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Michel de Nostredame (December 14 or 21 1503 – July 2, 1566), usually in Latin as Nostradamus, was a French apothecary and reputed seer who published collections of prophecies that have since become famous worldwide. He is best known for his book Les Propheties, the first edition of which appeared in 1555.
Early Life & Childhood Edit
Born on December 14, or 21 1503 in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Provence, France, where his claimed birthplace still exists, Michel de Nostredame was one of at least nine children of Renée de Saint-Rémy and grain dealer and notary Jacques de Nostredame. The latter's family had originally been Jewish, but Jacques's father, Guy Gassonet, had converted to Catholicism around 1455, taking the Christian name "Pierre" and the surname "Nostradamus" (meaning Our Lady, 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 a persistent tradition that he was educated by his maternal great-grandfather Jean de St. Rémy a tradition which is somewhat undermined by the fact that the latter disappears from the historical record after 1504, when the child was only one year old.
At the age of 15 Nostradamus entered the University of Avignon to study for his baccalaureate. 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 traveled the countryside for eight years from 1521 researching herbal remedies. In 1529, after some years as an apothecary, he entered the University of Montpelier to study for a doctorate in medicine. He was expelled shortly afterwards by the university's procurator, Guillaume Rondelet, when it was discovered that he had been an apothecary, a "manual trade" expressly banned by the university statutes, and had been slandering doctors.The 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 & family Edit
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. Finally, in 1547, he settled in Salon-de-Provence in the house which exists today, where he married a rich widow named Anne Ponsarde, with whom he had six children—three daughters and three sons. Between 1556 and 1567 he and his wife acquired a one-thirteenth share in a huge canal project organised by Adam de Craponne to irrigate largely waterless Salon-de-Provence and the nearby Désert de la Crau from the river Durance.
Working as a Healer Edit
After their deaths, he continued to travel, passing through France and possibly Italy. On his return 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.
Court Seer Edit
After another visit to Italy, Nostredame began to move away from medicine and toward the occult. Following popular trends, he wrote an almanac for 1550, for the first time Latinizing his name from Nostredame to Nostradamus. He 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.
He 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. Feeling vulnerable to opposition on religious grounds, however, he devised a method of obscuring his meaning by using "Virgilianised" syntax, word games and a mixture of other languages such as Greek, Italian, Latin, and Provençal. For technical reasons connected with their publication in three installments.
The quatrains, published in a book titled 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 evidently thought otherwise. Catherine de Médici, wife of King Henry II of France, was 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, he feared that he would be beheaded, but by the time of his death in 1566, Queen Catherine had made him Counselor and Physician-in-Ordinary to her son, the young King Charles IX of France.
Some accounts of Nostradamus's life state that he was afraid of being persecuted for heresy by the Inquisition, but neither prophecy nor astrology fell in this bracket, and he would have been in danger only if he had practiced magic to support them. In fact, his relationship with the Church was always excellent. His brief imprisonment at Marignane in late 1561 came about purely because he had published his 1562 almanac without the prior permission of a bishop, contrary to a recent royal decree.
Final Years, Death & Burial Edit
By 1566, Nostradamus's gout, which had plagued him painfully for many years and made movement very difficult, turned into edema, or dropsy. In late June he summoned his lawyer to draw up an extensive will bequeathing his property plus 3,444 crowns (around $300,000 US 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. He was buried in the local Franciscan chapel in, but re-interred during the French Revolution in the Collégiale Saint-Laurent, where his tomb remains to this day.