Archive for September, 2010

The black plague was a cataclysm of great amplitude.  No region nor country was spared, with a few very rare exceptions.  Countrysides were devastated, cities were haunted by terror.  In this decor, the search for pleasure became a priority, and sometimes even a ritual.  Such was the case in certain sects, like that of the brothers of the Free Spirit, which singularly touched Germany, as an account from Bavaria attests:

“And when they came to the confession, and were assembled, […]  they extinguished the lights and fell on each other, man on man, woman on woman, whoever was available.  Each one must see with his own eyes his wife or his daughter violated by others, for they proclaimed that no-one could commit sin beneath the belt.  Such is their belief.”

Homosexuality and incest were allowed and justified by the belief that Christ had consummated a liaison with Mary Magdalene…

After having rendered the Jews and the Church responsible for the plague, the only thing left to do was to blame God.  And if there were hardly any manifestations of pure atheism, hate for God became one of the dogmatic bases of another sect, the luciferians.  To the first words of the prayer “Our Father which art in heaven”, the members of the community added:

“If He is in heaven, it is only by force and injustice”.

They proclaimed also that his reign would one day be replaced by that of Lucifer in whom they placed all their hopes of redemption.

These revolts, including their most delirious or hysterical madness, obviously diminished as the pandemic retreated.  But their repercussions on the evolution of religious feeling in Europe were considerable.  Death appeared more and more frequently in graphic images.  The traditional skeleton, which represented it, was replaced in Campo Santo in Pisa, by an old woman brandishing a scythe, dressed all in black, with wild hair, exorbited eyes and clawed feet.  This image haunted minds to the point of becoming an obsessional motif in Art, at the end of the Middle Ages.


During all this time, the dying, the sick and the survivors lived in the company of the two real, and only, culprits responsible for the catastrophe, without fearing them:  the rat and the flea, familiar animals, who shared the home, the food and the clothes of the men of the Middle Ages, so familiar even, that they were never suspected.  No medical source mentions them, even though the rat, since the legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, had already been associated with the idea of epidemic.  The exact nature of the illness was only definitively identified in 1894 by the French scholar of Swiss origin, Alexandre Yersin, with the discovery of the bacillus known as Yersin (Yersinia pestis):  a rat illness transmitted to Man by the flea, direct transmission from man to man being then made possible by saliva.  The term “bubonic” plague was then more in reference to the boils, symptoms of the illness.  But for all of the XIVth Century, the illness was firstly “the black plague” or “the black death” – an allusion to the dark patches provoked by the gangrene which covered the bodies of the sick.  For the immense majority of Europeans, it appeared to be a totally new plague.  However, it was not the first time that it had ravaged the Western world:  between 541 and 544, a first pandemic had caused hecatombs from Ethiopia to the Rhine, with a recrudescence in 557 which sporadically afflicted Europe until the end of the VIIIth Century.  But this precedent was ignored, or had been forgotten, by the men of the XIVth Century…

Meanwhile, to the impression, shared by many faithful, that the end of the world and the Last Judgement were near, succeeded, with the epidemic’s retreat, a stupefying appetite for living and a prodigious genesic instinct:  in 1352, in Cologne, 4,000 marriages were celebrated, although 21,000 people had died the preceding year.  Five years later, most of the European cities had returned to their former population levels:  the global population of Europe, Russia included, rose to 65 million inhabitants in 1400, while it was at 47 million in the year 1000, and 32 million in the year 600.  It is to be noted that in Asia, on the other hand, it was only at 203 million in 1400 against 212 million in the year 1000.

This vital instinct finds a shining illustration in the fact that the black plague, if it accelerated the evolution of customs and mentalities, hardly influenced the course of political events which were happening at the same time in the West.  Everything was already going badly in the French kingdom.  On 23 August 1346, Philippe VI had been crushed at Crecy by Edward III, and, one year later, Calais fell into the hands of the English.  At the moment when the pandemic spread to France, nothing seemed to be able to resist the dynastic pretensions of the Plantagenets.  So, the only notable consequences of the great plague on the course of the Hundred Years War were, on the one hand, a sizeable reduction in the military personnel of both camps, and on the other hand, a very relative temporisation which delayed until 1355 the inevitable rupture of the treaty signed on 28 September 1347.

But, even more than the demographic jump which followed, we must insist on the phenomenon of survival.  For, indubitably, the black plague could have made all trace of Humanity completely disappear from Europe.  This survival seems to be due to two principal factors.  Firstly, certain regions like Auvergne or Franconie were spared by the pandemic, without any explanation ever being found for this fact.  Secondly, the illness was not always mortal.  Certain patients possessed a genetic stock able to produce anticorps, or had naturally acquired this immunity by natural vaccination.  As Jacques Ruffie and Jean-Charles Sournia have observed:

“Certain people doubtless transmitted to their descendance a genetic capacity for resistance, to which the future generations owed their survival”.

Whatever it was, the survivors of this epidemic asked themselves why divine will had inflicted such a punishment on them.  Suffering is only bearable if it engenders a better world.  The sense of injustice and doubt which followed this catastrophe put an end to a long period of submission.  The black plague, by waking each individual’s individual conscience, contributed to the creation of modern Man.


In Germany, the return of Frederic II of Hohenstaufen, after a century of imperial absence, took on a messianic dimension:

“When he retook possession of his throne, he married poor girls to rich men and poor men to rich girls, he gave his protection to all the oppressed and mistreated, against the oppressors, and gave them justice;  he made the monks marry, and persecuted the clergy so much that the priests covered their tonsure with whatever they could, be it cow-dung;  he had the orders responsible for having him sanctioned by a papal bulla chased out of the country, then, accompanied by a numerous army, he crossed the sea and, on the Mount of Olives, near a dead tree, he renounced the imperial throne.”

This anticlericalism, largely fanned by the flagellants, found its justification in the depravation of the clergy’s morals, which the plague had accelerated.  Serious troubles took place in the monasteries during the epidemic, for example in Assisi or Sienna where fights to the death between monks were signalled.  But it was really the general state of the Church which was worrying, as a violent attack published in Germany in 1348-1349 shows:

“Into what indignity has the Church fallen, particularly in the persons of its most eminent representatives, who live in evil, and have fallen lower than the others.  For it is themselves that the Church pastors pasture, and not their flocks, which they shear, or more precisely, skin;  it is not as pastors that they act, but as wolves!  All beauty has disappeared from God’s Church;  from the top to the bottom, there is nothing left in it that is healthy.”

Simony had become general:  secular or regular priests, of high, middle or humble rank, bought and sold ecclesiastic benefits, receiving no blame nor punishment.  Prebends, benefits, dignities, rectorats, parishes and altars could be acquired for money, or in exchange for mistresses or concubines.  They were also gambled with dice.  In the same way, abbeys, priories, tutelages, teaching and other posts were often acquired by uneducated people.

An opinion then spread that the misfortunes which were crushing poor Christian humanity had been caused by the Church’s corruption.  Even well-behaved Pope Clement VI did not escape criticism.  In 1350, during Holy Year, more than one million pilgrims went to Rome at Easter, then Pentecost, as penitence.  Clement VI had promised the remission of their sins to those who died on the way.  But the gifts made to the Pope by the pilgrims, which rose to 17 million florins, made the humorists of the time say:

“God does not want the death of the sinner, but that he lives and pays!”

Meanwhile, just as all doctors had not deserted their posts, all ecclesiastics did not abandon their ministry.  Some showed great courage in taking last sacraments to plague victims, even if they used long sticks to present the wafer.  In France, a continuator of the chronicler Guillaume de Nangis alludes to it:

“As soon as a tumor rose in the groin or the armpits, they were doomed.  It had never been heard, never seen, never read that, in past times, such a multitude of people had died.  […]  The healthy man who visited an ill person rarely escaped death;  so, in many parishes, terrified curates disappeared, leaving the administration of the sacraments to a few more courageous monks.”

The legend of Saint Roch is a good example of this admirable attitude.  Tradition has him dying in 1327 at Montpellier, but Roch, whose very existence has been contested by certain historians, could have lived a lot later and devoted himself to plague victims, obtaining important cures during the great plague of 1348 in Italy.  Taken for a spy during the war between the kings of Aragon and Majorca, he was imprisoned and found dead in his cell.  On the walls, he had inscribed, still according to legend, this sentence:

“He who is suffering from the plague and seeks refuge in Roch will be relieved of his illness.”

His cult only found its complete development in the XVth Century, when he was invoked not only against the plague, but against all sorts of epidemics.


The illness, as happens in less serious cases, resulted in a certain moral breakdown.  This breakdown is signalled by Boccace in the first pages of the Decameron:

“The French danced, as it were, on the cadavers of their families.  It was really as if they wanted to express their joy at the upheaval which arrived in their homes, and the death of their friends.”

And in another, composed in Geneva in 1350:

“While the plague was stealing, I saw transported past my house six or seven bodies at least.  And yet you could see the girls dancing, spinning and singing happy songs.  And one of them, that the trembling of the fever held in its clutches, started to lie down, to the point that she had to be carried to her house, and the following morning to the cemetery, and the others did not interrupt their dance for all that.”

Similar images will be found during the cholera of 1830:  death digs its claws into a young girl who dances in the face of danger.  In the same way, in Athens in 430 B.C., Thucydide described the social and moral dissipation which reigned in the city during an epidemic of “plague” (probably typhus, smallpox, dengue fever or another unknown illness):

“In a general way, the illness was, in the city, at the origin of increasing disorder.  People were more audacious about things that, before, they would only have done in private:  too many upheavals were occurring, making prosperous men suddenly die, and men, formerly without resources, immediately inheriting their goods.  So people needed rapid satisfactions, concerning their pleasure, for their persons and their goods were, in their eyes, without a future.    Working hard to attain a goal judged beautiful, inspired zeal in no-one, for they said that they couldn’t know if, before achieving it, they wouldn’t be dead:  immediate satisfaction, and all that which, of whatever origin, could advantageously contribute to it, took the place of the beautiful and the useful.  Fear of the gods or man’s law, nothing stopped them…”

To be continued.

In his relation of these black years, the Strasbourg chronicler, Michael Kleinlawel, wrote:

“In this time when the plague was rife

In all countries, far and near,

Ah yes, throughout all of Christianity,

This thing appeared very clear,

The Jews of the crime were guilty,

As it was said everywhere,

Poisoning the wells even in this time,

As under the question they confessed

For certain (who were mentioned)

Having done themselves,

And therefore, with no mercy,

In many places were burnt.”

The extorsion of confessions by blackmail and torture allowed the appearance of a judicial basis to be given to the antisemite persecutions.  A good example is furnished in the minutes of a trial of “poisoners” held at Chillon in September 1348:

“The Jew Balavignus, surgeon and inhabitant of Thonon, although he was arrested in Chillon, having been discovered inside the castle, was only put on the rack for a short time, and after being taken off, confessed after a very long moment that, around six weeks beforehand, Master Jacob, who since Easter was living in Chambery, on certain orders, which came from Toledo, had sent to him from Thonon, by the intermediary of a young Jew, some poison in an eggshell;  it was a powder contained in a thin leather sack, with a letter that obliged him, under threat of being disowned, according to their law, to place this same poison in the wells, big and small, of this town, in sufficient quantity to poison the people who came there to fetch water, and to reveal this to no-one under threat of the aforementioned punishment.  Also, in this same letter, it was told him to transmit this order to several other places, by order of rabbis or masters of their law;  and he confessed that he had one evening placed in secret the prescribed quantity of poison in the well situated under a stone, on the bank of the lake near Thonon.”

As for the Jews to whom their lives had been promised in exchange for their conversion, they were very rare not to prefer death to the renunciation of their faith.  However, in the Oriental lands where they had been converted by the Teutonic Knights, their fate was hardly more enviable…

One fact, it is true, had been noticed by the populations:  during the epidemic, the Jews avoided drinking well water.  The real reason for this attitude had not escaped certain scholars in favour of equity and objectivity.  The Swiss chronicler, Tschudi, made this sensible observation as early as 1349:

“A lot of sensible people think that the Jews are not guilty of having poisoned the water, and that they only confessed it under excessive torture, but attribute the poisoning to a great earthquake which happened in January of last year, 1348;  this provoked the rupture of the Earth’s crust and permitted bad and toxic vapours to penetrate the wells and sources, at the same time making the air bad.  This, the Jews, a great proportion of whom were doctors and scholars, had learned from their art and kept it in mind, and consequently avoided wells and sources, and in many places warned people about them.”

If the seismic explanation proposed by the chronicler appears today to be rather fantastic, it is no less true that certain waters, notably dormant waters, have always favorised the propagation of epidemics.

But the homicidal furor unchained by the inhabitants of the European cities against the Jews during the great plague, did not enter into religious considerations.  Their extermination had the advantage, for the debitors of Jewish lenders, of extinguishing their debts, and for the others, permitting the pillage of their goods in complete impunity.  The Church was not the least, in many cases, to benefit from it…

Princes, prelates and aediles did, however, save Christianity’s honour by refusing to lend themselves to the collective hysteria.  Apart from Clement VI’s firm declaration, we could cite the example given by the municipality of Cologne in a letter addressed in 1349 to that of Strasbourg:

“If we must now institute in the big cities trials and executions of Jews (which in our city we will not permit as long as we can prevent them, so convinced are we that the Jews are innocent of the odious acts of which they are accused), such a disposition could engender great disorder and have serious consequences.  And if we are asked to express our opinion on this great plague, we must confess that we see in it a punishment from God, and consequently, we do not admit that the Jews should be brought to trial in our city because of these rumours, but we will protect them, just as they were loyally protected by our fathers.”


Over and above anti-judaism, or any search for a fault, the great plague of 1349 engendered a movement of philosophical and religious, as well as political, thought:  death struck without segregation.  Indistinctively striking princes and serfs, prelates and middle-classes, the pandemic developed, principally in Germany, a strong sense of equality nourished by apocalyptic themes.  Even if the poor were globally touched more than well-off people, the decrepitude of lodgements, the crowding of inhabitants and mediocre hygiene favorising the propagation of the epidemic, the death of important people like the King of the Romans Gunther (1349), the Bishop of Paris Foulques de Chanac (1349), the King of Castille Alphonse XI (1350), the two half-brothers of King Magnus of Sweden (1350), the wife and daughter of King Peter of Aragon, Queen Jeanne of France and her daughter-in-law, Bonne de Luxembourg, Queen Jeanne of Navarre, daughter of Louis X, or the Grand-Duke of Russia Simeon (1352), shook the legitimacy of the established order, in the minds of the people.  The representations of danses macabres, where Death led by the hand kings, bishops, pretty women, rich middle-class people and miserable villains, reflect this consciousness.  Like the order of doctors, the clergy suffered heavy losses by attending the sick population.  However, latent anticlericalism found new strength in these dramatic circumstances.

To be continued.

The flagellant movement had considerable impact on mediaeval crowds, who were impressed with the public spectacle offered by the penitents, by their chants and by their sermons.  Their demonstrations were accompanied by the reading of a letter that Christ was supposed to have written on a marble slab, taken from the altar of Saint Peter’s in Jerusalem:

“I thought of exterminating you from the Earth’s surface, you poor, miserable people;  you say that you are brothers, but you are enemies – you form family ties but you don’t respect them.  This is why I thought of exterminating you from the Earth’s surface, but the cohort of My angels, prosterned at My feet, begged Me to turn away My anger, and I took pity.  Tremble, oh you race of vipers, you degenerates, faithless generation.  […]  So I thought of exterminating you, as well as all living creatures, from the Earth;  but because of My holy mother, and the holy cherabins and seraphins who beg day and night in your favour, I have accorded you a delay.  But I swear to you by My holy angels, that if you do not respect My holy Day I will send you wild beasts and birds such as you have never yet seen, I will change the light of day into darkness so that you can kill each other, and great lamentations will rise, and I will suffocate your souls in smoke, I will send terrible people against you who will not spare you and will devastate your country, all this because you have not respected My day…”

The flagellants, by whipping themselves, reproduced the sufferings endured by Christ and, afterwards, sang hymns:

“Raise your hands above your heads

So that God keeps you from the plague

And now raise your arms also

So that God sends us his pity.”

Before travelling on, whipping themselves again, they sang:

“Beat yourself now, so as to suffer

For God’s adoration,

For God, let us now abandon all pride

And he will show us his pity.”

The flagellants appeared for the first time in Dresden, in 1349, during Lent.  They circulated throughout Germany, then Flanders, Picardy, Champagne, England, the Scandinavian countries and Poland.  They moved in groups of several thousand, or several tens of thousands:  they were 42,000 in Constance on 16 June 1439, and more than 80,000 in the Hainault at Christmas the same year.

A movement of such amplitude could only trouble public order, and even rattle the whole framework of mediaeval society.  For one thing, although they wanted to save humanity from its sins, and make the plague sent by Christ in punishment for its impiety go away, by their acts of contrition, the flagellants were often the involuntary propagators of it:  it was they, for example, who took it to Strasbourg.  But, even worse in the eyes of the Church, they were acting outside its authority, professed an heretic doctrine, recused certain dogmas, only recognized as holy the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharisty, and said that their mission came directly from the Lord.  As Hugo von Reutlingen notes,

“their comportment strongly irritated the real clergy because of their false legend and their stupid doctrines”

and their hymns contained

“a multitude of absurd things”.

From then on, repression became inevitable.  Without questioning the principle of flagellation (on condition that it was practised in private and under the strict control of the clergy) Pope Clement VI published a bulla against them on 20 October 1349:

“We order therefore our archbishops and elect to declare in our name in their dioceses as being impious and forbidden all associations, meetings, rites and statutes of the said flagellants, that ourself on the recommendation of our brothers of the following communities have condemned, the secular and regular clergy, as well as laicity, to keep themselves away from the sect and to never more enter into relation with its members.”

The application of this bulla was not always very energetic.  In Germany, the bishops did little, fearing public fury.  However, the movement ran out of steam the following year;  Winter, which was particularly rigorous that year, doubtless contributed to its disappearance.  Although, about fifty years later, the great French theologian Jean de Gerson, Chancellor of the University of Paris, had to pronounce a firm condemnation of them once again.


While the world searched among its faults for the origin of the plague, it also invented some guilty people, the eternal scapegoats.  In his bulla of 20 October 1349, Clement VI especially reproached the flagellants for having

“spilt the blood of the Jews, whom Christian charity defends and protects”.

This pontifical stance was even more courageous because the plague had created a wave of murderous anti-semitism.  It was to submerge Germany, and the flagellants would fan it furiously.  It had been born in the South of France.

The most common accusation against the Jews was that they had decided to exterminate the Christians by poisoning their wells.  To do this, they had had brought from the Orient, or made themselves, a poison put together from diverse venimous animals.  This frightful fable, spread among the people and often taken up, by conviction or demagogy, by the civil and religious authorities, led to numerous massacres.  From the Spring of 1348, the Jews in several cities in the South of France, Narbonne and Carcassonne in particular, were massacred, as well as 50,000 of them in Burgundy.  In 1349, the persecutions attained peaks of horror in the Germanic countries.  In Bale, through public pressure, the aediles were obliged by the guilds to order the massacre of all inhabitants of Israelite confession, and to forbid any Jew from settling in the town for the next two hundred years. Twelve thousand Jews were burnt in Mayence, several thousand also in Strasbourg, Frankfurt and Nuremberg.  At Erfurt, the civil authorities were unable to prevent the population’s murderous folly.  Rather than allow themselves to be sacrificed, 3,000 Jews chose to commit suicide by locking themselves inside their houses and setting them alight themselves.  Those who succeeded in escaping extermination fled to Poland, where King Casimir the Great accorded them his protection, or to Lithuania, where religious freedom had already been established in the preceding century.

To be continued.

The existence of the microbe, a living body invisible to the naked eye, was totally inconceivable at this epoch:  if the air was at the origin of the propagation of the illness, it must be because it held bad astral influences.  The idea of evil emanations originally came from the Arabs and, for this reason, was far removed from the Christian doctrines.  Over the two following centuries, alchemical practices inclined certain doctors, in particular Paracelsius, to privilege the application of dead animal cadavers or the tongues of venimous snakes, the consumption of urine and excrements, or even the absorption of the boils from the cadavers of people dead from the plague, after having dried them and reduced them to powder…  The greatest scholars had no problem mixing alchemy, magic and astrology with authentic scientific research.  The best example is perhaps Jerome Cardan, an Italian mathematician and philosopher from the XVIth Century.  According to him, precious stones put into contact with the skin constituted a specific remedy against the plague, and he prescribed to pregnant women the absorption of wine mixed with powdered red coral.


Apart from remedies, people were also looking for the cause of this malediction which was spreading throughout the world.  Astrology was invoked as early as 1348 to determine the causes of the pandemic.  It was remembered that on 20 March 1345, at 1 p.m., a conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars had been observed in the fourteenth degree of Aquarius, conjunction traditionally considered as announcing catastrophes.  To the astrological explanations were added the “tangible” signs of divine anger, such as the ball of fire which appeared in Paris in August 1348, the fiery column which rose above the palace of the Popes in Avignon, on 20 December of the same year, or the invasions of grasshoppers and white mice which, in 1346, attacked Germany and were retrospectively interpreted as precursive signs of the plague.

The pandemic was then naturally associated with the punitive visions of Saint John’s Apocalypse, notably that of the fourth horseman liberated by the opening of the fourth seal:

“And I saw appear a horse of pale colour.  He who mounted it was called Death, and Hell followed it.  They were given power over the fourth part of the Earth, to kill by the sword, by famine, by mortality and by ferocious beasts of the Earth.”

Loaded with meaning for the Christians of the XIVth Century, was the vision of the troops of cavalry released by the sixth trumpet:

“And here is how the horses appeared to me in the vision, as well as those who mounted them:  they had armour the colour of fire, smoke and sulphur;  the heads of the horses were like lions’ heads, and their mouths breathed fire, smoke and sulphur.  The third part of the men were killed by these three plagues, by the fire, the smoke and the sulphur which came out of their mouths.  For the power of these horses is in their mouths and their tails:  for their tails, like snakes, have heads, and it is with them that they wound.”

The smoke, the sulphur spread by the horses of the Apocalypse, possessed for the people of the time a precise meaning:  it was the miasmata, the poisoned air, to which the immediate responsibility for the illness was attributed.

What sins had Men committed to merit such a punishment?  Vanity was mentioned.  It was seen in the wearing of shoes a la poulaine.  This fashion from Poland – hence the name of “poulaine”, the old name for this country – consisted in lengthening the shoes by stuffed points, curled up with whalebones, the dimensions of which were often enormous and obliged those who wore them to maintain them by wearing a gold or silver chain attaching them to their legs.  Introduced into Western Europe by the English knight Robert le Cornu, shoes a la poulaine were rapidly condemned by the Church as contrary

“to good morals and invented in derision of the creator”.

The English Parliament forbade shoemakers to make shoes and boots whose points exceded two inches.  Apparently fashion-conscious ladies and gentlemen ignored these laws:  the shoes, from whence came Evil, were in fashion until the end of the XVth Century, and even armours were endowed with them.

The idea of a fault, which needed to be erased, weighed on everyone’s mind.  Within Christianity, an extraordinary movement of repentance and contrition spread, particularly in Central and Southern Europe.  This movement, of flagellants, has been described in detail by the German chronicler Hugo von Reutlingen:

“In these times, flagellants travelled the country in crowds over all the highways and byways, cruelly torturing their own bodies with blows from the painful knots that they had made in their whips, for in each whip the knots were tied three times;  that was the order.”

The repentants placed themselves under the sign of the Cross, symbol of Christ;  they either carried one, or signed themselves.

“Two pieces of iron, whose upper extremities had been sharpened and passed through the knots, hit the penitents’ backs and made a halo of square wounds.”

Their cortege was composed just as much of priests as of landgraves, of knights as of good-for-nothings, by school-teachers, students, tramps and peasants.  They were strictly forbidden from washing themselves, speaking to a woman, shaving their beards, except by direct order from the master, or wearing clean clothes before the fixed date.  They strictly observed the Day of the Lord, never walked alone, but slept separately on a straw mattress covered with canvas.

“Every five days, they fasted, and on fasting days, they whipped themselves three times, all together, and threw themselves on the ground nine times, three times at each flagellation.”

To be continued.

The most generally accepted theory at the time was that the epidemic came from a poisoning of the air.  This is why the most favourised classes were taken with a real frenzy for “purification” of the atmosphere, as Boccace recounts:

“Without locking themselves up, they came and went, some carrying flowers in their hands, others fragrant herbs, others again, different sorts of aromatic plants which they often placed under their noses, thinking that comforting the brain with such perfumes was the best prevention, as the air seemed to be poisoned and thick with the stink of dead bodies, sick people and medicines.”

This last word suggests fairly well in what little estime enlightened minds held the doctors.  Their remedies were fairly generally considered the surest ally of the disease.  In the aristocratic and middle-class houses of France and Italy, great consumption of aromatic plants, in the form of intensive fumigations, was made, to the point of making the atmosphere really unbreathable, killing the local birds by asphyxia…  And all for nothing.

It is true that medical prescriptions were combined with some recommendations full of good sense, but there were others which, in the light of today’s knowledge, appear absurd.  For example, in October 1348, the Faculte de medecine de Paris advised

“not consuming fowls, water-birds or piglets, no “ripened” beef nor fatty meat.  Broth is recommended with ground pepper, cinnamon and spices, particularly for people who do not eat much, but only choice food.  It is bad to sleep during the daytime.  Sleep must not be prolonged, or only very little, after dawn.”

They should drink very little at breakfast, according to the Faculty, but wine was authorised at lunch – which must be taken at 11 o’clock – diluted with one-sixth water.  Fresh or dried fruit were inoffensive accompanied with wine, for

“without wine, they may present a danger for the heart”.

Aromatic plants, such as sage and rosemary, were considered salutary and it was recommended to absorb a bit of theriac (electuary composed of different substances, including opium) during meals.  On the other hand, cold, spongy or watery foods and fish must be prohibited, as generally bad;  olive oil with the food was mortal.  It was dangerous to stay out at night until 3 a.m., because of the dew.  It was better to avoid any great physical activity, and protect oneself from the cold, humidity and rain by warm clothes.  Corpulent people needed to expose themselves to the sun.  These prescriptions, as well as being completely aberrant to some, are a strange mixture of strictly medical recommendations and purely moral counsels.  All excess of abstention, excitation, anger or inebriety was dangerous, diarrhoea serious and baths risky.  Intestinal functions had to be facilitated by a clyster.  Intimate relations with women were mortal and copulation must be avoided, as well as even sleeping in a woman’s bed.  This last recommendation finds it origin perhaps in the constatation that women, for reasons difficult to establish, appear to have been more greatly infected than men.

More serious, and obviously more efficient, were the prophylactic dispositions of an administrative character.  Unfortunately, they were hardly generalised in Europe before the XVIth Century, or even the XVIIth Century for Germany, when there were diverse recrudescences of the epidemic.  It was the Venitian Republic which led the way.  It established, on 29 March 1348, a Sanitary Council, which immediately decided to put into quarantine, on an island in the lagoon, any traveller and all merchandise coming from the Orient.  The choice of forty days of isolation bore a religious connotaion:  it was the time that Christ spent in the desert.  Comparable measures, although more sporadic, were taken in a few other European cities.  In England, the town of Bristol was authoritatively isolated from the rest of the country:  90% of its inhabitants were dead.  In England, the plague had made 1.5 million victims.

Preventive measures were never strictly medical.  Philosophical or moral considerations were added to them, like the idea that the plague punished excess, appetites, extreme pleasures.  Some Italian doctors of humanist temperament voluntarily mixed “scientific” notion and Platonician metaphysics:

“In the first place, no man must think of death;  neither should he conceive any passion for another human being, whatever.  Nothing must afflict him, but all of his thoughts should, on the contrary, be turned toward pleasant, agreeable and delicious things.  It is best to avoid mixing with other people.  You should visit admirable sites and beautiful gardens, particularly when odorous plants, but above all climbing or rampant ones, are in flower.  However, you must avoid remaining too long in the gardens, for the air there is a lot more dangerous at night.”

Marsile Fisin affirms that during a plague, it is better to totally avoid women of loose morals, and drunks.  Another inscription is rather astonishing:

“The contemplation of gold, silver and other precious stones is comforting for the heart.”

These recommendations, of course, could only comfort those who had gold and precious stones…

Medicine was sometimes more pragmatic.  Guy de Chauliac, notably, practised efficient surgery:  the intervention consisted in opening the boils and cauterising them with a red-hot iron.  Some patients were able to escape death when the boils, by drying out, opened on their own.

Uneducated populations treated themselves almost exclusively with familiar remedies or amulets sold by charlatans, begging monks, and sometimes even doctors.  This credulous public was ready to do anything to escape the disease.  Although endowed with a rational mind, Guy de Chauliac, himself, accepted certain superstitions of the time:  he believed in the influence of the stars and referred to hermetic doctrine.  He practised purges and blood-lettings in function of the planets’ positions.  For him, chronic illnesses came from a solar influence, while the others were attached to the moon.  So, he recommended, when the Sun was in the sign of Leo and the Moon was not turned toward Saturn, the wearing of a belt made from lion skin decorated with the representation of this animal sculpted in pure gold, which was obviously not available to any serfs…

To be continued.

The case of Florence has remained famous because of the scrupulous and moving evocation made by Boccace in the opening of his Decameron:

“Poverty, or some vague waiting for something, caused most of these people to remain at home.  They hardly left their neighbourhoods, and they fell ill by thousands every day.  Receiving no help, they died, it might as well be said, without remission.  Some expired by day or by night in public streets;  and a lot of others, dead at home, first transmitted the news of their death to their neighbours by the disgusting smell of their rotting flesh.  Everything overflowed with these bodies, and the bodies of other men who were dying everywhere.”

Boccace saw his father succumb to the epidemic in 1348, as well as his mistress, Fiammetta.  His eyewitness account is particularly valuable because of the precious indications that he furnishes on the contradictory reactions that the plague provoked among the populations.  While

“some thought that a sober life with abstention of anything superfluous was needed to combat an attack”,

“lived separated from others”

and fled

“any occasion for debauchery”,

others, on the contrary, gave themselves up

“frankly to drink and pleasure”,


“as much satisfaction as possible to their passions”

and laughed

“at the saddest events”


“such was, according to their words, the surest remedy against such an atrocious evil”.

And Boccace concluded that

“in the excess of affliction and misery into which our city is sinking, the prestige and authority of divine and human laws were disintegrating and completely crumbling”.

Florence lost four-fifths of its citizens, Venice two-thirds, as did Hamburg and Breme.  The cities the most visited and the most populated were, of course, the first to be hit.  Paris lost, in the year 1349, 800 inhabitants per day, that is, in total, 50,000 people, half of its population.  But, even in the villages, mortality was just as abundant:  Givry, a town of 1200-1500 inhabitants, counted 615 deaths in fourteen weeks against 30 per year for the ten preceding years.  When the living became too few, the villages were deserted and Nature took over.  Even more terrible were the cases where the illness broke out in closed places, like a prison or a monastery:  only 7 brothers escaped it out of the 140 Dominicans installed at Montpellier.  Friar de Petrarque was the only survivor, with his dog, of the confederation of Chartreux where he lived.

The epidemic hit rich and poor alike:  In Venice, in 1348, fifty noble families disappeared and numerous urban and rural properties were left abandoned.  Important social and economic transformations resulted from this, such as the ascension of the Medicis in Toscany, from the XIVth Century, ascension partly due to the disappearance of the elite who had preceded them.  On a more important scale, the commercial decline of the Mediterranean in favour of the northern ports of Europe, must be imputed to the black death.  Elsewhere, all sorts of acts of brigandage multiplied throughout Europe, with their cortege of atrocities.  The most redoubtable and the most redoubted were those perpetrated by the gravediggers.  These were recruted in the lowest classes of society, sometimes even among the criminals liberated from the gaols transformed into hospitals.  They gave themselves up to pillage, and didn’t hesitate to bury patients who were still alive, or declare sick people healthy, in order to take their goods.

Crops being often left abandoned and herds disappearing through lack of care, famines accompanied the epidemic, leading to social insurrections of unspeakable violence, as well as multiple cases of cannibalism, both in the South and the North of the Continent.  During these sombre years, wild animals invaded immense rural spaces, as reported by an Italian eyewitness:

“Wild wolves wandered at night in packs and came to hurl under the walls of the cities.  In the villages, they didn’t just slink into certain places, like they usually do, to satisfy their thirst for blood;  they entered boldly into open houses and dragged the smallest children from their mothers’ sides;  and they didn’t only attack children, but even armed men, which they overcame.  For the people of that time, they weren’t wild animals, but demons.  Other quadrupeds abandoned their forests and approached houses in hords, as if they were conscious of extraordinary circumstances.  Crows flew over the city in innumerable flocks with loud croaking.  Kites and vultures were heard in the air and other inhabitual migrating birds were seen to appear.  Cuckoos and owls landed on rooves, filling the night with their lugubrious calls.  Field-mice had lost all timidity and had established themselves amongst the humans.”

A Neuberg chronicler added:

“Men and women […] roamed everywhere, as if demented.”


In the face of this illness, medicine was mostly helpless.  The mystery of the contagion was

“the most terrible of all of the terrors”,

as a Flemish man caught up in ravaged Avignon put it.  Most doctors counselled flight from the epidemic, often leading by example:  sometimes they had to be taken manu militari to the patients packed into hospitals, as happened in several Italian cities…  However, certain disciples of Aesculape showed both intelligence and courage.  In Avignon and the county of Venaissin – where the plague provoked the decease of 120,000 people, the great French doctor, Guy de Chauliac, deployed remarkable activity.  He immediately recognized the contagious character of the illness and prescribed prophylactic measures to Pope Clement VI who was living there at the time:  during the whole of the epidemic, the Pope remained locked up in his apartments, surrounded by fires and protected from any exterior contact.  This measure doubtless saved his life, the Yersin bacillus (responsible for the illness) badly resisting extreme heat.  Guy de Chauliac, who recognized, however, that the best way of escaping contamination was flight, refused to do it himself, unlike the majority of his colleagues.  He even succeeded in curing himself when he was personally infected by the disease (he did, however, die from it when the epidemic came back, in 1363).  The example of another great doctor, Gentilis de Foligno, must also be mentioned.  He made important progress in his art by proceeding to audacious dissections of plague victim cadavers.  He died in 1348, in Perouse, a victim of his devotion to medicine.

To be continued.

In 1349, Humanity almost died

One day in October 1347, twelve Genova galleys docked at Messina, in Sicily, on their way back from an expedition to the Mediterranean ports of the East.  On board, they carried death.

The sailors on these boats were ill.  Strange black growths, the size of an egg or an apple, were growing in their groins or under their arms.  Blood and pus oozed from them.  Soon, their skins were covered in black patches, symptoms of internal haemorrhaging.  Scarcely five days later, they were dead, in terrible suffering.  They were buried, but it was too late:  three months hadn’t passed since the arrival of the fatal ships, before there was talk of the “end of the world”.  The black death had invaded the streets of Messina…  A chronicler of the time, Michel de Piazza, has described these first days of the black plague:

“Those who were contaminated felt themselves penetrated by pain throughout their whole body, as if it were being mined.  Then on their thighs, or at the top of their arms, a furuncle, roughly the size of a lentil, that people called anthrax, developed.  This infected the body, and penetrated it to the point that the patient suffered violent vomittings of blood.  This vomitting of blood continued without stopping for three days without anyone being able to cure it, then the patient died.  And not only did all those who had been in contact with them die, but also those who had touched or used an object having belonged to them.”

Other symptoms appeared – continuous fever, blood-spitting, an excruciating cough, sweating…  The old images of the martyrdom of Saint Sebastien who, for several centuries, had been the saint invoked to protect from the plague, evoked the horror that the spectacle of these sufferings inspired in those who saw it.

Pulmonary manifestations announced an even faster death:  the plague, in this case, killed in a few hours.  It was said that a person could go to bed completely healthy, and die in his sleep;  it was also said that some doctors, who had contracted the illness at their patient’s bedside, died before they did.  For the French doctor Simon de Covino, it was as if just one patient was able “to infect the whole world”.

And a deep depression always accompanied the illness.  Death, it seemed, was “written on the face”, and well before the death itself.  Frightened by the repugnant symptoms – pus mixed with blood seeping through the skin, dejections with unsupportable odours -, and by a sudden and painful death, the population asked vain questions about the cause of this hecatomb.  And anguish spread like the illness.

The plague came from the Orient;  those who travelled knew that.  For years, merchants and captains had been talking about great hecatombs in the cities of India and China.  The plague, by the way, persisted in Asia until 1375, causing the death of 50 million people.

The epidemic had followed the caravans coming from faraway China, and touched the merchant towns, one by one, as the camels passed through them.  It arrived in Astrakhan in 1346, then spread via the Volga and the Don, before arriving in Crimea in 1347.  The town of Caffa (formerly the Greek Theodosia, and today’s Feodossia) was at the time under seige by the Tartars.  But their army having been decimated by the illness, Khan Djani Bek decided to raise the seige, but not without firstly gratifying the inhabitants of Caffa with a horrible souvenir:  he had some of the bodies of people dead from the plague catapulted over the town’s ramparts to, in his own words, “stink out the Christians”.  From there, the plague arrived at Constantinople, then the Greek islands…  On the sea, the epidemic travelled fast…  So, one fine day, the Genova galleys, returning from Caffa, arrived at Messina.

At the beginning of the following year, two merchant ships left Messina for Pisa.  They transported with them the germ of the terrible illness, which then spread throughout the whole of Tuscany.  A first foyer erupted in France on 1st November 1348, when Genova sailors, who had been refused access to their own country, landed in Marseille.  The plague provoked the death of 50 to 70% of the inhabitants.  From there, the epidemic spread to the other towns of Languedoc – Avignon, Montpellier, Narbonne, Carcassonne, Toulouse -, as well as Spain.  From June, Bordeaux, Lyon and Paris were contaminated;  then came the turn of Burgundy, Normandy, and the south of England.  Simultaneously, the illness also developed in the East, in Germany, in Poland, in Hungary, arriving in Russia in 1352.  The infection lasted, generally, four to six months then disappeared.  However, it resisted in the big cities, the insalubrity of the habitations allowing it to propagate.  Smothered during the Winter of 1349, the pandemic reappeared in the Spring for another six months.  It then touched regions which had, up until then, been spared:  Scandanavia and Greenland, in particular.

Examples of massive mortalities abound:  in Erfurt alone, in 1350, gigantic trenches had to be dug for more than 12,000 cadavers…  It was said that 20 million people – one third of all Europeans – had died.  The exact number of deceases is, in fact, very difficult to establish.  The archives of the time give an apocalyptic vision of the epidemic, but furnish very little numbered information.  Information is sporadic and very often limited to one town or one region.  In Avignon, still inhabited by Pope Clement VI although the cardinals had refused to remain, 400 people per day died.  The cemeteries overflowing, bodies were thrown into the Rhone, then common graves were dug.  But these, like the ones in London, rapidly became too small.  Witnesses said:

“There were not enough living to bury the dead”.

Therefore, the bodies were abandoned at the doors of the houses, or left to rot in the streets.  Sometimes, as well, buried too carelessly, they were devoured by dogs.

To be continued.

Napoleon Bonaparte, surrounded by Jupiter's lightning bolts

In 1550, the doctor and astrologist, Nostradamus, writes in his Centuries, verses consecrated

“to an emperor who will be born near Italy and will be found to be less prince than butcher”

This is a clear allusion to the three million men killed by Napoleon.  [In fact, it has been said that, taken as a percentage of the Earth’s population in his lifetime, Napoleon killed more people than Hitler.]

Nostradamus adds:

“From simple soldier will arrive at empire, from short tunic will arrive at long.”


“With shaven head, for fourteen years will hold the tyranny…”

This is the concise story of Napoleon’s ascension (his soldiers nicknamed him “little baldy”) and the fourteen years of his reign, from Consulate (1st November 1799) to Waterloo (June 1815)…  The prodigious destiny of Napoleon I was therefore “seen” in its main lines by two men, more than two hundred years before his birth…

It is only in 1804, after his Coronation, that he first saw Maitre Olivarius’ book.  He flicked through a few pages.

Six years later, in 1810, after his marriage to Marie-Louise, he read the prediction attentively.  He called a theologian from Saint-Sulpice and asked him if religion obliged people to believe in prophecies.  The abbot told him:

“God’s spirit has always spoken through prophets, Sire…”


Olivarius’ book was discovered in 1793.  Francois de Metz, General Secretary of the Commune de Paris, who was sorting through books from the pillage of royal and monasterial libraries, was drawn to a little in-twelve, entitled Livre de Propheties compose par Philippe-Noel Olivarius, docteur en medecine, chirurgien et astrologue.  The last page bore the date 1542 in XVIth Century figures.  Francois de Metz read it all, but didn’t understand its meaning.  However, this work so intrigued him that he made several copies, keeping the original for himself.  It fell into Napoleon’s hands in 1804.


Like many Corsicans, Napoleon had been brought up with stories of ghosts, vampires and wildfire.  His nurse, Ilari, made incantations over him against demons.  He interpreted his dreams.  He believed in omens and talismans.  He constantly wore a little black satin heart between his flannel waistcoat and his shirt.  He also carried, in the pocket of his waistcoat, a scarab that he had found in a Pharaoh’s tomb…


Before going into battle, Napoleon signed himself twice for luck.  He also changed the date of his coup d’Etat against the Five-Hundred, because the first date, 17 brumaire, was a Friday.


One day, Napoleon silenced a mocker by saying:

“Only fools defy the unknown!”

He avoided surrounding himself with unlucky people.  He always asked, when any applicant for a post was presented to him:

“Is he lucky?”

If the poor man did not seem to have succeeded in life, he was immediately refused.  Napoleon would say:

“I don’t want him.  His star is bad!”

On the other hand, one person who appeared lucky to him, was Josephine.  This was why he hesitated about repudiating her.


He firmly believed that

“Premonitions are the eyes of the soul.”

He also believed in dreams, predictions and the beneficial power of the amethyst.  He often said that, without the premonition of his future glory, he would never have had the audacity to attempt his coup d’Etat.  And this was fortified by the fact that an old woman had predicted to Josephine, as a child in Martinique, that she would be “more than queen”…


One day, during the Italian campaign, the glass protecting a miniature of Josephine broke.  Napoleon said to his aide de camp:

“Marmont, my wife is ill or unfaithful…”

She was in good health.


The day of his Coronation, when the carriage carrying himself and Josephine passed under the porch of the Tuileries, the eagle on its top broke off and fell to the ground.  When he heard about it, Napoleon closed his eyes and his complexion became “wax-like”.

The day he met Marie-Louise for the first time, he had to walk to the village in the rain, because a wheel had broken on his carriage.  He was white, and everyone understood that he saw this as a bad omen…

In 1812, during the Russian campaign, while on reconnaissance along the Niemen, his horse, startled by a hare, swerved and Napoleon, who was not a good rider, fell.  Without saying a word, he remounted.  He was frighteningly pale.   His entourage knew that he saw it as a bad omen.  A few minutes later, he said to them:

“You all thought like me, didn’t you?”

Napoleon believed in his lucky star, which he invoked whenever he was in danger, or at the beginning of a battle, and which he had added to all of his popular images…  He often alluded to it.  When he learned of the collusion of Moreau and Pichegru, he exclaimed:

“What stupidity!  Moreau knows that I have my star!…”

Which doesn’t stop him from signing himself twice in front of the astounded Police Prefect…

Another day, Cardinal Fesch tried to make a few remarks about the Spanish war.  Napoleon led him to a window, and asked him if he saw the star.  It was midday, and the cardinal said that he didn’t.  Napoleon told him:

“Well, as long as I am the only one to see it, all will be well, and I will not suffer any remarks from anyone…”

He was obsessed by this star, to the point of making it a motif of decoration for the imperial furniture.  He even wanted to use it for the emblem of the Legion d’Honneur, which explains its original name of “l’ordre de l’Etoile”.


He liked ghost stories, and told them at Malmaison.  He had all of the candles blown out, sat near the fire, and launched into stories peopled with ghosts, which made the Court ladies shiver.  But if anyone smiled, he became angry:

“You mustn’t laugh at these stories.  They contain more truth than a lot of scholarly books!”


He also talked about the Tuileries’ Little Red Man.  This is a legendary character who appeared since the time of Catherine de Medicis, every time that an important event – usually bad – was going to happen to one of the principal inhabitants of the Tuileries.  It was said that Henri IV saw him on the morning of the day that Ravaillac assassinated him, that Anne d’Autriche bumped into him a few days before the Fronde erupted, and that Marie-Antoinette saw him in the corridor the day before the 10 August 1792…  It was also said that this Little Red Man appeared for the first time to Napoleon, not at the Tuileries, but in Egypt, and had offered his protection to him via a mysterious pact.  Legend has it that the Emperor saw him again in 1814, before the abdication…


Napoleon’s premonitions were at fault only once.  After Waterloo, on the Isle of Aix, before Rochefort, he was hesitating between flight to America or surrendering to the English.  A bird entered through the window.  Gourgaud caught it and said that it was a sign of happiness.  Napoleon told him to set it free so that he could see the augures…

The bird flew towards the English fleet.  That same evening, Napoleon sent negotiators to the Bellerophon, the boat which was to transport him to Sainte-Helene…

His lucky star had disappeared…

Napoleon Bonaparte, surrounded by Jupiter's lightning bolts

On 16 August 1769, in Breslau Castle, in Silesia, Frederic the Great awoke in his blue silk draped bedroom at six o’clock in the morning.  He rose immediately, dressed hurriedly, and had his astrologist called.

Upon the astrologist’s arrival, the King of Prussia told him to sit down and listen.  He had had a strange dream, and wanted to know its meaning.

He said that he had seen his kingdom’s star shining in the sky.  He was admiring its brightness, and its height, when suddenly, above it, another star had appeared which eclipsed his own, as it lowered itself onto it.  There was a struggle.  For a short time, the two stars’ rays were shining together, then Frederic’s star darkened and, wrapped in the orbit of the other one, slowly descended to Earth, as if forced by a power which seemed to want to put it out and annihilate it.  He demanded to know what it meant.

The astrologist seemed very uncomfortable.  He told the King that he thought that it meant that a great man of war had been born, or that Prussia would be dominated by an invisible power.

The Prussian King was furious.  He continued the description of his dream.  He said that the struggle between the two stars had been long and forceful, but that his own star had escaped – with great difficulty – and taken its place again, continuing to shine in the sky, while the other one had disappeared.  He wanted to know if his astrologer still thought that Prussia would be dominated.

The astrologer answered that it would be, for a certain time.  Perhaps by the man of war who had just appeared on Earth.

A few hours earlier, 300 leagues from Breslau, a baby had been born in Ajaccio.  A baby who would be called Napoleon Bonaparte.

However, before inspiring a symbolically premonitory dream to Frederic of Prussia, Napoleon had already haunted the minds of some great prophets.

In 1542, a doctor and astrologist, Philippe-Noel Olivarius, whose mind was open to the sights and sounds of the future, had published a book of prophecies in which his contemporaries read a chapter which seemed to them to be a pile of rubbish.  Rubbish which, two hundred and twenty-seven years later, began to happen with stupefying exactitude.  Here is my translation of the French translation of Olivarius’ text:

“The Italian Gaul will see the birth, not far from its heart, of a supernatural being;  this man will arrive very young from the sea and will come to take the language and customs of the Celtic Gauls.  Still young, he will open a path for himself through a thousand obstacles and will become their supreme chief.  He will go firstly to make war near his country of birth (this is the first Italian campaign).  Overseas, he will make war with great glory and valour (this is the Egyptian expedition).  Then he will make war again in the Roman world (this is the second Italian campaign and Marengo).  He will give laws (this is the Code), will pacify troubles and terrors (allusion to the end of the Revolution), and will be named also, not king, but emperor, by great popular enthusiasm.  Fighting everywhere in the empire, he will remove princes, lords, kings, for two lustres and more (which means during more than ten years).

Nothing needs changing in the beginning of this text by Olivarius, which admirably resumes Bonaparte’s ascension, from his birth to the imperial throne.  Let us continue:

“He will come to a great city (this is Paris), putting in order a lot of things, edifices, sea-ports, aqueducts, canals;  alone, he will do as much as the Romans.  He will have twice a wife, and only one son.”

Olivarius then makes an allusion to Napoleon’s great misfortunes.  He writes:

“He will go to war up where the lines of longitude and latitude cross (which means towards the North).  There, his enemies will burn the great city (this is Moscow set alight by the Russians).  He will enter and leave it with his people from underneath the ashes and ruins.  His people having no more bread nor water, by great cold, will be in such a bad way that two thirds of his army will perish (this is the retreat from Russia).  Then the great man abandoned, betrayed by his friends (the betrayal of Marmont), will be in turn hunted with great loss right to his own city, by the great European populations (the Allies in Paris, in 1814).  In his place, will be put the old King of the Cape (this is the return of Louis XVIII, a Capet, like Louis XVI).  As for him, he is forced into exile in the sea from whence he came so young, and near his country of birth (this is the Isle of Elbe).  He will remain there eleven moons with some of his people, true friends and soldiers.

“As soon as eleven moons are up, he and his people will take a ship and will come to set foot on the land of the Gauls (this is the return from the Isle of Elbe).  And he will travel towards the great city where the old man of the Cape is seated, who will rise, flee, carrying with him the royal ornaments (this is the flight of Louis XVIII and the One-Hundred Days).  Hunted again by a trinity of European populations after three and one third moons (which means ninety-six days.  We know that the famous One-Hundred Days were really only ninety-four.).  The old King of the Cape is put back in his place (return of Louis XVIII and second Restoration).  Then, he dictates sovereign counsels to all nations and to all peoples (this is the Memorial of Sainte-Helene) and he dies.”

This is a rather astounding brief account of Napoleon’s life.  But that’s not all.  In 1550, another doctor and astrologist, living in Salon-de-Provence, the famous Nostradamus, writes about him in his Centuries.

To be continued.


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