Nicolas Flamel (ca 1330-March 22, 1418)
More than just an old house
Built in 1407, this is supposedly the oldest stone house in Paris. We were staying nearby so it was fun to find it on a narrow street round the corner from our apartment.
It’s now a historic monument and was renovated by the city of Paris in 1900 but the façade is as it was in Flamel’s time, with attractive carvings and initials in the stonework. Flamel lived here with his wife, Pernelle, and willed his home to the city as a dormitory for the poor, with the stipulation that boarders pray daily for his soul and for other poor people, as he was a pious Catholic. So, they “prayed their way”!
Today, the building houses a fancy restaurant, the Auberge Nicolas Flamel, and some apartments. We didn’t eat at the restaurant, as the posted menu seemed rather expensive to us.
Besides being more than 600 years old, it turns out that this building also has a somewhat mystical history. Flamel was a wealthy writer, scribe and manuscript seller, with a reputation as an alchemist, but this came posthumously two hundred years later, in 17th century writings. There is no evidence that the real Flamel was involved in alchemy, pharmacy or medicine. The legends claim that he was successful in the two main goals of alchemy: that he made the Philosopher’s Stone, which turns base metals into gold; and that he and his wife achieved immortality through the “Elixir of Life”.
Why this is so interesting for many today is that some of these names and ideas are familiar to fans of the Harry Potter books. Many of the characters in the books are fictional but at least one of them is real: Nicolas Flamel was the alchemist colleague of Professor Dumbledore, mentioned in the first book of the series, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s (Sorceror’s) Stone”.
But, there’s no indication of any of this in the stately building on a quiet narrow Paris street today.
Find it at 51 rue de Montmorency, Marais, Paris (3rd arrondissement)