Everybody has heard of Nostradamus, but how much do people really know about the man? Most people are familiar with some of his prophecies, but there are a great many more which are lesser known; and there is also much more to learn about him than just his predictions.
Michel de Nostredame was born in 1503 in Provence, France and died in 1566. His book, Les Propheties (The Prophecies), was first published in 1555 has created a cult following the world over and it continues to remain in print today. In addition to being a prophecy writer, Nostradamus was also known as a healer and had a great interest in medical science. However he soon turned his attention to the occult, whereby he began to write annual almanacs which, when combined, contained over 6000 prophecies in total. He normally published several detailed predictions (called Almanacs) each year, as well as other more general predictions which were titled Presages or Prognostications.
Upon publication of his book, it was met with a reaction ranging from those who believed he was evil, to those who truly felt that he was a prophet. Some of Nostradamus’ almanacs for the year 1555 included what could be perceived as threats, though unnamed, to the Royal family. As a result, King Henry II of France’s wife, Catherine de’ Medici, demanded that Nostradamus meet her in Paris to explain those particular prophecies. Originally fearful that he would be persecuted by Queen Catherine, she become one of his greatest admirers at the time and appointed him as Physician-in-Ordinary and Counselor to King Charles IX of France, her son.
Nostradamus was also fearful of being persecuted by the Roman Catholic Church, however this did not eventuate mainly because he didn’t practice magic, and because prophecy and astrology were generally not targets of the Inquisition. Although he was imprisoned very briefly in 1561, this was due to the fact that he published his almanac in 1562 without gaining permission from a bishop. In general however, it is thought that Nostradamus had a relatively positive relationship with the Roman Catholic Church.
Nostradamus died in July, 1566 after a prolonged battle with gout and eventually, edema. His tomb now rests at the Collégiale Saint-Laurent. The prophecies of Nostradamus have remained popular over the centuries since his death. They have also prompted several thousand commentaries and entire books dedicated to deciphering his predictions. However not everyone is convinced: many people feel that the vague nature of many of his predictions make it too easy to relate them to current events at any opportunity. Despite this, the predictions of Nostradamus still have a place in popular culture today.
Nostradamus is most famous for his apparent predictions of major world events. He wrote these in what are called quatrains, which are short usually four line verses, often cryptic, but sometimes also mentioning specific places and even names. In particular his name is often brought into the limelight during natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes and droughts, as well as during wars and even murders. Some of the events that Nostradamus has been attributed to in some way, generally after the fact, include:
- Great Fire of London – a 3 day fire in 1666 which destroyed over 13,000 homes
- The rise of Napoleon
- Adolf Hitler’s reign
- World Wars
- Hiroshima nuclear destruction
- Princess Diana’s death
- September 11 World Trade Center terrorist attack
- Hurricane Katrina
Some also believe that he has predicted World War 3 although no one quote specifically predicts this occurring on any specific date. After one reads through a number of quatrains, one begins to realize a theme: Nostradamus tended to lean towards predicting struggles, wars, famines, disease and death. These somewhat morbid themes of the prophecies are of course what has made them of such interest to humanity: people simply want to know what lies ahead, and what major world events may affect not only their lives, but the whole of humankind. Although there are may books about Nostradamus written by various authors who create their own interpretations of his prophecies, the following are generally widely accepted and well known instances of Nostradamus accurately predicting major events.
The Great Fire of London
Medieval London was largely destroyed by this fire in 1666 and many attribute the following Nostradamus prophecy as being a prediction of this major event:
“The blood of the just will commit a fault at London,
Burnt through lighting of twenty threes the six:
The ancient lady will fall from her high place,
Several of the same sect will be killed.”
“The ancient lady” is said to refer to the city of London, whilst the number six refers to the number of deaths (although it is likely the number was much higher due to unrecorded fatalities amongst the poor).
The Rise of Napoleon
“PAU, NAY, LORON will be more of fire than of the blood,
To swim in praise,
the great one to flee to the confluence.
He will refuse entry to the Piuses,
The depraved ones and the Durance will keep them imprisoned.”
PAU, NAY, LORON, when rearranged, can spell out Napoleon Roy.
The Death of Princess Diana
One of the more recent events where a prophecy from Nostradamus was noted is the famous death of Princess Diana in a car accident in 1997. The quote taken to mark this event is as follows:
“The penultimate of the surname of Prophet
Will take Diana [Thursday] for his day and rest:
He will wander because of a frantic head,
And delivering a great people from subjection.”
Although the overall text is generally too vague to be considered to be pinpointing this event, there is no doubt that the use of the name Diana is the main reason that this particular Nostradamus prophecy has been linked to the death of the Princess.
Assassination of John F Kennedy
It’s no surprise that people wanted to find out if Nostradamus had indeed predicted the assassination of JFK. A search through his prophecies reveals the following, which comes eerily close to being very accurate, with a few unanswered questions:
“The great man will be struck down in the day by a thunderbolt,
An evil deed foretold by the bearer of a petition.
According to the prediction, another falls at night time.
Conflict at Reims, London and a pestilence in Tuscany.”
The line “another falls at night time” may refer to Robert Kennedy, who was killed several years later. It is still not certain what links Reims, London and Tuscany have to the event.
The prophecy that has been linked to the USA’s worst hurricane, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 is the following one:
“The cities of Tours, Orleans, Blois, Angers, Reims and Nantes
Are troubled by sudden change.
Tents will be pitched by (people) of foreign tongues;
Rivers, darts at Rennes, shaking of land and sea.”
No one has quite come up with an explanation for the other locations listed besides Orleans, but the shaking of land and sea as well as the mention of tents makes it obvious why this prediction has been linked to Katrina.
Hiroshima Atomic Bomb
The following prediction by Nostradamus is often linked to the Hiroshima incident. Whilst some of it is quite vague and could certainly be attributed to a number of major destructive disasters either in the past, present, or future, it is difficult to deny that it’s accuracy concerning Hiroshima is quite haunting.
“Near the gates and within two cities
There will be scourges the like of which was never seen,
Famine within plague, people put out by steel,
Crying to the great immortal God for relief.”
World War II
Nostradamus’ predictions for World War II could be considered from the following two passages
“In the place very near not far from Venus,
The two greatest ones of Asia and of Africa,
From the Rhine and Lower Danube they will be said to have come,
Cries, tears at Malta and Ligurian side.”
Whilst this passage can clearly be linked to Adolf Hitler:
“From the depths of the West of Europe,
A young child will be born of poor people,
He who by his tongue will seduce a great troop;
His fame will increase towards the realm of the East.”
“From the enslaved people, songs, chants and demands,
The princes and lords are held captive in prisons:
In the future by such headless idiots
These will be taken as divine utterances.”
The “princes and lords are held captive in prisons” refers to the aristocracy who were held in prisons. Some were also beheaded. Another passage linked to this event is:
“Before the war comes,
The great wall will fall,
The King will be executed, his death coming too soon will be lamented.
(The guards) will swim in blood,
Near the River Seine the soil will be bloodied.”
The River Seine was the location of the rise and fall of the guillotine.
September 11, 2001 NYC Terrorist Attacks
Perhaps one of the most widely quoted and potentially highly accurate Nostradamus predictions came in the form of the following one relating to the unforgettable terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City in 2001.
“Earthshaking fire from the centre of the Earth
Will cause tremors around the New City.
Two great rocks will war for a long time,
Then Arethusa will redden a new river.”
The two great rocks can be considered to be the two Twin Towers that collapsed, while the mention of “New City” is obvious. Reading this passage after the attacks makes it easy to link to the event, although reading it prior to the disaster may lead one to consider it a reference to volcanoes or a fire, particularly the last line making mention of the reddening of a river. It is interesting to note that in Nostradamus’ day, massive skyscrapers such as the twin towers were unheard of, which makes this prediction all the more chilling.
The day following these terrorist attacks, Google’s top reported worldwide search term was simply “Nostradamus”.
A brief timeline of the life of Nostradamus
Born on December 14, 1503 as Michel de Nostredame in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, southern France.
From 1522 to 1525, Nostradamus studied medicine at the Montpellier university. In 1529 he undertook his medicine doctoral studies at Montpellier Medical School.
During the early part of the 1530s, Nostradamus spends much time working as a healer and also gets invited to philosopher Julius-César Scaliger’s home.
In 1534 Nostradamus weds and goes on to have two children. However, in 1537 both of his children as well as his wife succumb to the plague. He was then sued by the family of his deceased wife as they wish to have her dowry returned. He remarried in 1547, this time to Anne Ponsarde. They go on to have six children over the years.
Around 1540 Nostradamus was accused of heresy because of a comment made about a church statue. He then chooses to depart the region instead of going to the Inquisition at Toulouse trial. This leads him to undertake travels throughout France and Italy for several years.
Nostradamus used his healing and medicine knowledge to treat victims of the plague in 1546, at Aix-en-Provence. Another outbreak is then experienced in Salon-de-Provence, where he also travels to treat victims.
The first almanac from Nostradamus is published in 1550. In it are general monthly predictions, and the almanac is highly successful, leading to many new versions every year until he dies.
In 1552, he went back to writing about health, with a book about fruit preservatives, perfumes and cosmetics. It was published several years later and proved to be a great success. In 1555 he proceeded start creating Les Propheties, with Centuries 1-3 and the first half of Century 4 created. Later in the year, he published the rest of Century 4, plus Centuries 5-7, in what became his biggest and most ambitious project.
In 1558, Nostradamus goes on to publish Centuries 8-10 of Les Propheties. However these are only available as a limited release, and would not be distributed more widely until after he died.
When, in 1559, King Henry II was killed, some supporters of Nostradamus thought that he predicted this death in Quatrain 35 of the Century 1 almanac, which reads as follows:
“The young lion will overcome the older one,
On the field of combat in a single battle;
He will pierce his eyes through a golden cage,
Two wounds made one, then he dies a cruel death.”
The king died jousting against Comte de Montgomery, and the lion reference can refer to their shields, which both had lions embossed on them. Two main wounds are what eventually killed King Henry, and he was the older of the two. He did not die suddenly, but rather died a “cruel death” which lasted 10 days after the joust. This may be thought of as Nostradamus’ most accurate fulfilled prophecies ever.
On July 1, 1566, Nostradamus states that he won’t be alive by morning, after his battle with gout and edema neared its end. He was correct, and that day received his last rites by a Catholic priest.
Facts about Nostradamus
There are many facts that most people are not familiar with about Nostradamus. The following sheds some light of a few of the lesser known aspects of his life.
When he was treating victims of the plague, he often used medicine that he formulated himself from rose petals. He also believed that the petals of roses had other uses as well: fighting tooth decay and bad breath (of course, toothpaste did not exist in the day).
While he was residing in Salon-de-Provence, France in the mid 1500s, he was involved in a large canal irrigation project, working with engineer Adam de Craponne. This canal is still in existence.
An unconfirmed legend relates that Nostradamus once greeted pig herding Franciscan monk Felice Peretti as “Your Holiness”. Some time later, in 1585 (after Nostradamus’ death), that monk would go on to become Pope Sixtus V.
Nostradamus lived in a house at Salon-de-Provence and it still stands today, and is open as a tourist attraction and museum. The town even puts on an annual summer festival in honor of Nostradamus, as they are proud of the fact that he resided in their town.
Another legend exists that Nostradamus was buried with a document that held many of the undisclosed secrets of his prophecies. However when his coffin was relocated in 1700 by Salon-de-Provence officials, they opened the coffin and found no such document existed. What was found however was a medallion. Inscribed upon the medallion was simply the year, or numbers, 1700. People thus then were amazed that his coffin happened to be opened in the year 1770 – the very year inscribed on his medallion draped on his remains in the coffin.
Skeptical people in the modern day maintain that Nostradamus’ predictions are taken out of context and are interpreted to fit events after they have occurred. These people state that Nostradamus has not predicted any actual event by name or date, and that his readings should be taken literally. In recent times, some raised the name of Nostradamus as one who predicted that the world would end in December 2012, along with the Mayan prophecy. However Nostradamus made no such mention of the date in any of his quatrains. In fact, Nostradamus named the year 3797 as the date that his prophecies would extend to.
Today, Nostradamus still remains a highly popular, enigmatic and interesting figure. Thousands of publications have been created about him, his life and his predictions, and a few films have even been made. There are also hundreds of websites dedicated solely to his biographical details and analyzing his prophecies in detail.
Along with the positive attention that Nostradamus still receives, there have also been some less than desirable hoaxes that have proliferated via the internet in recent times. For example, the terrorist attacks on New York City in 2001, along with the real prophecy listed above, also elicited a hoax prophecy that was tied to Nostradamus and spread across the internet as fact. It is most likely that this hoax was created through a misinterpretation of the original quatrains, with a number of interpretation leading to an inaccurate prophecy which was never written by Nostradamus himself.
Another famous hoax concerns the election of George W. Bush as US President in 2000. It is widely believed that the text circulated was completely made up as no one has been able to locate a Nostradamus quatrain that could be translated to resemble it. The text that was distributed was a follows:
“Come the millennium, month 12
In the home of greatest power
The village idiot will come forth
To be acclaimed the leader.”
Nostradamus had even been used as a hoax tool during World War 2, with leaflets containing hoax quatrains being dropped over Europe by German aircraft. It is believed that Rudolf Hess, the German political secretary, mastermind this action.
There have been a number of films created about Nostradamus over the past few decades. Some notable films include:
Nostradamus: The Man Who Saw Tomorrow – this is more of a dramatized documentary. It is hosted by Orson Welles and uses various scenes, news stories and other video footage to ask questions and provide insights into Nostradamus’ predictions about various events, such as the death of King Louis XVI, JFK’s assassination, and Napoleon. The special effects add a touch of fun to this classic film.
Nostradamus – created in 2000, another fictional story starring Rob Estes featuring a Nostradamus theme. The plot is based on a medieval cult planning to bring about the end of the world by drawing upon the spirit of Nostradamus.
Lupin III: Farewell to Nostradamus – a Japanese film made in 1995. This is not a film about Nostradamus in particular, but is a fictional story based around his prophecies. It can be found in the Final Haul box set of the Lupin series.
In addition to feature films, Nostradamus has also been the subject of, or portrayed in a number of television shows and series. The History Channel often airs series and specials on Nostradamus and his prophecies. Other shows where Nostradamus has been mentioned or featured include in an episode of The Sopranos, Doctor Who, My Date with a Vampire (a Hong Kong series), and several others.
In 2007 there was a video game released called Nostradamus: The Last Prophecy. It is an adventure game based in Salon de Provence in the year 1556 and is heavily based on and set in Nostradamus’ time. Although the plot is fictional, it uses many of the the same names and characters who featured in Nostradamus’ life, although the player never actually gets to play as Nostradamus.
While most of Nostradamus’ fulfilled prophecies to date have been on major events in the past, scholars still wonder whether he has any other predictions that will be relevant to both the short, and the long term future. Of great interest today is whether or not Nostradamus predicted a
possible World War 3 battle at any point in the future. Although none of his quatrains specifically spell out a world war three, some can certainly be interpreted as pointing in that direction.
An author by the name of David S. Montaigne wrote a book titled “Nostradamus: World War III 2002″ where he predicted that 2002 would be the year of WW3. Clearly that did not eventuate, but this is the Nostradamus quatrain that he used to back up his predictions:
“From brick to marble, the walls will be converted,
Seven and fifty peaceful years:
Joy to mankind, the aqueduct renewed,
Health, abundant fruits, joy and honey-making times.”
The main aspect that Montaigne focused on for stating 2002 would be the year for the next world war was the line “seven and fifty peaceful years” – referring to there being 57 years between the end of the World War 2, and the start of the next war. This would equate to the year 2002. He also used the following Nostradamus quatrain to guess what or who would be the cause of the beginning of WW3, in this instance pointing to Osama bin Laden or his followers:
“Of beyond the Black Sea and of the great Tartary,
A king comes who will see Gaul,
Piercing across Alania and Armenia,
And within Byzantium he will leave his bloody rod.”
It is unknown whether these predictions can still be made relevant today, despite the fact that the year and alleged perpetrator, who is now deceased, both render Montaigne’s specific predictions to be wrong – the cryptic nature of the quatrains still leave them wide open to interpretation on this matter, since no specific date or name were actually mentioned.
Whilst there is no doubt that many of Nostradamus’ prophecies can be interpreted in a number of ways, many many scholars over the decades and centuries have realized that there have been many uncanny instances where the quatrains are almost uncanny in their relevance to any particular event, especially the ones mentioned above in this article.
Nostradamus and his prophecies have fascinated people for centuries, and no doubt will continue to do so well into the future as well.