A Brill Calendar: July 2
Few champions in the endless battle against superstition and pseudo-science these days hold ‘Nostradamus’, the most influential futurologist and seer of the European Renaissance, in high regard.
Michel de Nôtredame (Saint-Remy, December 14 1503 – Salon July 2 1566; both Provence), was, a physician with a fine reputation as healer, even when plague reared its head in cities like Aix and Lyons. As many know, he was also a learned reader of messages of the sun, moon and planets within the zodiac.
In 1555 he published a quaint book of poetry containing nothing but rhymed quartets, a true galaxy, ordered in chapters of one hundred; hence the name of the work: ‘Centuries’. Finer poetry has been written, but no poetry found so many avid readers throughout the ages. His readers have ranged from simple souls to powerful princes and from Catherine de’ Medici to Adolf Hitler.
It is easy to contrast scientific determinism, belief in the experimental method and the fabric between conjectures and refutations of later days with these dark visions. The question remains whether this Renaissance sage can be regarded as a charlatan.
It is seldom that generations accustomed to men cruising the solar system take into account that Copernicus’s Revolutionary Book was published around the time that Nostradamus started to see his poetic side of the shape of things to come; or that in 1546 the first modern observer of the starry sky was born, ‘The Great Dane’, Tycho Brahe. The waning of alchemy and astrology and its metamorphosis in the rise of is chemistry and astronomy is not a matter of a few years, but of a few centuries; no pun on Nostradamus’s title intended.