Wednesday, 4 March 2015
The Antichrist: edited photocopy of image from page  of the Vaticinia de summis pontificibus
The so-called ‘Lost Book of Nostradamus’ (a) was never ‘lost’, and (b) is not by Nostradamus. These two ideas are the copyright of the Italian author Ottavio Cesar Ramotti and the History Channel – and of one decidedly over-enthusiastic producer in particular.
Reputable scholars such as Dr Jennifer Britnell have dated the original manuscript – which consists of a mixture not just of hand-painted images, but of mysterious captions and enigmatic descriptions too – to the early 14th century, centuries before Nostradamus’s time (in fact the manuscript itself claims, presumably in an effort boost its ‘authority’, that it dates back to 1100!). Its first printed edition seems to have been published in a vast collection of medieval prophecies entitled Mirabilis liber of 1522-4 (when Nostradamus was scarcely out of his teens), though for reasons of space and practicality this lacked the hand-painted images, which have since disappeared from the original St Victor library in Paris (destroyed at the Revolution), and may be the ‘orphaned’ ones that subsequently turned up in the National Library at Rome. The book is known to have been basic to Nostradamus’s Prophecies (many links with it can be identified specifically), so that is possibly where the confusion arises.
You can see it at:
As republished in the Mirabilis liber, the Vaticinia de summis pontificibus (the book’s real title) features two tranches, each featuring a succession of fifteen popes, starting in both cases with Pope Nicholas III (1277-1280), and in the second case culminating with the expected Antichrist. This would take the first collection up to Pope Urban VI, who died in 1389. Since then there have been no less than 64 further popes, even if we ignore the multiple popes of the Great Western Church Schism of the late 14th to 15th century – and none of them have shown any sign whatever of being the Antichrist (not surprisingly, since no such historical figure is to be found in the Bible!)! The book, in other words, is an understanble prophetic failure, and certainly has no practical relevance today.
Nevertheless, it seems to have successfully ‘retrodicted’ at least five historical popes, and possibly more (one would expect no less!), while its style is memorable and its illustrations are beguiling. The problems only begin when one tries to translate it into any kind of modern language. The first collection, after all, is printed in almost undecipherable Latin Gothic script, the second in a mixture of (mainly) Gothic script and late medieval French. Fortunately in 1831 the French scholar Edouard Bricon managed to translate it into the French of his day before all knowledge of the former printing practices had died out, though even he gave up in despair when faced with the abstruse intricacies of the language of the first collection. An example is printed below.
The Mirabilis liber, showing the beginning of the Prophecy of the Popes
What is believed to be the first English translation of the book follows, though the exact positioning of the images (including those not yet included) is largely a matter of guesswork until more reliable information becomes available…
 Pope Nicholas III (1277-1280), an Orsini noted for his corruption and excessive nepotism, characterised by Dante’s Inferno in the form of three little bears (orsatti) hanging on to his robes.
 Presumably Pope Martin IV (1281-1285), who broke the union between Greek and Latin Churches and presided over the violent massacre known as the ‘Sicilian Vespers’.
 From this point onwards it is difficult to match up the texts and images with known popes, since the proper sequence of the former is uncertain, and the link between text and image is not always clear.
 Could this be Pope Nicholas IV (1288-1292) who emerged only after months of electoral chaos in the Vatican?
 Possibly Pope St Celestine V (1294) who, too incompetent for the role, returned after only five months to his former life as a simple monk, citing "the desire for humility, for a purer life, for a stainless conscience, the deficiencies of his physical strength, his ignorance, the perverseness of the people, his longing for the tranquillity of his former life". He was the founder of the Celestine order and instituted the right of popes to resign, later exercised in modern times by Benedict XVI.
 Note by Édouard Bricon: It has to be admitted in all conscience, as well as in all humility, that it is impossible to grasp to its fullest extent the meaning of this ancient prophecy of 1100. The true sense of the words, hidden behind the most abstruse of abbreviations, resists all efforts to decode it, and however long-suffering the commentator, he is unable to arrive at an interpretation of such mysterious language.
 Once again, perhaps, Pope Nicholas III (1277-1280), an Orsini noted for his corruption and excessive nepotism, characterised by Dante’s Inferno in the form of three little bears (orsatti) hanging on to his robes.
 Possibly Pope Martin IV (1281-1285), who broke the union between Greek and Latin Churches and presided over the violent massacre known as the ‘Sicilian Vespers’.
 This postscript by the Mirrabilis liber evidently refers to the final Antichrist. The apparent reference to Edward Prince of Wales may refer to the fact that, in the course of one of his infamous marauding expeditions across France in which thousands were slaughtered, he had helped decisively to defeat the French at the disastrous Battle of Crécy (1346), and would do so again on his own behalf at Poitiers (1356), in the course of which the English had almost wiped out the flower of French chivalry and captured the French King John the Good, whom they took into exile.