Born in 1503, this French astrologer and physician published collections of prophecies that earned him fame and a loyal following during his lifetime. In the centuries since his death, people have credited him with accurately predicting pivotal events in history, from the French Revolution to the rise of Adolf Hitler to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. According to Nostradamus, the world is slated to end in the year 3797.
By 1554, Nostradamus’ visions had become an integral part of his works in the almanacs, and he decided to channel all his energies into a massive opus he entitled Centuries. He planned to write 10 volumes, which would contain 100 predictions forecasting the next 2,000 years. In 1555 he published Les Prophesies, a collection of his major, long-term predictions. Possibly feeling vulnerable to religious persecution, he devised a method of obscuring the prophecies’ meanings by using quatrains—rhymed four-line verses—and a mixture of other languages such as Greek, Italian, Latin, and Provencal, a dialect of Southern France. Oddly enough, Nostradamus enjoyed a good relationship with the Roman Catholic Church. It is believed he never faced prosecution for heresy by the Inquisition because he didn’t extend his writings to the practice of magic.
Nostradamus ran into some controversy with his predictions, as some thought he was a servant of the devil, and others said he was a fake or insane. However, many more believed the prophecies were spiritually inspired. He became famous and in demand by many of Europe’s elite. Catherine de Medici, the wife of King Henri II of France, was one of Nostradamus’ greatest admirers. After reading his almanacs of 1555, where he hinted at unnamed threats to her family, she summoned him to Paris to explain and draw up horoscopes for her children. A few years later, she made him Counselor and Physician-in-Ordinary to King Henri’s court. In 1556, while serving in this capacity Nostradamus also explained another prophecy from Centuries I, which was assumed to refer to King Henri. The prophecy told of a “young lion” who would overcome an older one on the field of battle. The young lion would pierce the eye of the older one and he would die a cruel death. Nostradamus warned the king he should avoid ceremonial jousting. Three years later, when King Henri was 41 years old, he died in a jousting match when a lance from this opponent pierced the king’s visor and entered his head behind the eye deep into his brain. He held on to life for 10 agonizing days before finally dying of infection.