil, the last abbess of which was identified just recently as a lady by the name of Matilda, had stood according to tradition under the protection of the French royal house since Merovingian times. Heloisa would accordingly have spent time in this rich convent, which was also renowned for the educational possibilities it offered, because Bertrada had connections there.
Perhaps it was exactly the disturbing connection to the house of Montfort that later induced King Philip's son, Louis VI, who Bertrada had previously attempted to have murdered, to change his father's policy and to deprive the convent of its power in favour of St. Denis. When in 1129 the nuns of Argenteuil including Heloisa were expelled, King Louis' friend and influential adviser at court, Abbot Suger, asserted on behalf of St. Denis allegedly old claims of ownership of this convent. In all probability these claims were fictitious.
Moreover, Heloisa's path to Argenteuil could have taken her by way of Evreux. There resided Bertrada of Montfort's former foster mother who bore a variation of Heloisa's name: Elvisa of Evreux. Could this have played a part in the choice of name for the young girl?
That Bertrada of Montfort and her clan also pulled strings in the admission of Fulbert into the cathedral chapter of Paris will be shown in the following.
[ ... ]
page 76ff. --- chapter 9: Gleanings
a) The point in time of the love affair
Abelard's time in the house of Fulbert is generally considered to be during the years 1116 and 1117. This dating is based on the supposed disappearance of Fulbert from the chapter documents of Notre Dame - and incorrect opinion, as has been already stated. Is this temporal association an Apodiktum?
We should remember the sentence from Abelard's second letter to Heloisa: You could easily have chosen a worldly life when I entered the monastery at the instigation of your parents or due to the attraction of carnal desires. Should we take this statement literally and accept Hersendis of Champagne as the biological mother of Heloisa, there is first of all a resultant contradiction.
According to the traditional dating Abelard had entered the monastery in 1118 and Hersendis probably died in 1114 but definitely before 1116. Heloisa's father, whoever he might have been, might still have been alive. If both premises, the ordering by the parents in Abelard's statement and the year of Hersendis' death being 1114, are correct, then the traditional dating of the love affair cannot be correct. These precise details are in no way backed up by the references. It is quite possible that the events happened earlier at the time of Bishop Galon, 1104-1116. One letter of complaint by Abelard about Roscelin of Compiegne addressed to Bishop G. after the love affair led until now to the assumption that it was about Bishop Gilbert. According to approximate dating it could have even been Bishop Galon as well. That is the conclusion to be drawn from the story at issue. There is no source, which unequivocally refutes the descent theory put forward here on this point.
Abelard's entering the monastery is also not documented and could also have been much earlier than previously thought: only with the Council of Soissons does the uncertainty concerning the dates appear to be ended.
Nevertheless the suggested bringing forward of the love affair remains only an option. This is because it is also plausible that Abelard had simply made a mistake with the dates when he drafted his letter to Heloisa about 20 years after the events. Besides, as previously demonstrated, Abelard appears to have occasionally used the concept 'parentes' in a broader sense in the meaning of 'relatives' or family'.
b.) Connection to the ducal house of Champagne
As the analysis of Hersendis of Champagne's family tree revealed, she was descended on her father's side from a collateral line of the Dukes of Champagne. Her ancestor in the sixth generation had been Odo I, Duke of Blois, Troyes and Chartres. As the generation cycles were shortened in the early Middle Ages because of the low life expectancy, there existed a time interval of only about 120 years between Hersendis and this ancestor. On the other hand, Odo I was the great grandfather of Theobald the Great, Duke of Blois and Champagne, 1088-1152. In Abelard's time that duke had become a powerful rival of the King of France; Abelard had fled to his territory from St. Denis. The Duke had made his founding of the Paraklet possible. Abelard said of him," I was a little acquainted with him."
It must be taken into the calculations that Heloisa by reason of her extensive family connections to the ducal family of Champagne could possibly have made the appropriate contacts. That she later fostered good relations with him is anyway indisputable. Duke Theobald's wife, Mathilde of Kärnten, established La Pommeraie Convent, which was subject to the Abbess and rules of the Paraklet, as a future place of retirement in her old age. More significantly there also existed connections to Fontevraud on the part of the ducal house: Isabella, Margarita and Maria entered Fontevraud as daughters of Duke Theobald. Maria would even have been the seventh Abbess of Fontevraud.
According to G. Menage, Hersendis of Champagne is also supposed to be related to the lords of Sezanne in Brie. In 1812 Turlot had identified there an abbess of the Sainte Marie-au-Blois Convent by the name of Hersendis, who he mistakenly thought to be Heloisa's mother. Did family connections in fact still exist here at the time of Abelard? The matter is worthy of investigation. Interestingly the research of F. Verdier is heading in this direction. He has postulated that Heloisa had family connections with the ducal house of Champagne and/or its vassals on the grounds of the Paraklet convent's incredible increase in prosperity under Heloisa. We might well wonder if the analysis of family trees will yield further information.
[ ... ]
d.) Heloisa and Petrus Venerabilis
As his letter exchange with Heloisa proves, Abbot Petrus Venerabilis of Cluny had from his youth onwards outstandingly detailed knowledge of Heloisa'a career in Argenteuil and Paris at his disposal. At the same time Peter of Montboissier - he was only later known by the sobriquet of Venerabilis - lived far off from the crown domains till his election as Abbot of the Cluniac monks in1122: in his home of Sauxillanges in the Cevennes, then in the monastic milieux of Cluny and Vezelay in Burgundy and in Domene in the Western Alps. Therefore in his early years he had followed the career of a gifted young girl in Paris across great distances. Almost a quarter of a century later he remembered her, when he wrote: "Neither had I reached full adulthood, nor had I left behind my youth, when word of your reputation, of the fame of your respected and praiseworthy studies, if not yet of your piety, was conveyed to me."
Further on he did not conceal his personal affection for Heloisa: "For in fact it is not just now that I love you. As far as I remember, I have already loved you for some considerable time" and "Already for a long time before I saw you, I kept a place of true, unfeigned love for you in the innermost corner of my heart." The Abbot even appeared to have reflected on the circumstances of Heloisa's birth, when he recited the Galter letter. "In so much as it pleased him through his grace, to call you from you mother's womb, you have put your study and learning to good effect." Heloisa was in fact taken from her mother's womb!
Of course the Abbot of Cluny could have heard something of Heloisa through the Clunyists at St.-Martin-des-Champs in Paris. But does this explain how mush he had taken her to his heart? The unusually affectionate attitude of the Abbot towards Heloisa speaks in favour of a quite different state of affairs: Peter of Montboissier appears to have had very personal, almost intimate information at his disposal and to have had this since his youth. This absolutely incredible phenomenon has hitherto not been able to have been explained. In this content the following information acts like an ignition spark.
Peter's mother Raingardis of Montboissier had personal contact with Robert d'Abrissel and probably also with Hersendis of Champagne. She even wanted to enter the Fontevraud monastery for a long time. At the time of his mother's death Petrus Venerabilis wrote that he had loved her very much all his life. "Finally the famous Robert d' Abrissel came to her and stayed with her for a long time" Without the knowledge of her husband she pestered him to make her a nun, so that she could move to Fontevraud after his death or with his permission. Robert must have advised her against a premature separation as Raingardis stayed in the Cevennes. After the death of her husband in 1117 she did not enter Fontevraud, as Robert and Hersendis had already died. On the contrary, Raingardis chose the Cluniac Marcigny convent on the Loire as her last residence on the advice of her son, who in the meantime had become prior of that order. There she spent almost 20 years in strict seclusion and led a saintly life up until her death in 1135, at the time of the council of Pisa.
If Raingardis had had personal contact with Robert d'Abrissel she could have at best been informed by him in a confidential conversation about Hersendis and a daughter named Heloisa. It is more probable that Hersendis herself was the informant. However, it is irrelevant whether she personally accompanied Robert on his pastoral journey to the south, which has been dated with uncertain arguments by La Mainferme in the year 1114. This is because Raingardis had previously visited many French convents including with certainty Fontevraud. For what other reason would she have wanted to enter there? On a visit to Fontevraud she would have, must have got to know Hersendis.
Petrus Venerabilis later followed from a distance Heloisa's path through life and learnt of her affair with Abelard and her conversion. After Abelard's death Petrus Venerabilis made it known, that he would like Heloisa to enter Marcigny convent too. Probably he would have been pleased to acquaint her with his mother and to know that she was in her care. "There you would earn no small respect from the nuns themselves, and you would be astounded, how the highest nobility and pride of this land prostate themselves at their feet." Was this a reference to Heloisa's noble origins? With this was he alluding rather to the social rank, which once had been withheld form the 'parentless' ward Heloisa and which was then richly sublimated in the service of Christ?
If one accepts as given, that strong personal connections even close friendship existed between Raingardis of Montboissier, Robert d'Abrissel and Hersendis of Champagne, then the selfless actions of the abbot on behalf of Peter Abelard are also understood. He made things happen not just for political reasons but also for Heloisa's sake! Perhaps he had actively set up the earlier contact established between both their mothers and had begged for help for Peter Abelard.
e.) Fontevraud and the Paraklet
When reflecting of the potential relations of the founding person, it is attractive to compare Hersendis and Abelard's Paraklet convent and Heloisa's congregation at Fontevraud. The similarities in the structure of the convents had been hardly apparent to any author up till now, apart from a couple of notable exceptions.
When Abelard's Paraklet writings and above all letters seven and eight of the letter exchange and the well known activities of Heloisa are analysed, it is not difficult to recognize that the pair were actively involved in the foundation concept of Fontevraud and had taken into consideration its merits when they were formulating their own set of rules. The basic motive of their enterprise, the structural reform of a traditional order, was similar and this is no completely new revelation. Already in 1616 the authors of Histoire Litteraire de France were writing," Abelard achieved their highest satifaction by sending them a little later the rule/ law, which they had asked for. Those of Saint Benoit and the Constitutions of Fontevraud form the basis of this writing which contains a quantity of excellent things along with some singularities."
And these were the common goals: the lived following of Christ, a theology which reconciled God with mankind, the practice of poverty, humility and loving one's neighbour as the basic virtues of monasticism but also throughout this the special, merciful ministering to those burdened with troubles and last but not least the special consideration for the concerns of the female sex.
The latter required a certain independence that both order leaders - Hersendis and Heloisa - achieved (in their lifetime) because of their aptitude for negotiation. The popes bestowed the exemption on their convents early on. Both tried their utmost to avoid the decadence of other convents of that time.
However, the basic way in which the organization of the Paraklet differed from Fontevraud was the prevention measures that Heloisa and Abelard had taken to avoid the unfavourable development that Fontevraud had taken after 1116, that is after the death of the founder. In this way Abelard consciously prevented in his theoretical design of the order the secularization of the convent, which resulted from too large a population. This emphatically transformed Heloisa in her practical management of the order. With the early establishment without exception of small priories Heloisa also consciously kept the mother cloister a small manageable size. In this way it was also possible to avert the other dangers, for example the infiltration by the nobility, which Abelard had so greatly feared.
Moreover, Abelard in his cloister conception distanced himself from the model of a double convent under the leadership of a young abbess. Here with certainty he had the moral decay that set in at Fontevraud under Petronilla of Chemille in his mind's eye. Instead he designed the filigree structure of a community of nuns and monks with a male abbot at the head who chiefly represented the convent in its dealing with the outside world, side by side with an abbess who had far reaching independence in the internal running of the convent. He provided this convent with detailed protective regulations for the keeping of the physical and spiritual purity of the nuns placed there. However, according to everything that is known about it Heloisa in her lifetime did not put this concept in all its facets into practice. A conscious renunciation of Abelard's plans does not seem viable. If Heloisa who demonstrably placed Abelard's authority above all else, gave up the idea of a double cloister or did not put it into practice, then the latter can be simply explained through the circumstance of the population of associated fraters in this small Paraklet convent never reaching large numbers.
These short explanations might be sufficient for an outlook/opinion. A final point in passing: Heloisa and Abelard intended the high altar of the church of the Paraklet as the symbolic figure of the Holy trinity. Dekan Hilduin of Troyes carried out the consecration. Later the old trinity statue of the foundation time also stood here. The side chapel they had consecrated to Mary, the mother of God and to John, the disciple of Jesus. The latter were also the patron saints of Fontevraud: "Ecce, filius tuus, ecce, mater tua". These were Christ's words on the cross and also the personal motto of Robert d'Abrissel for Fontevraud!
page 86ff. chapter 10: Outlook and Conclusion
After this genealogical expedition through the eleventh and twelfth centuries may the reader finally answer the question: Was Hersendis of Champagne the mother of Heloisa? This particular summary comes out as moderately as possible. It is plausible and even probable as there are many indications of a family connection. Proof in a scientific sense is, however, not to be had and therefore should not be expected. All the same quite a few biographical details, which up till now had not been fitted into place find a plausible explanation due to the hypothesis. Besides, no striking counter arguments or compelling reasons for exclusion have been brought forth. One thing, however, is certain: independent of the postulated mother-daughter relationship, the biographies of Heloisa and Abelard must be in some points be revised or extended. And even the greatest skeptic will concede that the 'rediscovery' alone of the previously unnoticed, mind you female founder of Fontevraud justified the research.
To conclude, there is the following general picture.
Heloisa was probably born in the last years of the eleventh century in the north of Anjou at roughly the same time as the First Crusade was publicly declared in France. There is some substance in the notion that her mother was the noble lady Hersendis of Champagne, widowed Lady of Montsoreau, who originated from Durtal on the Loire. The Angevin house of Champagne maintained royal connections over large distances, for example with the ducal house of Champagne. Hersendis was personally acquainted with many personalities of that epoch such as Bertrada of Montfort, the Dukes of Anjou, the Earls of Brittany and Abbot Petrus Venerabilis of Cluny and his mother Raingardis.
In 1095 or a little later Hersendis broke radically with the feudal system and linked up with the vagabond Paupers of Christ under the leadership of the itinerant preacher Robert d'Abrissel. Heloisa's conception and birth occurred during this troubled time. Nothing more precise is known about the circumstances of the pregnancy and delivery and the father of the girl. Heloisa was not necessarily of illegitimate descent. Nevertheless her birth was subject to special circumstances that were unusual for a noble offspring. Hersendis of Champagne and Robert d'Abrissel designed an innovative model of welfare work for the alleviation of social discord, which had arisen through the displacement of people during the crusade and through weaknesses in the feudal and church systems. As a central point of their work they cared for the needy and persecuted women of the land but also beyond that for the poor and sick of both sexes.
For the realization of their ideas they founded at the turn of the century the mixed convent of Fontevraud, which moreover included the greatest nunnery of French history. Hersendis of Champagne played a decisive role in the achievement of founding this convent. She was the one who brought about the necessary gifts of land. As Mother Superior of the choir nuns she oversaw the development and the building work and ran the mixed convent up until her death.
About one and a half decades before her mother's death Heloisa had had to leave the ancestral home as a newborn or small child because of her parents' living circumstances. Therewith she shared the destiny of her uncle Fulbert, who was probably Hersendis' half brother. Unloved in his ancestral seat of Durtal, he spent his youthful years away from home in religious or noble surroundings in the Loire region before moving, just like his little niece, to the Seine just before the turn of the century. Heloisa's upbringing in the St. Mary convent of Argenteuil seems to have been brought about through the mediation of Bertrada of Montfort. Fulbert achieved admission into the cathedral chapter of Notre Dame in Paris with the help of Bertrada's brother, Bishop William of Montfort. This would have been made possible through the newly achieved sinecure, which with the subdeaconate would have been linked to St Christopher church in front of the doors of Notre Dame.
Fulbert was ambitious, enterprising and unscrupulous. He repeatedly came into conflict with law and order, for example through the concealment of relics and the assault on Abelard. However, these affairs did not substantially prejudice his church career. Until 1124 he was one of the eleven subdeacons at the cathedral in Paris and also held more important positions towards the end of his career. His house and Abelard's teaching chair of dialectics did not lie in the cathedral precinct of Notre Dame but by the aforementioned church of St. Christopher in the residential inner quarter of Paris, which was situated between the Petit Pont and the cathedral. He probably spent his old age and ended his days in the regular canonical order of St. victor.
In her later life Heloisa does not seem to have turned completely from Fulbert. She commemorated his death in the Paraklet death book and eventually sought out his last resting place so that she could also arrange a memorial service for the deceased Abelard and the dead of the Paraklet. The rest of Heloisa's life's work, her love affair with Abelard and her convent career are widely known.
The Paraklet convent founded by both of them showed in its foundation concept parallels to Fontevraud. In its later development it proved to have improved variations. It may be accepted that Heloisa knew who her mother was. It is rather improbable that they got to know one another later in life, as Hersendis died early, in 1114. However, it is hoped that in spite of the geographical distance mother and daughter liked one another, perhaps even loved one another.
Both journeys through life exhibit many parallels. Hersendis and Heloisa were children of their time and were therefore neither protagonists of a feminist movement nor champions of free love. For them God was a reality - in a direct way which today is hardly imaginable any more. Without losing sight of the norms and conventions of the epoch, they both through their life and their work pointed to the future. Contrary to the spirit of the age they moulded Christian belief as a basis for living one's life, which people could understand and achieve. Thus, disregarding their mother-child connection, which probably did not find fulfillment, they proved themselves to be bearers of a common destiny and came close in their way of thinking. The ideals for which they lived and died are indestructible and enduring and radiate through into our day and age.