In 1378, the public writer, who still thinks that the Kabbala will allow him to decipher Abraham’s book, decides to go to Spain where there is an important Jewish colony.  He leaves, on foot, explaining to his entourage that he is making a pilgrimage to Saint James of Compostella.

In the province of Leon, he meets an old Jewish doctor called Canches.  Canches is an alchemist.  Flamel shows him a copy of Abraham’s book which he has sewn into his clothes.  Canches is amazed.  Flamel explains to him that the original is in Paris, and invites him to go back with him to see it.  Canches accepts, and, in spite of the Winter weather, they take to the road.

The trip is long and difficult but, while they walk, Nicolas Flamel learns the recipes and secrets that he needs for the Great Work.  In Orleans, Canches dies, exhausted.  The public writer buries him and returns to Paris, where he is reunited with Dame Pernelle.  Immediately, they both set to work.  And, on 17 January 1382, around midday, they at last succeed in changing half a pound of lead into pure silver…

Stunned, amazed, radiant, they prepare the second step of the operation and, on 25 April, they obtain an ingot of pure gold.  From then on, they will repeat their experiment and collect a considerable fortune, from which the poor in the Saint-Jacques de la Boucherie neighbourhood will be the first to profit.

***

Nicolas Flamel wrote down the principal episodes of his life and his research in a work called Le Livre des figures hieroglyphiques.

***

It is difficult to evaluate exactly the fortune of Nicolas Flamel.  It was considerable, because, according to notaried Acts which have been found, Flamel built four big houses and bought seventy-three others, in Paris and its surroundings.  As well as that, he covered all of his neighbourhood poor in gold, and even became banker for the Royal Treasury.  He also, at his wife’s request, endowed nine tradesmen’s fraternities, as well as fourteen churches or hospitals, including the Quinze-Vingts.  In memory of this gesture, every year until the Revolution, the blind went in procession from their hospital to the Saint-Jacques de la Boucherie Church, in Nicolas Flamel’s parish.  Today, the Saint-Jacques Tower is all that is left of it.

***

People have said that his profession of public writer would have been enough to have made him rich.  For anyone with any knowledge of the living standards of small tradespeople in the Middle Ages, this is absurd.  It has also been said that he was an usurer and that he took the gold deposited with him by the Jews.  These accusations have no foundation.  Plus, such acts would be in total contradiction with everything that we know about the character of Nicolas Flamel – his goodness and his generosity.

***

Notre-Dame de Paris is a book of alchemy that the initiated are able to read.  Its first bishop, author of an Epitre sur l’alchimie, resumed this secret science in some of its sculptures.  For example, at the Sainte-Anne door, there is a statue of Bishop Marcel plunging his crozier into the mouth of a winged dragon.  This dragon is leaving a space where a man is lying.  Above, an upside-down royal head and Byzantine gold pieces are sculpted.  All of this is symbolic and constitutes, for those who are able to read it, a real instruction in hermetic language.

Detail of the Virgin's door in Notre-Dame de Paris. The seven circles represent the metals necessary for the Great Work.

There are two signs which indicate the alchemical vocation of Notre-Dame de Paris.  At the Virgin’s door, you first see a sarcophage decorated with seven circles representing the seven planetary metals necessary for the acccomplishment of the Great Work.  And, if you take the stairs which lead to the second gallery, you will discover, among the statues of chimera, an old stone man wearing the Phrygian bonnet of the Adepts.  It is the Alchemist watching over Paris, as he would watch over his athanor or alchemist’s furnace.

The alchemist watches over Paris from amongst the chimera of Notre-Dame de Paris

***

Like Notre-Dame, the Sainte-Chapelle is a book of hermetic images.  There, it is not the statues which contain the teachings, but the stained-glass windows.  They are so rich and so “readable” that Fulcanelli says that

“it would be difficult to find anywhere else a more considerable collection on alchemical esoteric formulae.”

Of course, you need to have the key.

***

The transmutation of metals – which is accompanied by the personal transmutation of the Adept – is only one step in alchemical research.  One step in the accession to semi-mortality.  It should be noted that Nicolas Flamel was nearly one hundred years old when he died in 1418, which is stupefying in a time when men rarely arrived at fifty.

Of course, some authors are not happy with this great age.  A few have gone as far as saying that the sworn-writer, and Dame Pernelle, did not die in the XVth Century.  After a fake funeral, they are both supposed to have left France and gone to India to live a happy life, thanks to the elixir of longevity.  These same authors affirm that a traveller by the name of Paul Lucas met them in the XVIIth Century, gaily spending their prodigious fortune.

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