Nicolas Flamel, the little bourgeois who became a legend

Nicolas FlamelNicolas Flamel | ©Austrian National Library (ÖNB) / Public domain

Nico the public writer

Nicolas Flamel? A Parisian legend... Well, gossips said he was an alchemist!

Alchemy is a pretty mysterious practice both mystical and philosophical, aiming at transforming simple metals like lead into noble metals like... gold!

Another goal is the immortality quest. And yet...

Nicolas was a simple bourgeois, leading his cosy little life...

Good husband, good Christian, he gave to the poor and raised hospitals and churches.

He was born in a poor family in Pontoise, near Paris, in 1330. His job? Public letter writer: at that time, we had no printers!

The public writer used to copy for rich persons. And it was a pretty lucrative business.

Nicolas was the best: he even opened his own shop, La Fleur de Lys, in Saint-Jacques de la Boucherie district.

He married one of his customers, says the book Guide de Paris mystérieux (ed Tchou): Pernelle.

A dream, an angel...

But the legend tells how Nicolas had a strange dream, one night...

An angel showed him a book written in a weird language.

He said: "You don’t understand this book? Wait. One day, you’ll decipher it and you’ll be rich!"

Then, one day, a man came to Nicolas’ shop. He wanted to sell him an old book. Whoa! Guess what?

It was the book Nicolas dreamt of!

He bought it and red the title: "Abraham the Jew’s book, prince, Levite, astrologer and philosopher".

A book about... alchemy. And Nicolas started to solve the book’s mystery, day and night. It was enough to drive him crazy!

Alchemy fever

But few years later, he became rich: he solve the secret of the transformation of metals into gold!

The book long thought to have been written by Flamel, Le livre des figures hiéroglyphiques, talks about that.

The scene takes place in 1382, "on Monday, about noon, in my house, Pernelle was here".

So, he was rich. Ready to spend a lot. He bought plots of lands, gave money to churches and raised a chapel in Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie church where he wanted to be buried...

Hey, in fact, Nicolas was only a little bourgeois who became rich thanks to his business and with real estate speculations.

Talk about alchemy! But it was bloody less brilliant...