NOSTRADAMUS - Life and work
The life of Nostradamus - legends and anecdotes
- T.W.M. van Berkel -

Nederlandse versie

About Nostradamus, numerous stories circulate. Some of them are legends, in which Nostradamus is described as a clairvoyant and a man who performs miracles. In other stories, it is told that Nostradamus got acquainted with astrology at a very young age, that he was a gifted student and that by practicing medicine, he followed the footsteps of his ancestors. These stories reveal the way people looked at Nostradamus throughout the centuries and the status and characteristics which were attributed to him, whether or not falsely.
Dr. Edgar Leroy, the author of Nostradamus - ses origines, sa vie, son oeuvre, examined these stories and separated facts from fiction.

The article The life of Nostradamus - facts contains, in short, tabular form, facts about Nostradamus' life which are reliable.


The ancestors of Nostradamus
In Chronique de Provence, Jehan de Nostredame, a younger brother of Nostradamus, wrote that a Pierre de Nostredame, Nostradamus' great-grandfather, was a famous physician and astrologer, who was acquainted with Greec and Hebrew. This Pierre de Nostredame was also supposed to have been the physician of the French king Rene the Good. Cesar, Nostradamus' son, copied this in his Histoire et chronique de Provence (and edited it slightly). In reality, Pierre de Nostredame was Nostradamus' grandfather. He was neither a physician nor an astrologer, but a trader in wheat and silver (Leroy, p.7-8).

Nostradamus and astrology
In the Brief Discours, it reads that Nostradamus' marental great-grandfather gave him a first look at the celestial sciences at a very young age (See the Brief Discours in: Le Pelletier, volume I, p.24). This story is not correct. Jean de Saint-Rémy, the marental great-grandfather, physician and treasurer of Saint-Rémy de Provence, was born in 1428 and died in 1504. At that time, Nostradamus was only one year old. He inherited his great-grandfather's astrolabium, a device with which the positions of stars could be measured.

Nostradamus at school
The story goes that at school, Nostradamus was talking that much about stars and planets, that his classmates nicknamed him the "little astrologer" (Leoni, p.17).

Nostradamus at the Montpellier University
On October 23, 1529, Nostradamus inscribed to the Medical Faculty of the Montpellier University, the one in which François Rabelais was inscribed in 1530 (Rabelais got his doctor's degree on May 22, 1537). In 1533, Rabelais wrote the Pantagruéline Pronostication, an almanac, meant as a parody.
It is told about Nostradamus that his name was deleted from the student lists, because he defamed some of his teachers. This deleting was also caused because of the fact that previously, he practiced pharmacy. Back in those days, both barbers and pharmacists were systematically banned from the university. Nevertheless, Nostradamus could continue his studies and in 1533 obtained his doctor's degree (Hofstede, p.20). Leroy notes that no proof has been found for the story that Nostradamus became a professor of the Montpellier University by acclamation (Leroy, p.58).

Nostradamus in Agen
It is told about Nostradamus' stay in Agen that around 1534, his parents-in-law sewed him. The story does not reveal the nature of the conflict; it is told that Nostradamus was demainded to give back the dowry (Leroy, p.61).

Clairvoyance and miracles

In 1539, in Argenton (Lot-en-Garonne), Nostradamus would have risen a man from the dead. As a sign of gratitude, this man, named Pitard, ordered that a statue of Nostradamus was put in top of a church tower.

The next story was recorded in the 17th century by a.o. Etienne Jaubert and Pierre-Joseph de Haitze. In Fains, a village in Lorraine, East-France, Nostradamus treated the grandmother of De Florinville, the owner of the local castle where Nostradamus stayed. During a walk, De Florenville saw a white and a black pig and asked Nostradamus about their fate. Nostradamus answered that a wolf would eat the white pig and that they would eat the black one. Later, De Florinville ordered to kill the white pig and to prepare it for dinner. Suddenly, the meat was taken by a little wolf's cub, which was kept in the castle. The cook decided to kill the black pig. De Florinville, who did not know anything about this incident, told Nostradamus that evening that they were now about to eat the flesh of the white pig, which was not at all touched by a wolf. Nostradamus however sticked to his opinion that they were about to eat the flesh of the black pig. In the end, the cook was ordered to come in. The cook informed them about the incident.
Later, Nostradamus would have told several persons that in the hills around the castle, a treasure was hidden, for which one would look in vain, but finally, he said, the treasure would be found during the search for something else (Leroy, p.63-64).

The next story deals with a period when Nostradamus was in Italy. On a day, he encountered a Franciscan monk, named Felice Peretti, from Ancona. This Peretti used to be a swinekeaper. While passing, Nostradamus put a knee to the ground. Asked for his reason to do so, he replied: I must submit myself and bend a knee before His Holiness. 
In 1585, Felice Peretti became Pope Sixtus V (Leoni, p.20).

In the 19th century, two series of prophecies came to light: the "Prophecies of Philippus Olivarius, printed in 1542" and the "Prophecy of Orval, written by Philippe Olivarius in 1544". These predictions would deal with Napoleon Bonaparte. In reality, these are predictions, printed in respectively 1820 and 1839. The Century-scholars Bareste and Torné-Chavigny attributed them falsely to Nostradamus. According to the story, Nostradamus would have written these prophecies during his stay in the Cistercian Abbey of Orval (Leoni, p.21).

The next story deals with Nostradamus as a plague fighter and is recorded by Eugène Bareste. Around 1547, Nostradamus had a conflict with a colleague who did not care about his prescriptions. A delegation begged him not to leave the city in anger. Nostradamus replied that they had to choose between him and his rival. The delegation said they chose "doctor Nostradamus, the liberator of Aix" (Leoni, p.23). 

The next story deals with the period in which Nostradamus lived in Salon-de-Provence. One night, a neighbour's daughter passed by and went into the woods to gather some firewood. Nostradamus greated her with "good evening, little lady". When she came back some time later, he uttered "good evening, madame" (Leoni, p.29). 
According to Hofstede, this story originates from ancient times, dealing with the Greek philosopher Democrite (Hofstede, p.24).

In another story, situated in the time in which Nostradamus lived in Salon-de-Provence, it is told that Nostradamus, while looking from his window early in the morning, exclaimed that that day would be good for the sewing of beans. A farmer who passed by at that moment, heard this and quickly sewed his beans. His harvest was abundant and as a sign of gratitude he sacrified a part of it (Leroy, p.77).

The next story deals with Nostradamus' visit to the French Court in 1555 and is recorded by De Chavigny in Vie et testament de Nostradamus. A servant of a family, named De Beauveau, lost a precious dog for which he was supposed to take care of. One evening, he went to a house close to Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois, where Nostradamus stayed. Because it was very late, he shouted that he came in the name of the king. Before he could say anything about the reason for his visit, Nostradamus called to him: What is the matter, you king's servant? What a noise about a missing dog! Go to the road to Orléans, there you will find him! (Leroy, p.83).

The death of king Henry II in 1559
King Henry II, born in 1519, died on July 10, 1559, because of a wound close to his eye. He got this wound on June 30, 1559, during a tournament on the occasion of the wedding of his daughter Elisabeth with the Spanish king Felipe II. According to the French Century-scholar H. Torné-Chavigny, Montmorency, Henry II's Lord Chamberlain, exclaimed: Woe upon the wicked seer who predicted so evil and so well! (Leroy, p.86).
The story goes that the Italian astrologer Luca Gaurico warned Henry II to avoid every kind of single combat, especially around his 41st year of living, because of the danger of getting injured on the head, which might lead to blindness or in the worst case death. This story became known after the decease of Henry II (Leroy, p.86).
It is not at all sure if Nostradamus predicted the decease of Henry II. In the 1559-Progno-GB, the English translation of the 1559-Almanach-F, there were nothing but favourable predictions for France and its king for the summer of 1559. In the dedicacy to Jean de Vauzelles in the 1562-Prono-F, Nostradamus is supposed to have confirmed Vauzelles' idea that the decease of Henry II was predicted in quatrain 03-55. 
The idea that the decease of Henry II was predicted in quatrain 01-35 is not one of Nostradamus' ideas, neither an idea of De Chavigny, but César Nostradamus' idea (Brind'Amour 1993a, p.267-268).
De Chavigny, to who the manuscript Recueil des Présages Prosaïques is attributed, tried to demonstrate with numerous - far-fetched - examples that Nostradamus predicted both the decease of Henry II (1559) and François II (1560); he believed that these events ushered in the French religious wars of the 1560's. The author of this website has reasons to suppose that De Chavigny in one way or another was involved in the compilation of Les Significations de l'Eclipse qui sera le 16. septembre 1559, in an attempt to convince the readers of this booklet that in 1558, Nostradamus, facing his critics, predicted the death of Henry II and François II (see: Les Significations de l'Eclipse 1559 and Les Significations de l'Eclipse 1559 and the 1559-Progno-GB).

The death of Nostradamus
Nostradamus died on July 2, 1566. According to De Chavigny, he died shortly before sunrise. De Chavigny, who refers to his own personal memory, said that Nostradamus predicted the date and the hour of his death, by means of the note Hic propè mors est (tr..: Death is close at hand) in the Ephémérides by Jean Stadius, one night, at the end of June, 1566. De Chavigny also tells that Nostradamus told him on July 1, 1566, after finishing their work: "at sunrise thou will not see me alive". (Brief Discours, in: Le Pelletier, volume I, p.26).


De Meern, the Netherlands, November 25, 2005
T.W.M. van Berkel


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