Nicolas Flamel

A Philanthropist Discovering the Philosopher’s Stone

Nicolas Flamel, who lived throughout the 14th and 15th century, worked as a manuscript scribe while developing a reputation as an alchemist. He and his wife, Pernelle, were relatively wealthy and were able to own multiple homes, to house the homeless, and donate to local catholic churches. Around 200 years after their death, in the 17th century, many people believed they never died and were able to discover the Philosopher’s Stone to possess immorality.

When Nicholas and Pernelle married in 1368, Pernelle had been previously divorced, twice, thus she brought the wealth that allowed them to play a big part in philanthropy. Throughout their marriage, the couple owned several properties that serviced and housed the homeless community. Today only one of their houses remains. It was built in 1407, which makes it the oldest stone house in all of Paris, located in the Marais. With the great generosity throughout his life, upon his death it is revealed he did not have this astounding wealth he claimed to have in his work called, His Exposition of the Hieroglyphicall Figures. Although, it was the couple’s dedication to philanthropic work that did contribute to the growing legend surrounding his life. Nicolas Flamel is estimated to have died in his 70s to 80s, he carved his own tombstone in 1410, wrote his will in 1416, and then died on November 22, 1418.

Around the 17th century, about 200 years after Flamel’s death, records describing the Philosopher’s Stone legend started to appear. There are those who say that during Flamel’s life, he was able to achieve the two highest goals of any alchemist. The first goal is discovering the philosopher’s stone, this stone allows the person of its possession to turn any base metal into either silver or gold. The second goal is achieving immorality through the potion called the ‘Elixir of Life’ which cures all diseases and grants eternal youth. There are some that believe the couple were able to attain these goals, despite the fact there is no real evidence in written records that show Flamel was involved in any type of alchemy.

Playing this key role in the creation of the legend around the philosopher’s stone, Nicolas Flamel appears in many popular works. To start in 1831, in Victor Hugo’s novel, Notre Dame de Paris, the character Claude Frollo becomes interested in alchemy and spends time studying Flamel’s work. Then continuing onto more modern features, Flamel appears in J.K. Rowling’s, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, written in 1997, and in the film adaptation from 2001. In both the novel and film, he appears as himself being an alchemist and a friend of Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of the fictional wizarding academy Hogwarts. J.K. Rowling continues to use Flamel’s legend in her recent spinoff film, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Other notable mentions Flamel is portrayed in is the 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code, and the 2014 film, As Above, So Below.



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