Flamel’s Transmutation

After arranging for and overseeing the burial of Maestro Canches, Nicolas Flamel returned to his home in Paris where he resumed his work as a scribe and a seller of books. However, as you might have suspected, the story does not end there.

According to Flamel, during his brief association with Canches, he’d gained enough knowledge from the Maestro to allow him to interpret the mysterious book he’d come into the possession of. As a result of his study, he achieved, approximately three years later, the holy grail of alchemy, the art of transmutation. If Flamel is to be believed, he successfully created the substance, in the form of a dry powder, which is known as the philosopher’s stone, and used it to change one half pound of mercury into pure gold.

It’s important to note here that some claim the stone is actually a metaphor for an inner potential of the spirit to evolve from a lower state of imperfection and vice, symbolized by the base metals, to a higher state of enlightenment and perfection, symbolized by gold. In Flamel’s words, due to his understanding of the book of Abraham the Jew, he had risen above the satisfaction of the senses and the turmoil of passions. It’s also important to remember that Nicolas Flamel was a Christian, who devoted much of his life to working out his personal salvation. In addition, Flamel was informed in a dream, by an angel of the Lord, that he would be receiving the book of Abraham the Jew.

As to what, exactly, Nicolas Flamel actually created or achieved is open to speculation. However, historical records bear testimony to some remarkable things he accomplished after having interpreted the book of Abraham the Jew. Flamel, and his wife Pernelle, continued to live a modest life. However, during this period of their lives, they began to act as wealthy benefactors. They established low-income housing for the poor, founded free hospitals, donated heavily to area churches, repaired cemeteries, and endowed the Quinze-Vingts, an institution for the blind. No small feat for a seller of books.

Flamel’s gifts were so generous that they aroused curiosity and even jealousy among his peers, enough so that King Charles VI eventually heard of it and ordered an investigation of the matter. Due to Flamel’s prudence and reticence, though, nothing much came of it.

Nicolas Flamel reached the age of eighty before he passed away. With his wife, Pernelle, having preceded him in death, Flamel carefully settled his affairs and planned how he was to be buried at the end of the nave of Saint-Jacques Boucherie. His gravesite, at the Musee de Cluny in Paris, can still be visited. As might be expected, though, his death was as circumspect as his life. Flamel was not long buried when news of his death and, due to his alchemical prowess, suspicions of enormous quantities of gold concealed within his property, spread throughout the area. Would be Alchemists and fortune hunters came in droves to search for his treasures. Sculptures and inscribed stones at Saint-Jacques Boucherie, and the Cemetery of the Innocents were broken and carried away under the cover of darkness. Flamel’s houses were ransacked and nearly destroyed. However, other than alleged reports of a few vials containing a reddish powder, nothing was ever found.

What happened to the book of Abraham the Jew?

Nicolas Flamel bequeathed his papers and library to a nephew named Perrier, who was also interested in alchemy. For two centuries, the book was handed down from father to son without much being heard of it. During the reign of King Louis XIII, news of the book resurfaced. A descendant of Flamel, named Dubois, who supposedly had a supply of the reddish powder, ignored the wise reserve of his ancestors and used the powder to gain attention. Reportedly, in the presence of the King, he changed lead balls into gold. It is known that during this time Dubois had many interviews with Cardinal de Richelieu, who no doubt wished to learn the secret. Not long after the interviews, Dubois was imprisoned at Vincennes where he was later condemned to death. It is believed that Cardinal de Richelieu took possession of the book of Abraham the Jew. He built a laboratory at the Chateau of Rueil, which he often visited to study the manuscript. With the death of the cardinal, all traces of the original book disappeared.

What about Nicolas Flamel?

When news of the book of Abraham the Jew resurfaced during Dubois’ incarceration, robbers made their way during the night to the church of Saint-Jacques la Boucherie where they lifted Flamel’s tombstone and broke into his coffin. After this, rumors quickly spread that the coffin had been found empty, and that it had never contained the body of Flamel, who was believed to still be alive. If that were true, since Louis XIII reigned from 1610-1643, and Flamel was born somewhere around 1330, that would have put Flamel around 300 years old at the time.

Is it possible that a 680 year old alchemist still roams the streets of Paris? Perhaps we should ask Harry Potter.

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