Huis van Nicolas Flamel in Parijs
A building full of myths and legends
At 51 rue de Montmorency in Paris you will find a very special building. Strange symbols adorn the facade of the building. It is the oldest stone house built by the most famous alchemist of the city: Nicolas Flamel. Many believe that he amassed wealth through his discovery of the Philosopher’s Stone.
The bookselling alchemist
Nicolas Flamel was born about 1340. He worked most of his life as a bookseller. Legend has it that he came across a text revealing the secrets of converting metals into gold. As an alchemist, he would then have succeeded in making the Philosopher’s Stone. It is not entirely certain whether he has earned a fortune with this. The fact is, however, that Flamel was a philanthropist who worked for the poor. Since he had a successful career as a bookseller, married a wealthy widow and engaged in real estate speculation, it is quite possible that this is where he got his fortune.
Anyway, Flamel is an important name in alchemy. Nearly 200 years after his death, texts were attributed to him, such as Le Livre des figures hieroglyphiques (The Book of Hieroglyphics). How much of that is true is impossible to say. He is said to have learned his alchemical secrets from a Jewish man on the road from Santiago de Compostela.
Nicolas Flamel’s house
The house was built in 1407. It is the oldest stone house in the whole city. Nowadays you will find a restaurant in the house. Flamel is said to have conducted his experiments in alchemy there in the 14th century. The building also appears to have been used to accommodate the poor, rather than to house the builder himself. The residents had to comply with certain conditions, as can be read on an inscription on the wall:
We workers and women living on the porch of this house built in 1407 are obliged to say an “Our Father” and an “Ave Maria” every day and pray to God that his grace may forgive poor and dead sinners. Amen.
The house is not the only link to Flamel in the city, by the way. Near the Louvre, a street is named after him, which intersects with rue Pernelle: the street named after his wife. His tombstone is also a special point in the city. The stone, designed by Flamel himself and decorated with his own symbology, is on display at the Musée de Cluny.