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Michel de Nostredame
BirthplaceSaint-Rémy-de-Provence, Provence, France
Apothecary, author, translator, astrological consultant
Known for Prophecy, treating plague


Nostradamus (nŏsˌtrədāˈməs), 1503–66, French astrologer and physician, whose real name was Michel de Nostredame. He is reputed to have effected remarkable cures during outbreaks of the plague in S France. His rhymed prophecies under the title Centuries (1555) gained him the favor of the French court. Obscure and symbolic, the predictions have been subject to many interpretations.


See E. Cheetham, ed. and tr., Prophecies on World Events by Nostradamus (1974); R. Prévost, Nostradamus, Myth and Reality (1999).

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Early seventeenth-century portrait of Nostradamus, likely more famous today for his prognostications than during his lifetime. Reproduced by permission of Fortean Picture Library.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Nostradamus (Latin name of Michel de Nostredame), the famous doctor and astrologer, was born on December 14, 1503, in St. Remy, France. He prophesied the manner of death of Henry II, was a favorite of Catherine de Médicis, and served as physician to Charles IX. Nos-tradamus’s fame derives from the Centuries, a book of prophecies set to rhyme that was published in 1555. This book has often been reprinted, and is still being reprinted today. The fame of Nostradamus is such that many people have at least heard of “the prophecies of Nostradamus.” He died on July 12, 1566, in Salon, France.

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Portrait of Nostradamus by Lleonard Gaultier, c. 1618. The famed prophet was a physician by trade and also studied herbalism and astrology. Courtesy Fortean Picture Library.

Nostradamus (michel de Nostredame, 1503–1566)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Nostradamus was a French astrologer of Jewish descent, though his family converted to Christianity. His real name was Michel de Notre Dame, or Nostredame. He was born at St. Rémy, in Provence, on December 14, 1503. His father was a notary and ancestors on both his father’s and his mother’s sides were mathematicians and men of medicine. Nostradamus studied philosophy at Avignon and then medicine at the University of Montpellier, graduating from there in 1529. He first practiced at Agen. He married; his wife and two small children later died. On their deaths he retired to Provence. From there he was invited to Aix by the Parliament of Provence. He established himself at Salon, near Aix, in 1544, and became famous for his medical work during the plagues at Aix and Lyons. The town of Aix voted him a pension for his services during the contagion.

Nostradamus moved to Salon de Craux, between Avignon and Marseilles. There he married Anne Ponce Gemelle, and the couple had three sons and a daughter (some records say three sons and three daughters). He could read Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, and spoke several languages. In 1540, he published an almanac of weather predictions based on his astrological research. In 1547, Nostradamus started giving his major prophesies. He collected these and published them at Lyons, in a book titled Centuries, in 1555. He dedicated the first edition to his oldest son, Cæsar. An enlarged second edition, dedicated to the king, was published three years later. The book consisted of quatrains (four-line verses) grouped in hundreds. Each group was called a century. Nostradamus claimed that he derived his gift of prophecy from the tribe of Issachar, one of the ten lost tribes of Israel.

Astrology was at a peak at this time and many of Nostradamus’s prophesies were fulfilled. Consequently he was appointed Physician-in-Ordinary by Charles IX, and given the title of Counselor. He received the Duke of Savoy at his salon and was invited to visit Queen Catherine de Médicis.

It is said that Nostradamus slept only three or four hours per night. He denied that he was a prophet, though he did feel that he had a gift of divine origin, “an infusion of supernatural light … inspired revelation … participation in divine eternity.” He suffered from severe gout and other ailments. Nostradamus died at dawn on July 2, 1566, having foretold the exact day and even hour of his death. His widow set up a marble stone with a Latin inscription, which read,

“Here lie the bones of the illustrious Michel Nostradamus, whose almost divine pen alone, in the judgement of all mortals, was worthy to record, under the influx of stars, the future events of the whole world. He lived 62 years, 6 months, 17 days. He died at Salon in the year 1566. Posterity, disturb not his sweet rest! Anne Ponce Gemelle hopes for her husband true felicity.”

For almost 500 years, people around the world have read Nostradamus’ prophesies and tried to see how they might apply to the immediate future. They have been hailed as genuine prophetic messages, no matter how obscure the contents of the quatrains. Many have seemed to prove exceptionally accurate in the past, yet the possible meanings of most are perpetually disputed. All are written in such a convoluted manner that they could be applied to any one of a large number of possible historic events. It is possible, of course, that Nostradamus composed them all with his tongue firmly in his cheek. Apparently they were written in this veiled manner so as not to offend the Church of the time.

Enthusiasts claim that Nostradamus foretold the death of Charles I, the rise of Napoleon, the rise of Hitler, the atomic bombing of Japan, the abdication of Edward VIII, and the deaths of John and Robert Kennedy.


MacHovec, Frank J.: Nostradamus: His Prophecies for the Future. Mount Vernon: Peter Pauper Press, 1972
Ward, Charles A.: Oracles of Nostradamus. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1940
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Nostradamus (1503–1566) French

astrologer/seer; wrote Centuries (1555), famous book of prognostications. [Fr. Hist.: NCE, 1969]


(1503–1566) startlingly accurate French astrologer and physician. [Fr. Hist.: NCE, 1969]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Latinized name of Michel de Notredame. 1503--66, French physician and astrologer; author of a book of prophecies in rhymed quatrains, Centuries (1555)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005