Flamel, Nicolas 1330 - 1418


(c. 1330-1418), French scrivener and manuscript-seller

Nicolas Flamel, probably born in Pontoise in ca. 1330 was a successful scrivener and manuscript-seller in Paris. He ran two shops as a scribe and married Perenelle in 1368. She brought the wealth of two previous husbands to the marriage. The French Catholic couple owned several properties, and contributed financially to churches, sometimes by commissioning sculptures. Later in life they were noted for their wealth and philanthropy.

Flamel has a reputation in history for his work in alchemy. According to texts ascribed to Flamel almost two hundred years after his death, he had learned alchemical secrets from a Jewish converso on the road to Santiago de Compostela. However, there is no indication that the real Flamel of history was involved in alchemy, pharmacy or medicine. 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”.

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.