An alchemist’s love potion: Nicolas Flamel

An alchemist’s love potion: Nicolas Flamel.

In a narrow street in the third arrondissement of Paris, near the Pompidou Centre, at 51 rue de Montmorency, is the house of alchemist Nicolas Flamel and his wife Pernelle. It is the oldest stone house, still standing, in Paris, and Flamel built it himself in 1407.

Nicolas Flamel (about 1330-1418) was a French book-seller, but he was also an alchemist, conducting alchemy experiments and making potions in his house. He is believed to have discovered the Philosopher’s Stone. The Philosopher’s Stone’s substance turned base metal into gold, and is the mythical elixir of life, supposedly giving people heavenly bliss and immortality.

Nicolas Flamel’s house is now a restaurant, the Auberge Nicolas Flamel, although the exterior’s stone facade remains unchanged. The engravings in the stone façade can faintly be seen – alchemists at work and engraved alphabet letters. He also designed his own tombstone with its own symbology, which can be seen at the Musée de Cluny on the Boulevard Saint Michel. The Cluny Museum is currently closed for renovations, and is due to re-open in early 2022.

Nicolas Flamel was originally buried in the Church of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie (Saint James of the Butchers), but only the church tower, La Tour Saint-Jacques, remains after its demolition in 1797. The 52-metre (171 foot) tower is in the 4th arrondissement on the corner of rue de Rivoli and rue Nicolas Flamel, which intersects with rue Pernelle, named after his wife. 

The Philosopher’s Stone’s gave Nicolas and Pernelle the elixir of life, heavenly bliss, and even immortality. Pernelle was instrumental in Nicolas’ life: not only did she dust the books, make their bread and the mortar for their stone house, but she also assisted with mixing the potions for her husband’s experiments. Next to each other each day in life, joined by street signs in death.

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