Astronomical Images in the Vaticinia Michaelis Nostradami

© 2009 by Vincent Bridges

Astronomical Images in the Vaticinia Michaelis Nostradami de Futuri Christi Vicarii ad Cesarem Filium D. I. A. Interprete: A 13th Century Look at the Galactic Centre and its Role in the Timing of the Apocalypse

Presented at the 44th International Medieval Conference,May 7th, 2009, Kallamazoo Michigan, for the Societas Alchimica.

The Vaticinia Michaelis Nostradami de Futuri Christi Vicarii ad Cesarem Filium D. I. A. Interprete (The Prophecies of Michel Nostradamus on the Future Vicars of Christ to Cesar his son, as expounded by Lord Abbot Joachim) is a collection of eighty watercolor images compiled as an illustrated codex and a version of the well-known Vaticinia de Summis Pontificibus of the 13th-14th century. In this version, and unique to it, is a series of seven images that allow us to glimpse the time period in which the heretical Joachimites believed the Apocalypse would occur. These seven images contain the earliest known representation of the center of our galaxy, and its location between Scorpio and Sagittarius. As Fulcanelli described in the Hendaye chapter of Le Mystere, this is a clue to the timing of the “season of catastrophe,” and the secret of the alchemical transformation of time.

In 1994, an article by Italian journalist Enza Massa in the “Giornale dei Misteri” caught the attention of Ottavio Cesare Ramotti, a former Italian state policeman and encryption expert. The article concerned the rediscovery of a manuscript in the Italian National Library in Rome. Originally uncovered in the 1930s by Vatican University professor Ernesto Buonamico, who used some of the images in an attempt to find a role for Mussolini in Nostradamus’ predictions, the folio had an uncertain origin. Claiming to have been in the Vatican Library, it was sold to the National Library in 1888 by a mysterious and somewhat unscrupulous bookseller. The manuscript languished in obscurity until 1982, after the attack against pope John Paul II, when three journalists from “Giornale dei Misteri” began to study the manuscript and 12 years later one of them, Enza Massa, wrote the article that Ramotti read.

Ramotti was already a Nostradamus “scholar” at that point, having figured out a method of decrypting the quatrains into, of all things, modern Italian. When he began to look deeper into the manuscript itself, he found more and more points of similarity between the images and his interpretations of the quatrains. He explained these connections in his 1998 book, translated into English as The Nostradamus Code. In his zeal to prove that the images were somehow connected to Nostradamus, and therefore prove his new interpretation, Ramotti completely lost sight of the original manuscript.

The manuscript is small, only 83 pages in total. Eighty pages contain illustrations of an obviously allegorical nature; two pages contain notes linking some of the images to figures in the Papacy, from Urban VIII to Alexander VIII. One page was obviously meant to serve as an introduction, but it survived heavily damaged.

This introductory page reads:
To the honest reader,
From the prophetic mosaic of the Roman pontiffs (from Urban VII) (and) those preceding him are missing here by reason of the injuries of devouring time, according to divine will, which is uttered not by possession but in sleep, and not by divine inspiration in the most eminent Abbot Joachim I, but by other ways, for our forebears have sent us a soothsayer of good and scarce possession.
Cino gave this in gift to the most eminent Cardinal Barberini who has beseeched it with the permission of the most reverent Abbot.
The prophecies seen by the venerable Joachim … from Sir Ce … (mus) that which … Abbot foresaw.
Brother Cinus Beroaldus of the Carthusian Librarians at Corati, 6 September 1629
The two pages of notes bear the following heading: Visions of Michele Nostradamus on the future Vicars of Christ to his son, Cesare. This note is signed D.I.A. Interprete, which is likely Dominus Ioachim Abatis. (See appended notes for a translation of this section.)

Also, and most curious, the last page of the illustrations contains a note as well. It reads:
“Apocalyptic predictions by Anito Efesio, prince of painters of his epoch, later clarified by the prophetic inspiration of Abbot Ioachim, Tommaso Guidini of Saint John’s, by approval of the most pious Carthusian Fathers, copied and restored it in the year of our lord 1343 from the corruption of time and corrosion inflicted by the conflicts of this place.”

No Nostradamus there, and a date of 1343 points to a longer history indeed.
Ramotti does make the suggestion that the images are part of Nostradamus’ inspiration, perhaps even one of those ancient books that he supposedly burned after writing his prophecies, but actually passed on to his son, Cesare. This seems at first a likely answer, but it leads to even more significant questions. In his book, Ramotti follows the commentary of the Abbot Joachim, and mixes in the prophecies of St. Malachy, a 12th century Irish mystic, whose enigmatic references to future Popes were discovered and published in the 1590s. While not conclusively, some of the imagery in the illustrations does suggest the mottoes of St. Malachy. Abbot Joachim, who wrote the two pages of interpretation, seemed to think so. However the author of the 1343 note refers only to Joachim of Flores, and not St Malachy.

Can we authenticate the basic manuscript as having been created in the 14th century? Actually we can, and fairly easily. The manuscript, handwriting and ink experts consulted in the History Channel’s special “The Lost Book” agreed that the notes on St. Malachy dated from the 1690s, the introductory note mentioning, possibly, Cesare de Nostradame dates from no early than 1590, and the other 80 or so pages are consistent with an origin point in the mid 1300′s, as stated in the note actually written on the last page of illustrations. All we need to put the “Lost Book of Nostradamus” into its proper context is to find other collections of manuscripts with the same or similar images.

The origin of the work is clearly the 13-14th century Vaticinia de Summis Pontificibus, Visions of a Summation of the Papacy, a Latin text that collects portraits of popes and prophecies related to them, which circulated from the late thirteenth to the early fourteenth century in a broad range from Provence to Bohemia, following has been described as the Cathar refuge trail. Originally a series of some thirty prophecies, based on Greek prototypes, known as the Genus nequam prophecies, derived from the Byzantine Leo Oracles, a series of twelfth-century Byzantine prophecies that foretell a savior-emperor destined to restore unity to the empire. Their poems and tempera illuminations mix fantasy, the occult, and pseudo-history in a chronology of the popes. Each prophecy consists of four elements, an enigmatic allegorical text, an emblematic picture, a motto, and an attribution to a pope. The series was augmented in the fourteenth century with further prophecies, written in imitative continuation of the earlier set, but with more overtly propagandist aims. By the time of the Council of Constance (1414–1418), both series were united as the Vaticinia de summis pontificibus and misattributed to the Calabrian mystic Joachim of Flores, actually a pseudo-Joachim. There are close to fifty manuscript versions of this collection.

Most of these collections contain images that are almost the same as those in the Vaticinia Michaelis Nostradami some even in a similar sequence. One these collections, Marston MS 225, in the manuscript and rare-book library of Yale University, comes from the German areas of Bavaria and Bohemia, probably from within the courts of Emperors Frederick III and Maximilian I, having had an impact on the various sovereigns of the Holy Roman Empire, down to Charles IV and Rudolph II. (See appended note for a list of manuscript collections with similar images.)

The oldest of these folios, Carpentras Bm Ms 0340, dates from circa 1280, just a few years after the crusade against the Cathars in Southern France. The town of Carpentras was a center of Catharist activity, and because of its inclusion within the new Papal enclave of Avignon, it remained such until the late 14th century. The Carpentras version contains most of the same images as the “Lost Book” and most of the Vaticinia material, including some fairly standard apocalyptic images. Another manuscript, Lyon Bm Ms 0189, from just a little further up the Rhone River, has the same core images as the “Lost Book” and the others, but it contains some strikingly apocalyptic images. These images, however, are fairly direct representations of Revelation’s apocalypse without much in the way of occult or arcane symbolism.

In the British Museum Rare Book Collection, there is another rather splendid version of the Vaticinia Summis Pontificibus, Harley 1340 British Library. This collection also has the same core images, all extremely heretical, as the “Lost Book” and it dates from the late 1400′s in Imperial Bohemia. Like the version in the Yale Library, this collection can be said to have had an influence on, or been influenced by, the Catharist survivals in Bavaria and Bohemia. This collection in fact is close to in time or contemporaneous with John Huss, the early Czech “protestant” against the Church of Rome.

There are also the repeated images that reference the famous 12th century mystic Joachim of Flores. The Church condemned his Trinitarian view of time in 1215, but it managed to survive in an underground form until the Renaissance. Exactly how Joachim and St. Malachy overlap, and when, points to a solution to the problems presented by the manuscript’s purported origins.

Thirty years after Nostradamus’ death, in the late 1590s, and about the time Cesare was working on his history of Provence, Dom Arnold Wion discovered and published the enigmatic mottoes of future Popes attributed to St. Malachy. They had been circulating privately for perhaps as much as a decade before Wion made them public. Also, the Trinitarianism of Joachim of Flores was making a come back as part of the new Hermetic movement, which included Giordano Bruno and Dr. John Dee.

Politically, the royal line of France was failing, and King Henry of Navarre, a protestant picked by Nostradamus at age 12 as a future king of France, became Henry IV of France in 1589. Even though he became Catholic to ascend the throne, his supporters saw this as a move toward moderation and even a loosening of the Church’s stranglehold. The emergence of prophecies implying the eventual end of the Catholic Church was an appealing part of this movement.
This suggests that possibly Cesare held onto this part of his father legacy, and then used it to gain favor with the Church at the start of the Counter-Reformation. The future Pope Urban VIII might have found such a document to be intriguing enough to give it to the Abbot Joachim, who seems to have been a scholar of St. Malachy’s mottoes. Perhaps he was looking for clues to his own elevation.

The time line is the key. It is just possible that this manuscript was in Nostradamus’ possession, and that he gave it to his son Cesare, who in turn gave it to Cardinal Barberini for the reasons speculated on above. The possible mention of Cesare Nostradamus from 1629 is damaged and very obscure. The only clear mention of Nostradamus, in the heading of the two pages of St Malachy commentary, can be dated no earlier than 1690, as Pope Alexander VIII is mentioned. By then Nostradamus’ fame had grown to be as great as the ancient seers, and so the last Abbot Joachim used him as reference to confirm the mottoes of St Malachy. The original visions of Joachim of Flores have now long disappeared from the interpretation and the new, and Church approved, visions of St Malachy have replaced them. And they are attributed, strangely enough, to Nostradamus as if that made them somehow more relevant.

What is clear from all this is that whether or not Cesare Nostradamus ever owned it, the manuscript is proof of a very heretical and apocalyptic movement or society that survived at least until Nostradamus’ era. Since the manuscript was in fact produced sometime around the mid 14th century, as the note on the last page says, and that it sums up the apocalyptic tradition of both Joachim of Flores and an obscure group of apocalyptic visionaries with Catharist leanings, then it is likely that if this particular version of the Vaticinia originated in Provence (as seems probable from its similarities to both the Carpentras and Lyon versions) then it passed through the hands of Rene D’Anjou, who was a collector of apocalyptic manuscripts and obscure artists. He also stands at that peculiar junction point in both time and space, Provence in the mid 1400s, where the last gasps of the Cathar heresy could become the tarot cards, the Holy Grail could be openly searched for, and Kings could still found orders of chivalry with esoteric preoccupations. In his last years, one of his physicians was Nostradamus’ maternal grandfather, Jean de St. Remy.

And it is just possible that his first teacher and father figure, his maternal grandfather Jean, did pass on to his bright young pupil an ancient volume of mysterious images of heresy and apocalypse that he had received for his service to Good King Rene. And if so, then it is easy to see why Michael de Nostradame chose not to burn it along with his other books and magical papers, but to pass it along to his son, Cesare.

We will perhaps never really know if this is true. The connections are not solidly historical. There is a letter by Cèsare, written to the French scientist Fabri de Peiresc, in which mention is made of several miniatures painted by Cèsar, and of a booklet that was destined as a gift to King Louis XIII in 1629, however there is no evidence whatsoever of any connection between these and the Vaticinia. The connections to St Malachy appear to be stronger, but, given the dates, the manuscript could have influenced Wion in his “reconstruction” of St Malachy’s mottoes. The influence of Joachim of Flores is just as obvious as St Malachy, but even that could be a misreading.

Looking just at the images themselves, without the struggle to shape them into a prophetic pattern, an outline begins to emerge. Many of the recurring images, Popes as or riding on dragons, burning towers or furnaces and wheels of fortune, viticulture and the slaughter of the innocents, the Three Fates and so on, are clearly heretical and/or alchemical in intent. Others, and these are unique to the Vaticinia Michaelis Nostradami, appear to have a direct astrological or astronomical meaning. Something is being communicated, but just what is very obscure indeed. If they are the remnants of an almost lost apocalyptic tradition, as seems most likely, then the need is even greater to interpret them on their own terms, and within their historical framework.

When we do that, we arrive back in Provence and the lower Rhone River a generation or so after the end of the crusade against the Cathars. They would clearly have resonated to the Pope as the Beast of Revelation, images of destruction and genocide and slaughter, as well as demons controlling King and Church. However, the component of the Vaticinia Michaelis Nostradami that makes it truly unique are the series of seven images found in no other version of the Vaticinia.

In the first of these seven images, a seven-rayed sun rises in Leo, above a Lion and a seven-spoke wheel hangs in the sky below a blank banner. The blank banner is a recurring motif in this series of images. The other versions of the Vaticinia have some degree of commentary, while this complete collection has none. From this we might suppose that phrases or sentences were meant to appear on the banners. The next image also has a few blank banners, but here a man sits a book on the Tree of Life, with an eight-spoke wheel above and an archer and two fish, probably meant to represent Sagittarius and Pisces, below.

The next image continues the eight-spoked wheel motif, but the Tree of Life is being attacked by a club-like thing, and arm hold an upright sword, around which another banner entwine while below yet another banner are a scorpion and a ram, again perhaps Scorpio and Aries. Next, the wheel motif continues, except here a crescent moon hangs below it. Beneath that an archer with a blindfold and a mythological woman struggle over a bow and arrow, amidst even more blank banners and a bull and a pair of scales, Taurus and Libra. These first four images then give us seven zodiacal signs: Taurus, Libra, Leo, Scorpio, Aries, Pisces and Sagittarius.

Note that Taurus and Aries share a cusp, as do Sagittarius and Scorpio and Libra and Pisces are opposite each other. Also, Libra and Scorpio have a cusp, as do Pisces and Aries. The traditional spring and fall equinox falls on the cusp of Aries/Pisces and Libra/Virgo. The pattern then points to the equinox moving a whole sign backward, from Pisces/Aries to Aquarius/Pisces and Libra/Virgo to Virgo/Leo. The sun in Leo then is clearly the fall equinox on Leo/Virgo. This gives a rough date for this sequence of events, and that date is now, as the fall equinox began its move into Leo in 1999.

The next image pinpoints the date. From the wheel hangs, like a medallion, a V with three crescents, and suspended from it is what looks an eclipse. In August of 1999, most of Europe experienced a total eclipse, and a lunar eclipse both before and after the solar eclipse. Counting the one in February, there were three lunar eclipses that year. Below the medallion like eclipse image, is what looks like a badly drawn scorpion with an arc and a spiral between its claws. 1999 was also the year when the solar system aligned with and crossed the galactic meridian. Could the arc and spiral represent the center of our galaxy? The simple answer seems to be yes.

The last two images continue and complete the eight-spoke wheel motif; in the last of the series, the wheel is shattered. In the next to last, it remains intact, as a veil is lowered – apocalypsis in Greek means simply that, lowering the veil. A man is studying under a mystic symbol, and below him are three women, divided by another set of blank banners. The last image shows the wheel as shattered, a wild man raving, holding a blank book, and below that, two women and a stag deer. The immediate future, from this viewpoint, doesn’t look that promising.

However, the symbolism itself points to the Great Cross at Hendaye, which uses the same basic symbols and temporal markers to locate the same era, roughly the twenty years from 1992 to 2012, as the traditional date of the apocalypse. (See The Mysteries of the Great Cross at Hendaye: Alchemy and the End of Time, Weidner and Bridges, Inner Traditions 2003 for more detailed information on the Cross.) This somewhat amazing overlap of concepts, between an alchemist of the 20th century writing about a monument created in the 17th century that actually seems to encode the information of a small group of heretical Cathar from Provence, on the other side of France from Hendaye, would seem to be solid proof that some kind of heretical Catharist Chiliasm sect or society survived long enough to pass along the information.

And there is one further intriguing bit of evidence, in, of all places, the Voynich manuscript. This enigmatic text was once owned by Rudolph II, and perhaps was studied in reference to the other astro-alchemical texts of the day, including perhaps versions of the Vaticinia. The Voynich has one image in its collection of stars patterns and peculiar zodiacs that looks very much like a top down view of our galaxy. When compared to a computer-generated image, the similarities are stunning. The very idea of a galaxy wasn’t conceived of until the early 20th century, and even then, with powerful telescopes, no one could see the center of our own galaxy.

Yet the Chialists of Provence knew all about it in the 13th century. The next question to ask is how did they learn this amazing bit of information? Or perhaps that should be, from whom?
Other Vaticinia by Collection
Arundel 117 British Library
Beinecke Marston Ms 225
Bildindex 1
Bildindex 2
Bildindex 3
Bildindex 4
Bildindex 5
Carpentras Bm Ms 0340
Châlons En Champagne
Gnm Hs 86851
Harley 1340 British Library
Lyon Bm Ms 0189
Lyon Bm Ms 0195
NN Spencer 185
NN Spencer 212
NN Spencer 223
Pierpont Morgan Library Ms M 402
Stift Kremsmuenster
Tours Bm Ms 0520
Unknown & Misc.
Vaticinia Siue Prophetiae
ProphesiesMichael Nostradamus’ “On the Future Vicars of Christ to [his] son Cesar”

1st Prophecy
Let he who has ear[s] hear what the spirit says to [or ‘in’] the Churches, receive the book, and I consumed it, and it was like sweet honey in my mouth, and when I had consumed it my stomach became bitter, and lo a powerful lion, from whose mouth a long-lasting sweetness came forth, and a voice was heard in the city weeping over its citizens [literally ‘city men’], the sun was made dark, the stars were scattered, the Holy City will call it [it looks like someone wrote ‘called’ and then changed it to ‘will call’], and then death will come. Urban VIII Barbernius [i.e. his original name was ‘Maffeo Barberini’].

2nd Prophecy
At length the peacemaking dove will fly in the Vatican [or ‘on the Vatican hill’] __ed by a shrewder witch, when [or ‘as’] the eagle consumes, when [or ‘as’] the raven lives, when [or ‘as’] the solitary sparrow dies on the roof, peace will cry out on all sides, and [he/she/it, the dove?] will dedicate a temple to peace. Innocent X. Pamphilius Romanus [i.e. his original last name was ‘Pamphili’ and he came from Rome].

3rd Prophecy
The plant-bearing guard of the mountains will send down its roots in the Church of God, will de-feather the eagle, and more quickly [or ‘more rapaciously, more greedily’] than a she-wolf will the winged messenger of day be raised up over the wings of the hunter [the Latin looks like ‘ventoris,’ which is not a word. But ‘of the hunter’ is ‘venatoris.’ Perhaps a copying error has been made.]. Alex: VII. Chisius [?] Senensis [? It’s not clear to me what these last two adjectives are. Alexander VII’s last name was ‘Chigi’ and he came from Siena. Based on the endings of the other sections, I am guessing that ‘Chisius Senensis’ maps on to these facts.].

4th Prophecy
Turbot, and Toad, Toad, and Turbot [the Latin is ‘Rhombus’ and ‘Bufo’ for ‘turbot’ and ‘toad’ respectively. ‘Rhombus’ also means ‘a magician’s circle’ and ‘rhombus’.] will rule the Roman citadels. In his days the bloody muzzle will flow to the winged lions, and he himself will die from the pain more [or ‘rather’] un-praised. Clement IX. Rospigliosus Pistoriensis [his name was ‘Rospigliosi’ and he came from Pistoria, which apparently as a Latin adjective is ‘Pistoriensis’].

5th Prophecy
The new stars above the highest hills will rouse a certain fox, the seed will become haughty, in their councils my spirit will not enter. Clement X. Alterius Romanus [‘Alterius’ does not make good sense: it looks like it should literally = ‘another Roman’ (vis-à-vis Innocent II in section 2?), but that should be ‘Alter Romanus’ or ‘Alius Romanus’. His family was ‘Altierir’. Perhaps some confusion has occurred.]

6th Prophecy
The most cunning serpent under the appearance of the lion, will both drink six cups to the eagle, and spread the [or ‘his’] poison in [perhaps ‘through’] the whole world, he does not come to send peace, but the sword, he will stir up all the leaders [or ‘Princes, first men’] to war, he will conceal [or perhaps ‘overpower, check’] the moon, but during his days a beast, whose number is 666, will boast that he is the scourge of God. Innocent XI. Odescalius Comensis [His family was ‘Odescalchi’ and he came from Como].

7th Prophecy
Iron plants at the crossroads will be adorned over the winged horse, while the lion, and the eagle run, let us crown ourselves with roses, before they begin to droop, many run, but flowers have appeared in our land. Alexander VIII. Ottobonus Venetus [his family name was ‘Ottoboni’ and he came from Venice].

8th Prophecy
Light of terrible aspect to the one rising, a dragon [or ‘serpent’] a crown… [Presumably this section will have ended with the name of Innocent XII]

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