At noon December 14, 1503, at Saint-Rémy in Provence Michel de Nostredame, better known as Nostradamus, was born. His ancestry was Jewish, but by Edict of the king in 1501 all Jews were to become baptized, among those were the parents of Nostradamus, Jacques and Reyniere de Nostredame. Thus Michel was born christian and baptized. Michel was the first son, and he had four brothers, of which we know little. At a very young age it became clear that Michel was a very bright boy and his parents put his education into the hands of his grandfather, Jean. In addition to the rudiments of Mathematics, Greek, Latin and Hebrew Jean taught Michel the first rules of the celestial science: Astrology.

After his grandfather's death, Michel went to Avignon to study the liberal arts at the famous center of Renaissance learning. There he continued his study of the stars. His father however, became worried about these impractical sciences and sent Nostradamus off to Montpellier where he was to study medicine. In 1522 Michel obtained his bachelor's degree, after just three years of study, which was a demonstration of his intellect. Once he had his license to practise medicine he decided to go out into the countryside and help the many victims of the plague.

Four years later he returned to Montpellier to complete his doctorate. Nostradamus had some trouble in explaining his unorthodox remedies and treatments he had used in the countryside. Nevertheless his learning and ability could not be denied and he obtained his doctorate. He remained teaching at Montpellier for a year but by this time his new theories, for instance his refusal to bleed patients, were causing trouble and he set off wandering again.

Circa 1534 he settled in Agen and married a young girl whose name was lost, all that we know is that she was 'of high estate, very beautiful and admirable'. He had a son and a daughter by her and his life seemed complete.

Then disaster struck. The plague came to Agen and carried away many people. And although Nostradamus had saved many from the plague, he was unable to save those he loved most, he lost his wife and both children to the Black Death.

The loss of his family was a heavy blow to him but others were yet to come. His patients, seeing a doctor unable to save his wife and children, decided that they would rather have another docter. And finally his wife's family tried to sue him to retreive her dowry. Nostradamus set out on his wandering again for the next six years (1538-1544). We know little of this period. But many legends about his prophetic powers start to appear at this time.

By 1544 Nostradamus had settled in Marseilles, were he fought a new outburst of the plague. In November that year, the Provence experienced one of the worst floods of its history. The rivers filled with corpses and men and animals caused the plague to double in virulence. Nostradamus worked ceaselessly.

Afterwards Nostradamus moved on to Salon, where he were to settle for the rest of his life. In November 1547 he married Anne Ponsart Gemelle, a rich widow. The house in which they spent the remainder of their days can still be seen off the Place de la Poissonnerie.

After 1550 he produced a yearly Almanac - and after 1554 The Prognostications - which seem to have been successful, and encouraged him to undertake the much more onerous task of the Prophecies. He converted the top toom of his house at Salon into a study and as he tells us in the Prophecies, worked there at night with his occult books.

By 1555 Nostradamus had completed the first part of his book of prophecies that were to contain predictions from his time to the year 3797. The word Century has nothing to do with one hundred years; it was so called beacuse there were a hundred verses or quatrains in each book. The verses are written in a crabbed, obscure style, with a polyglot vocabulary of French, Provencal, Italian, Greek and Latin. In order to avoid being prosecuted as a magician, Nostradamus writes that he deliberatly confused the time sequence of the Prophecies so that their secrets would not be revealed to the non-initiate.

It is extraordinary how quickly the fame of Nostradamus spread across France and Europe on the strength of the Prophecies, published in their incomplete form of 1555. The book contained only the first three Centuries and part of the fourth.

The prophecies became all the rage at Court, the Queen, Catherine de Medici, sent for Nostradamus to come to Court. On August 15, 1556, Nostradamus and the Queen spoke together for several hours. The king, Henri II, granted Nostradamus only a brief audience and was obviously not greatly interested.

Two weeks later the queen sent for him a second time and now Nostradamus was faced with the delicate and difficult task of drawing up the horoscopes of the seven Valois children. Many people believe that Nostradamus already knew the faith of these children and that he had already written them down in the prophecies. However, the exact contents of the horoscopes remain a mystery.

Soon afterwards Nostradamus was warned that the Justices of Paris were inquiring about his magic practices, and he swiftly returned to Salon. From this time on, suffering from gout and arthritis, he seems to have done little except draw up horoscopes for his many distinguished visitors and complete the writing of the Prophecies.

In 1564 Catherine, now Queen Regent, decided to make a Royal Progress through France. While travelling she came to Salon and visited Nostradamus. They dined and Catherine gave Nostradamus the title of Physician in Ordinary, which carried with it a salary and other benefits.

But by now the gout from which Nostradamus suffered was turning to dropsy and he, the doctor, realized that his end was near. He made his will on 17th June 1566 and left the large sum, for those days, of 3444 crowns over and above his other possessions. On 1st July he sent for the local priest to give him the last rites, and when Chavigny took leave of him that night, he told him that he would not see him alive again. As he himself had predicted, his body was found the next morning.

He was burried upright in one of the walls of the Church of the Cordeliers at Salon, and his wife Anne erected a splendid marble plaque to his memory. Nostradamus' grave was opened by superstitious soldiers during the Revolution but his remains were reburied in the other church at Salon, the Church of St. Laurent, where his grave and portrait can still be seen.




Nostradamus and His Prophecies,
Edgar Leoni, Wing Books, New York, 1982.
The Prophecies of Nostradamus - The man who saw tomorrow,
Erika Cheetham, Berkley Books, New York, 1973.


Last touched : May 25, 1996.
Best viewed with netscape 1.1.
Marc Nijweide