Nicholas Flamel

Nicholas Flamel (1330 – ?1417) is one of the most famous French alchemist. Many myths surround Flamel, the essence of his reputation are claims that he succeeded at the two goals of alchemy: that he made the Philosopher's Stone, which turns base metals into gold, and that he and his wife Perenelle achieved immortality through the "Elixir of Life". Legendary accounts of Flamel's life are based on seventeenth century works, primarily "Livre des figures hiéroglyphiques". Flamel was not a monk, but a scrivener, who earned his living from copying documents in Paris. These could be anything from books to deeds of covenant or letters, and he would have no doubt encountered alchemical manuscripts in the course of his work. 

Nicholas Flamel
One night an angel came to him in a dream and showed him an old book with magnificent illuminations. Flamel reached out to touch the book, but both the book and the angel vanished before he could hold it in his hands. Sometime later, in 1357, Flamel bought a book and at once recognised it as the book that had been shown to him in his dream.The book was written by a certain Abraham Eleazar, and it appeared that he was describing the art of transmuting metals into gold. On every seventh page there were enigmatic illustrations purporting to show part of the process. Flamel confided in his wife, Perenelle, that he could not understand more than the first few pages of the book.

After twenty years of study and failed experiments, Flamel decided to make a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella, in the hope that he might find a learned Jew to explain the work to him (Abraham having written his book for fellow Jews). He went to Santiago in 1378, and spent more than a year there before meeting one Master Canches. Canches, a merchant, realized that Flamel had in his possession an ancient Kabbalistic text that was thought to have been lost forever, and willingly explained the figures for him. Canches returned to France with Flamel, eager to see the original from which Flamel had made his copies, but died at Orleans.

Flamel returned to Paris alone and worked without ceasing for three years. On Friday 17 January 1382, at around noon, he is said to have completed the work, with his wife Perenelle as his only witness. Flamel and Perenelle are the archetypal male and female alchemists working together in harmony, the "frater mysterium" and "soror mystica" bringing complementary opposites –male and female, yin and yang, inner and outer – together for the purposes of the work. (Another aspect of alchemy that would have been frowned upon by the Church.) 

In 25 April that year, they repeated the success of the first experiment, and the Flamels suddenly began to acquire huge wealth. Over the next fifteen years, they founded fourteen hospitals in Paris alone, gave substantial donations to seven churches, and gave similar gifts in Boulogne (which could have been Perenelle’s home town).

Flamel lived into his 80s, and in 1410 designed his own tombstone, which was carved with the images of Christ, St. Peter, and St. Paul. The tombstone is preserved at the Musée de Cluny in Paris. After he died in 1417 (some account said 1418), he was buried in Paris at the Musée de Cluny at the end of the nave of the former Church of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie.

Upon Flamel’s death in March 1417, a mob ransacked the house to find the source of their treasure. They found nothing, but both Flamel’s tomb and that of Perenelle were found to be empty when they too were broken open.They were said to have gone to India, where they were seen around the year 1700, and were reported to have been seen at the Paris Opera in 1761.

Interestingly, Flamel wrote a coded alphabet called "The Testament of Nicholas Flamel" in the late 1750s, and published in 1806 in London. It was written in secrecy and intended only for his nephew. A Parisian scribe named Father Pernetti and a Monsieur de Saint Marc were finally able to break the code in 1758.

Alchemy and Alchemists by Sean Martin;;;

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