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It’s likely you’ve heard of Nostradamus but how much do you really know about Nostradamus and his life, his history? Nostradamus is certainly considered, at the very least, a colorful character. Many people believe in the great French astrologer, apothecary, physician and reputed seer whose uncanny ability to predict events far, far into the future is debated and discussed and has been for more than five centuries. Let’s take a look at the great and often correct soothsayer from the Provençal village of Saint Rémy-de-Provence.

The Fascinating Story of Nostradamus of St. Remy-de-Provence

Nostradamus was born Michel de Nostradame on either December 14 or December 21, 1503 in Saint Remy. There are differing accounts of the day the great Nostradamus was born. Michel was one of nine children in the family. His father was a grain dealer and a very wealthy one at that. He also served the community as a notary.

Although his father was of Jewish descent his grandfather, Guy Gassonet, converted the family to Catholicism in the mid 1400s in order to protect his brood from the Inquisition.

Young Nostradame excelled in academics, a fact that was certainly appreciated by his maternal grandfather, Jean de St. Remy. A man of some knowledge himself, Michel’s grandfather offered additional tutoring fostering his grandson’s love of knowledge from a very young age.

Michel was schooled in mathematics, Latin, Greek, Hebrew by his grandfather who also taught him the ancient rites of the Jewish faith. Nostradamus was taught much about astrology by his grandfather and became fascinated by the idea that the stars and planets divine and drive human existence and, for that matter, destiny.

Advanced Studies

At the young age of 14 Michel entered university at The University of Avignon. His plan to study medicine there was thwarted a year later due to the bubonic plague. The illness fired up Michel’s curiosity and interest in herbal remedies. He traveled the French countryside and soon began working as an apothecary.

In 1522, at the age of 19, Michel resumed his studies at the Université de Montpellier in order to pursue his doctorate in medicine. His interest in Astrology did not sit well with the Catholic priests and the student often expressed dissension with the church. Some accounts point to this along with his interest in apothecary as a reason he was expelled from university. However there are also accounts that support that Nostradame was not expelled and in fact , in 1525, went on to earn his doctorate and a license to practice medicine.

The custom in medieval times was for the most learned academics to latinize their name. Thus Nostradame became Nostradamus. For the next several years Nostradamus took his medical license and apothecary knowledge on tour. Throughout France and Italy he traveled and treated those victims of the plague.

Cutting Edge Treatment

At the time there were no known ways to treat the plague other than the treatment of the day; potions made from mercury, bloodletting and wrapping the ill in robes soaked in garlic. Relying on his education and vast knowledge of health and wellness, Nostradamus developed some very progressive and “out there” practices to treat those plague infirm. Instead of bloodletting he applied hygiene as treatment to prevent infections from spreading or growing worse. Nostradamus also literally cleaned up the streets by seeing to it that the bodies of the infected dead were removed from the streets.

Nostradamus created an herbal lozenge using rose hips, a huge source of vitamin C. The lozenges offered relief and his cure rate was very impressive. Who knew that practicing good hygiene, increasing vitamin C intake, eating a healthy low fat diet rich in fresh foods, and spending time outdoors in the sunshine could have such a profound impact? Nearly 500 years later and these practices are still being touted and confirmed as the key to a healthy lifestyle.

The Local Celebrity

Because of his progressive and successful doctoring Nostradamus became somewhat of a local celebrity. Those in places of authority around his region of Provence financed his career and soon Nostradamus was sought out and asked to work with the leading scholars of his day.

Nostradamus married around 1530 and had two children. As the plague continued to rage throughout France and surrounding areas it claimed the lives of his wife and children while Nostradamus was practicing medicine on a mission to Italy. He isn’t there to save his family and instead was the subject of blame and contempt. His patrons soon withdrew their support.

Nostradamus Mystical Travels

A combination of grief, abandonment by his benefactors and an offended remark about a religious state that landed him in hot water with the Inquisition caused Nostradamus to leave Provence. He traveled through Italy, Greece and Turkey where his focus on mysticism forged a psychic awakening.

During his travels in Italy Nostradamus came upon a group of Franciscan monks. He called out one of the monks foretelling the notion the monk would one day be Pope. The monk, Felice Peretti was ordained Pope Sixtus V in 1585.

Back Where it All Began

In 1547 Nostradamus returned to Provence and married a wealthy widow. Nostradamus and Ann Posard had six children and made their home in Salon-de-Provence, a mere 20 miles from his birthplace in St. Remy.

He resumed his local medical practice and published a few medical books, including a health-focused cookbook which included holistic ways of treating disease, like the plague, and recipes for candies, preserves, cosmetics and even a love potion. After a few years Nostradamus began moving toward meditation and self-induced trances. This is when he began having visions of the future.

Soon Nostradamus began recording his visions and prophecies into an almanac. In his writings he also included astrological forecasts and snippets of folklore along with his predictions. How popularity in this realm grew. This encouraged the French soothsayer to continue to write even more about his predictions for the future.

The Prophecies

Nostradamus set out, in 1554, to write 10 books containing 100 prophecies that would span the next 2000 years. In 1555 he published Les Prophesies which was a collection of major long-term predictions. Of course the retribution of the Inquisition haunted Nostradamus to the point he concocted a way to obscure the meanings of his predictions using quatrains, or rhyming four line verses. He further encoded the prophecies by mixing the languages using Greek, Latin, Italian and Provençal, the dialect of southern France.

Nostradamus was careful to make certain his writings never touched on the occult nor magic. That way the Inquisition had no fodder for persecution. He had a long and pleasant relationship with the Vatican and is a celebrated figure of the Renaissance period.

Amazing Predictions

There are many predictions and prophecies with which Nostradamus' legion of followers credits him. Such world historic events as The French Revolution, the rise of Napoleon, Hitler’s atrocities, the invention of the atomic bomb, the assassination of John F. Kennedy and even the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Some Nostradamus enthusiasts even credit him with foretelling the Covid-19 pandemic.

You can see the house where Michel de Nostradame/Nostradamus was born and raised in St. Remy-de-Provence.

Visit to St. Remy de Provence is part of the Best of Provence itinerary.


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