If you’ve read Harry Potter, chances are you’ll remember the name Nicolas Flamel, friend of Dumbledore and possessor of the legendary Philosopher’s Stone. You might be pleasantly surprised to find out that he is not just the fantasy of Rowling’s mind; he indeed existed and he was considered one of the great alchemists of his time.
Part of the wealthy Parisian bourgeois from the mid-1300s to 1418, his official title was letter-writer and sworn-bookseller, but that didn’t explain the extent of his affluence. His marriage into wealth and real estate investments assured him a vast fortune; but rumors about its origins spread, and many suspected he used alchemy to create his riches. After his death he left behind several properties, and he gave considerable amounts of money to charities and churches. Because of the amounts he bequeathed, rumors about his dabbling in the metallurgical arts grew to legendary proportions.
One of his properties was a hostel at 51 rue de Montmorency, where he and his wife cared for the sick. Not only is this spot of interest because it belonged to one of Paris’ most mysterious denizens, it is also the oldest house in all of Paris, dating back to 1407. Nowadays there’s a pricey bistro on the premises, but one can still pass by to view this corner of Parisian history.