Fact Check

Did Nostradamus Predict the 'Descent of Man' After the Notre Dame Fire?

A statement can only qualify as a "prediction" if it exists prior to the event it foretells.

Published April 17, 2019

Michel de Nostredame (1503-1566) shows Catherine de' Medici's children, the future king of France, through the 'magic mirror'. Engraving from «Witchcraft, Magic and Alchemy » by Émile-Jules Grillot de Givry. France, Paris 1929. (Photo by Fototeca Gilardi/Getty Images). (Getty Images)
Image courtesy of Getty Images
Nostradamus wrote that "when the great cathedral glows red, so will begin the descent of man."

In the hours following a massive fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on 15 April 2019, some social media users shared what they claimed was a prediction from the 16th century astrologer (and alleged soothsayer) known as Nostradamus:

The text of the prediction read: "When the great cathedral glows red, so will begin the descent of man."

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Michel de Nostradame was an astrologer who lived in France in the 1500s. He's most famous today for the poetic quatrains he wrote for his book, Les Prophéties, which many enthusiasts now claim foretold various significant historical events. But this particular viral prediction was not expressed in quatrain form, nor could we find anything like it published in Les Prophéties. The quote appears to be a modern invention falsely attributed to Nostradamus in order to generate likes, shares, and comments. We found no mention of this supposed prophecy prior to the events of 15 April 2019.

However, we did find a genuine quatrain written by the 16th century (alleged) soothsayer that some have claim anticipated the fire at Notre Dame:

Chef d’Aries, Jupiter et Saturne,
Dieu eternel quelles mutations?
Puis par long siecle son maling temps retourne,
Gaule et Italie, quelles emotions?

The head of Aries, Jupiter and Saturn,
God eternal, what changes can be expected?
Following a long century, evil will return
France and Italy, what emotions will you undergo?

While Nostradamus indeed penned this quatrain in the 1500s, a certain leap of faith is needed to conclude it predicted a fire at Notre Dame in 2019. For instance, one of the "astonishing" connections between Nostradamus' "prediction" and the fire at Notre Dame, according to astrologer Jessica Adams, is that France's President Emmanuel Macron also used the word "emotion" while speaking of the damaged cathedral:

What is astonishing in this Nostradamus prediction, written centuries ago and translated decades ago – is the use of the word ’emotions’ which is the exact word used on Twitter by French President Emmanuel Macron to describe France’s response to the fire.

But using the word "emotion" to describe an emotional event is neither novel nor unusual, nor is it definitive proof that two pieces of text from 600 years apart are somehow cosmically linked.

Nostradamus' predictions frequently employed vague and obscure imagery that had allowed readers to develop their own interpretations and retrofit the "predictions" as applicable to modern events. That is one reason why these prophecies are almost always considered of significance only after the occurrence of the events they supposedly predicted.

As we noted in an article debunking another fake Nostradamus quote predicting the events of 11 September 2001: "These predictions can often ring somewhat true because the images employed are so general they can be found in almost every event of import, but by the same token the prophecies are never dead-on fits because the wordings are far too general. Not that this stops anyone from believing in them; our society’s need for mysticism runs far too deep to ever allow for that."


Sator, Lana.   "Aerial Photos Show Scale of Notre Dame Damage."     CNN.   17 April 2019.

Nostradamus.   "Complete Prophecies of Nostradamus."     Wordsworth Editions.   1999.

JessicaAdams.com.   "How Nostradamus Predicted the Notre Dame Fire."     16 April 2019.

Snopes.com.   "Did Nostradamus Predict the 9/11 Attacks?"     21 September 2001.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.