Michel de Nostredame, otherwise named Nostradamus, is best known for its astrology and prophecies. And yet… a Renaissance humanist, open to the ideas of the Reformation, he rubbed shoulders with great figures such as his friend Rabelais, Catherine de Medici, Charles IX, of whom he was an "ordinary doctor" and many others. he was able to take an interest in medicine and pharmacy by successfully fighting the worst disease of his time: the plague.
Nostradamus, doctor and pharmacist
Michel de Nostredame was born in mid December 1503 in Saint Rémy de Provence. He comes from a family of Jews expelled from the kingdom by Philippe Le Bel at the beginning of the 16th century who are then welcomed by Pope Clement V around Avignon, in quarries and closed streets. The only constraint: they had to wear a yellow cap when going out.
Pursuing brilliant studies where he writes fluently in Latin and Greek, he enrolled at the University of Montpellier and received a "bachelor in medicine" in 1525. Being a Jew, he converted to Catholicism to access university and chose Nostradamus as his baptismal name, who transformed into Michel de NostreDame. In his house in Salon, the same one he occupied until his death, at the foot of the Château de l'Empéri, above his desk, hangs a manuscript yellowed by time, dated October 1529 "me, Michel de Nostredame, from the house of Provence, from the city of Saint Rémy, from the diocese of Avignon, came to study at the University of Montpellier, of which I swear to observe the statutes, rights and privileges present and future. I have paid the registration fees and I choose Antoine Romier as my tutor ".
At that time, the plague raged throughout the south of France. He travels all the ways in Provence and the South West to fight this disease, having learned the basics of pharmacy and after one of his ancestors passed on his knowledge of botany, the virtues of plants and preparations.
In his "Treatise on Fardements et Confitures", he begins by giving a very detailed description of this bubonic or pulmonary disease. To combat this plague, he makes a mixture of eggs and plants. He invents an aromatic vinegar with antiseptic qualities and develops a "sovereign powder" against contagions. Advising simple rules of hygiene and advocating the principle of "prevention rather than cure", he then suggests cleaning the houses with vinegar, spreading plant essences, leaving a torch lit in the rooms and above all covering your body. nose and mouth.
A few years later, the plague struck again in the towns of Salon and Aix. And there he was again on the roads ... to Lyon. He prepares an "excellent powder which drives away pestilential odors". His recipe is composed of cypress sawdust, Florence iris, cloves, musk, ambergris, aloe and crimson roses. It is all the rage during this period of contagious disease where more than one throws himself out of the window, or more than one perished in the face of this scourge.
Health and beauty products ...
His dedication during the plague made him famous. Gradually, the ladies called on him: he developed the "ointment of a sovereign odor", "oil to emit the face", "ointments to make the hair come like a thread of gold. »…. In short, recipes that bring in money and success.
He married at Christmas 1547, in his town, Anne Ponsard… who gave him 7 or 8 children. Then until 1549, he went into exile in Italy to deepen his knowledge of plant alchemy. In Milan, he discovered an apothecary specializing in this field, who introduced him to healing jams. Back in Salon, Michel de NostreDame experimented with these medicated jams and in 1552, he published the results of his research under the title "Treaty of Fardements et Confitures".
In his jams, he adds spices, invents processes to improve and flavor the wine, prepares vinegars and mustards with herbs, which he sells.
Then, realizing that the ladies have a new desire: to become blonde, he enriches himself with his potion which allows "to have within 3 or 4 days, the hair blond and red like ducat's gold". He goes further, he thinks of men who want to please the youth and women worried about the virility of their partner. It creates a remedy "repopulation oil" famous until Italy.
... Until the jams
His famous work is entitled: "Excellent et moult useful Opuscule à touts necessaire, which desires to have the knowledge of several exquisite receipts, divided into two parts." The first treats of various ways of Fardemens et Senteurs to illustrate and embellish the face. The second monster us the way and manner, of making jams of various kinds, as much in honey, as succre, and cuict wine, the whole put by chapters, as is made ample mention in the Table. Newly composed by master Michel de Nostredame doctor in Medicine from the city of Salon de Craux en Prouence, and again highlighted ”.
Jams, syrup and sugar are the basis of important medicines in medieval European medicine. In Chapter II, he explains how to "candy the flesh of gourds called cougourde or carabasse which is a refrigerating jam that refreshes and is in good taste." He ends this chapter with a clearly medical indication such as this jam which "is good to eat, in fact concerns refrigerating medicine and by the ease of eating it to mitigate the exuberant heat of the heart and the liver", without forgetting that to base of buglosse bark which allows you to rejuvenate.
This book composed of 31 chapters offers us various recipes quite feasible for amateurs today. Quince, morello cherry, rhubarb, orange, pear, squash and other fruits and vegetables are mixed with sugar and honey, and spiced up with spices such as ginger, cinnamon or cloves.
Among the recipes, Michel de NostreDame also thinks "of those whose coldness of the matrix makes it unsuitable for conceiving and satisfying the legitimate appetites" where he mixes 1kg of mountain honey and 300g of fresh ginger, he peels the ginger and cuts it. in fine sticks, wash it several times, place it in a saucepan full of water and boil it for 10 minutes, drain it and repeat the operation 2 times for 10 minutes then 1 last time for 20 minutes. He lets it drain overnight. The next day, in a thick-bottomed saucepan, he boils the ginger with honey for 15 minutes, repeats the same operation the next day and then the day after, finally he puts this preparation in jars and advises to eat a spoonful when the enthusiasm is lacking .
The other recipe "to renew and strengthen the ardor of love" is made from lettuce, artichoke stems and angelica. Alongside this treatise, he published his first Almanac in 1550 in Lyon, with health advice and ... weather forecasts ...
The prophecies of Nostradamus
Having attracted the jealousy of his colleagues by the success of his cures, Nostradamus retired to Salon. Between 1555 and 1558, he published his famous prophecies in two volumes of centuries which were immensely successful. Using a "convoluted" language, these quatrains grouped by hundreds are supposed to describe events to occur between 1550 and the end of the world, scheduled for 3797 AD. Many people will try to interpret these prophecies and establish a link with events that have already taken place.
The fame of Nostradamus is such that Catherine de Medici calls him to the court to become the general doctor of Charles IX. The queen mother takes the opportunity to ask her to establish the horoscope of her three sons. The gifts of Michel de NostreDame would have been confirmed during the accidental death of Henri II, of which he would have predicted the circumstances. A quatrain, published in 1568, is said to have predicted his death on July 2, 1566. His remains were buried in the Church of Saint-Laurent in Salon-de-Provence.
- The prophecies of Nostradamus. Archipoche, 2013.
- Treatise on jams of Nostradamus. Imago, 2015.
- Catherine, Nostradamus and the Black Triangle - Claude Mossé. Alphée, 2010.