Nicholas Flamel is a very familiar name to all the Potterheads and to any person who has seen a Harry Potter movie. According to Harry Potter and philosopher’s stone he is said to be the only known maker of the Philosopher’s Stone, an object capable of turning metal into gold and granting immortality with its Elixir of Life. However, did you know that Nicholas Flamel was actually a real person?
Nicholas Flamel was a less famous bookseller from 14th-century France. His wife Perenelle, (same as in the book) was widowed twice before and brought the fortune of her two previous husbands to her marriage with Nicholas. As a result the couple was wealthy enough to own several properties and also to donate the excess to the Catholic Church. This wealth seems to have become the basis of the legends surrounding Flamel.
According to historical records Flamel has died in 1418 and was buried in Paris, beneath a tombstone he designed himself. However, the legends say something else. According to the legends, Nicholas and Perenelle faked their own deaths and escaped to India, and remains there with the help of the immortality gained by ‘philosopher’s stone’.
The legend says that a stranger approached Flamel one day with a rare manuscript written by Abraham the Jew. Flamel recognized it, because not long before, he had dreamed about an angel. The angel had appeared holding a book, telling him: ‘One day you will see in it that which no other man will be able to see…’
This book was written in Greek and many other languages which were unfamiliar to Flamel and contained instructions on Alchemy; how to create Gold. Flamel supposedly spent 21 years trying to decipher the instructions on the book. When Paris couldn’t provide answers, he set off to Spain to find a Jewish scholar and came across Maestro Canches, a learned Jewish man living in Leon, who agreed to help Flamel. With the help of Canches, Flamel apparently created the phiolopher’s stone that granted him a vast wealth and Elixir of Life.
Flamel’s reputation was used by many people after his death. For example he was mentioned in Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, the composer Erik Satie was said to be fascinated by him, and the Freemason Albert Pike mentions him in his book Morals and Dogma, a philosophical rationale of freemasonry. Whether or not they believed in the legend, all these learned figures identified Flamel as an alchemist.
Recently, Flamel has been mentioned in fictional works including “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”, Umberto Eco’s “Foucault’s Pendulum” in 1988 and Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” in 2003.
Even though it is still unsure whether the real Flamel was a genuine alchemist or not, his legendary reputation has certainly made him immortal even without the philosopher’s stone.