Michel de Nostradamus (Michel de Nostredame) was born on the 14th December 1503 and died on the 2nd July 1566 (63 years old).
Nostradamus, was a French astronomer, apothecary and reputed seer who published collections of prophecies that have since become renowned and famous worldwide. He is best known for his book Les Propheties (The Prophecies) which first appeared in 1555 and which has rarely been out of print since his death.
Detail from an original 1555 edition of "Les Prophecies"
Since the publication of this book, Nostradamus has attracted a following that credits him with predicting many major world events.
Most academic sources maintain however that the associations made between world events and Nostradamus’s quatrains are largely the result of misinterpretations or mistranslations (sometimes deliberate) or else are so tenuous as to render them useless as evidence of any genuine predictive ability.
Moreover, they claim that none of the interpreters or researchers of Nostradamus Prophecies can offer any evidence that anyone has
ever interpreted any of Nostradamus’s quatrains specifically enough to provide a clear identification of any event in advance…. (however, you might like to read a book by Lee McCann, called “The Man Who Could See Through Time”, and make up your own mind)
Nostradamus's house at Salon-de-Provence, before reconstruction
Michel de Nostredame was born on 14 of December 1503 in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in the south of France, (where his claimed birthplace still exists to this day).
Nostradamus was one of at least nine children of Reynière (or Renée) de Saint-Rémy and grain dealer and notary Jaume (or Jacques) de Nostredame (the Jaume’s family had originally been Jewish, but his father, Guy Gassonet, converted to Catholicism around 1455, taking the Christian name “Pierre” and the surname “Nostredame” (the latter apparently from the saint’s day on which his conversion was solemnized).
Michel’s known siblings included Delphine, Jean I (c. 1507–77), Pierre, Hector, Louis, Bertrand, Jean II (born 1522) and Antoine (born 1523). Little else is known about his childhood, although there is also a long-held belief that he was educated by his maternal great-grandfather Jean de St. Rémy – however the latter disappears from the historical record after 1504, when the Nostradamus was only one year old.
At the age of sixteen, Nostredame entered the University of Avignon to study for his baccalaureate. After little more than a year (when he would have studied the regular trivium of grammar, rhetoric and logic, rather than the later quadrivium of geometry, arithmetic, music and astronomy/astrology), he was forced to leave Avignon when the university closed its doors in the face of an outbreak of the plague.
After leaving Avignon, Nostradamus (according to his own account) traveled the countryside for some eight years from 1521-1529, researching herbal remedies and working as an apothecary .
Nostradamus's house at Salon-de-Provence, as reconstructed after the 1909 earthquake
In 1529 he entered the University of Montpellier to study for a doctorate in medicine. He was expelled shortly afterward when it was discovered that he had been an apothecary, a lowly “manual trade” expressly banned by the university statutes.
The original expulsion document (BIU Montpellier, Register S 2 folio 87) still exists in the faculty library. However, some of his publishers and correspondents would later call him “Doctor”. After his expulsion, Nostradamus continued working, presumably still as an apothecary, and became famous for creating a “rose pill” that supposedly protected against the plague.
Marriage and healing work
In 1531 Nostradamus was invited by Jules-César Scaliger, a leading Renaissance scholar, to come to Agen. There he married a woman of uncertain name (possibly Henriette d’Encausse), who bore him two children.
In 1534 his wife and children died, presumably from the plague. After their deaths, he continued to travel, passing through France and possibly Italy. On his return to France in 1545, he assisted the prominent physician Louis Serre in his fight against a major plague outbreak in Marseille, and then tackled further outbreaks of disease on his own in Salon-de-Provence and in the regional capital, Aix-en-Provence.
Finally, in 1547, he settled in Salon-de-Provence in the house which still exists today, where he married a rich widow named Anne Ponsarde, with whom he had six children – three daughters and three sons.
After another visit to Italy, Nostredame began to move away from medicine and toward what was then considered the occult. Following popular trends of his time, he wrote an almanac (book of prophecies) for 1550, for the first time Latinizing his name from Nostredame to Nostradamus.
Nostradamus was so encouraged by the almanac’s success that he decided to write one or more annually. Taken together, they are known to have contained at least 6,338 prophecies, as well as at least eleven annual calendars, all of them starting on 1 January and not, as is sometimes supposed, in March.
Nostradamus - Century 1, Quatrain 1-1555
It was mainly in response to the almanacs that the nobility and other prominent persons from far away soon started asking for horoscopes and “psychic” advice from him. Nostradamus then began his project of writing a book of one thousand mainly French quatrains, which constitute the largely undated prophecies for which he is most famous today.
Perhaps due to feeling vulnerable to religious fanatics, he devised a method of obscuring his meaning by using “Virgilianized” syntax, word games and a mixture of other languages such as Greek, Italian, Latin, and Provençal.
Nostradamus portrait by Cesar
The quatrains, published in a book titled Les Propheties (The Prophecies), received a mixed reaction when they were published. Some people thought Nostradamus was a servant of evil, a fake, or insane, while many of the elite thought his quatrains were spiritually-inspired prophecies.
However Catherine de Médicis, the queen consort of King Henri II of France, became one of Nostradamus’ greatest admirers. After reading his almanacs for 1555, which hinted at unnamed threats to the royal family, she summoned him to Paris to explain them and to draw up horoscopes for her children. At the time Nostradamus feared that he would be beheaded, but by the time of his death in 1566 Catherine had made him Counselor and Physician-in-Ordinary to her young son, King Charles IX of France.
However, anyone studying sciences or providing prophecies to Kings and other powerful people in the 14th Century would always have had a fear of being persecuted, indeed their fate could change in an instant following an event such as the death of the King, or a change in Church policy.
Nostradamus was briefly imprisoned at Marignane in late 1561 because he had published his 1562 almanac without the prior permission of a bishop, contrary to a recent royal decree (so we could possibly surmise by this fact that perhaps there had already been a change in attitudes… There was also persecution of witches around this time, so it is not unreasonable at all to suggest that Nostradamus too would probably have been worried).
Final years and death
By 1566, Nostradamus’ gout, which had plagued him painfully for many years, turned into oedema, or dropsy. In late June he summoned his lawyer to draw up an extensive will bequeathing his property plus 3,444 crowns (around US$300,000 today) – minus a few debts – to his wife pending her remarriage, in trust for her sons pending their twenty-fifth birthdays and her daughters pending their marriages. This was followed by a much shorter codicil.
On the evening of July 1, he is alleged to have told his secretary Jean de Chavigny, “You will not find me alive at sunrise.” The next morning he was reportedly found dead, lying on the floor next to his bed and a bench.
Nostradamus was buried in the local Franciscan chapel in Salon but re-interred during the French Revolution in the Collégiale Saint-Laurent, where his tomb remains to this day.
Nostradamus - epitaph on his tomb
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