Get thee to a nunnery, Heloise

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The Independent Culture
Everyone likes a scrap. At least, that is, the sight of sparks flying as conflicting parties battle out their differences in a public arena.

The Middle Ages, it seems, were no different from now though the major fisticuff of the century was not between any politicians, columnists or DJs, as is more often the case today, but between a saint and a scholar.

The big question of the day was not how to pay the mortgage or if life begins at 30, 40 or 50 years old, but how to get close to God - through mysticism or analysis? - and the public watched eagerly as the two main rival theologians argued their cases.

Strange Landscape: The Saint and the Scholar (8pm BBC2) follows the different careers and beliefs of Bernard of Clairvaux, "the saint", and Peter of Abelard, "the scholar", and the growing pressure on them to meet face- to-face and fight it out.

The story is interesting enough, with a bit of love interest thrown in in the form of Heloise, whose tragic romance with Abelard leaves him castrated and her in a nunnery. But the docu-drama style, interwoven with blood, gore, rush hour in modern-day Paris, and monks with pudding-bowl haircuts gives a very disjointed and inconsistent feel to the plot.

Mind you, the two adversaries do "make up" and the lovers end up sharing a tomb so at least it has a happy ending - of sorts.

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