In the seventeenth century... Today...
Medici Tower :
Adjoining the Commodity Exchange, in the district of Les Halles in Paris, there is a tower, the remnant of what was once the residence of one of the greatest Queens of France, Catherine de Medici. Of the private manor that she had had erected on the site that once had been a convent for penitent girls, remains a column 32 meters tall. At its summit, a metallic structure sits on top of a square platform of which the four sides, each measuring 4 meters, face a cardinal point.
Who built this column and what was its purpose? The historians have often wondered and have advanced many theories. The architect Bullant, builder of this residence, was supposed to have constructed it in 1574, but there is nothing to confirm this fact. What reason did he have to build it? Was it as homage to King Henry II, husband of Catherine, who perished in 1559 in an unfortunate tournament? Was it an astrological observatory? Was it a watch tower for the city Paris at this time? Or was it a secret way to come and go into the manor as well as to have access to the outside using underground passages, which still exist today? Perhaps all the above are valid. The only fact that is certain is that it has a stairway consisting of 147 steps and that two doors used to lead to the queen’s manor, which it adjoined in a courtyard. One of these doors must have led to Catherine’s chamber and the other most probably to the laboratory, heavily protected by an iron grid, of a nonetheless mysterious person: Cosimo Ruggieri.
Portrait of Ruggieri in the 17th century
(château de Chaumont)
Who was this man? He makes his entrance in France at the same time as Catherine de Medici. In 1533, the one who was to become the wife of Henri II, and subsequently Queen of France in 1547, arrives to the court of Francis the First. Besides a considerable fortune, she brings with her an entourage of close friends and relatives from the Florentine palace of the Medicis. Cosimo Ruggieri, who is the son of a physician and psychic, is among them - also known as Roger the ancient ( Ruggiero il vecchio). His date of birth is not known, but he must be of the same generation as Catherine, who was born in 1519. If we are to believe Balzac, who will devote a large part of his "Philosophical Studies" (études philosophiques) to the Ruggieris (The confidence of the Ruggieris), Cosimo, alias Cosimus or Cosme, would have had a brother, Laurent. They were both named after the two dukes of Toscany, Laurent & Cosme, who had been their respective godfathers. This seems to support the theory, which I believe myself, that Catherine and Cosimo knew each other since their childhood. Together, they will go through one of the most turbulent existence.
Unlike Nostradamus, famous contemporary and fortune-teller of the Queen, Cosimo leaves very few traces of his existence. No texts or very few – at the end of his life, he will write a few almanacs, one of which, published in 1603, still remains at the Bibliothèque Nationale. Verses in quatrains are written for each month of the calendar year. If Ruggieri is often mentioned in works about famous personalities of the sixteenth century, there is only one that was entirely devoted to him, the one published in 1941 by G. Imann-Gigandet: "Cosme Ruggieri, le magicien de Catherine de Médicis". Several anecdotes are related and describe his practices of astrology and the influence that he had on the Queen Mother. This man will thus predict to Catherine that she will become the Queen of France and that she will bear ten children. This prediction is somewhat astonishing as it was made when she married Henri of Orleans, the future Henri II, who was not the oldest son of François the First, and consequently not directly destined to rule. The death of the future King in 1536 will result in her becoming Queen in 1547. Her lavish wedding takes place in 1533, however she will remain sterile for 11 years, constantly under the threat of being repudiated. Finally in 1544, the birth of her first child, François, will be the beginning of the fulfillment of Ruggieri’s vision. Nine other children will be born from this marriage and three will rule: François II, Charles IX, and Henry III; two of her daughters will become queens: Marguerite, the Queen "Margot", wife of Henry IV, and Elisabeth, wife of Philip II of Spain. The length of the reigns of her sons would have been shown to Catherine de Medici by Cosimo, using mirrors in the Château de Chaumont sur Loire (some historical versions attribute this prediction to Nostradamus). Everything about these monarchs would have been revealed to her up to the end of the Valois dynasty and the accession to the throne of Henri IV. Ruggieri was also known to have practiced necromancy. In order to predict the Queen’s regency under the reign of Charles IX, he was supposed to have had words uttered by the head of a Jewish child who had been captured and sacrificed. If these last stories appear to be somewhat not credible, however there is one which is troubling and merits mentioning. In 1564, Catherine de Medici decides to have a palace built near the Louvre, the Tuileries, of which today only the gardens remain. The plans are designed by the architect Philibert de L'orme and the builder is Jean Bullant. Suddenly, at the beginning of the years 1570, all work is stopped and the Queen orders the construction of what will become the Hôtel de Soissons. She leaves the Louvre and moves there. What happened to cause her to take this decision? Some say that it was because of lack of funds or the fear to live outside of the walls of the city of Paris. It appears more likely that superstition was the reason and also the fact that Catherine believed implicitly in whatever Ruggieri predicted. At that time, he had just told her that she would die “near St Germain”. As the Tuileries and the Louvre were part of the diocese of St Germain l'auxerrois, the Queen is anxious to move from there as soon as possible. She moves near the St. Eustache Church, in the manor that was just built for her. Adjoined to one of the buildings, inside a courtyard, will be erected the famous column. As far as the palace of Tuileries is concerned, it will never be completed and she will not live there. She finally passed away in Blois in 1589 and the priest who came to give her the last rites was named Julien de St Germain...
If one is to believe the official story, one event will cause discord between Catherine and her astrologer. In 1574, a conspiracy against Charles IX and the Queen Mother will be uncovered. The plot is an attempt to take away their power in favor of the Duke of Alençon, Catherine’s youngest son. The instigators of this plot, or more exactly its executors, are two gentlemen, friends of the duke, La Molle and Coconas. These men had become known for their cruelty at the St. Barthélemy massacre, during the night of August 24, 1572. When they were arrested, a wax doll pricked with needles, supposed to represent Charles IX, was found in their possession. Right away Ruggieri is suspected, as he was known to use such practices. It seems that he was the one who introduced and made popular the use of wax figurines with needles to cast evil spells. He is promptly arrested. At the same time, Charles IX becomes seriously ill. He suffers from a skin condition and has terrible migraines. Naturally, Catherine attributes these ills to spells cast by Ruggieri against the King. What increases further the suspicions is that Ruggieri, who at one time was the protégé of the ambassador of Toscany, Vincenzo Alamanni, flees from Paris. When he is arrested, disguised as a peasant, he will inquire from his pursuers as to the health of the King, more specifically his skin condition and his migraines. This episode is related to the Queen who demands that Ruggieri retract the spells. Ruggieri would have replied that Charles IX would not die if La Molle would be spared. The latter is however decapited on April 30, 1574, along with his accomplice Coconas in the place de Grève. Their bodies are then mutilated and torn and the pieces exposed in public. A novel tells the story that Marguerite de Valois and the Duchesse de Nevers, respective lovers of the two traitors, would have gathered their remains to have them buried, keeping however the heads as mementos of their love. Charles IX succumbs to his illness on May 30, 1574, in terrible agony. As for Ruggieri, he is condemned to spend time in the galleys. The sentence varies according to the historical versions: from nine years to a life sentence. What is certain however is that he will go to Marseille and that his stay there will be devoted to teaching astrology rather than to do forced labor. Shortly after this, he returns to Paris, at the request of Catherine de Medici who pardons him. This clemency is somewhat surprising. Traitors and criminals are punished mercilessly by this Queen. However, Ruggieri is spared, and is further assigned all the considerable revenues from the St Mahé abbey, in Brittany, and in 1585, he is made Abbott. Was it really an act of treason on Cosimo’s part? Personally, I do not believe it. He is too close to the Queen and has a great influence on her. Why plot against her? I believe instead that he acted as spy against the Duke of Alençon to whom he was teaching Italian. When he became aware of the plot, he informed Catherine. The rest of the story is only a plan to compromise La Molle and Coconas whom the Queen hated since their cruelty during the St Barthélemy’s massacre. The ultimate purpose of this episode was to get rid of the Huguenots who appeared to plot against the King after the assassination attempt of Coligny. La Molle and Coconas were heavily implicated in this event and the horrible massacres which ensued. However, the responsibility for this tragedy would be borne by the Queen Mother and the King. Catherine would never forget it…
Catherine passes away in 1589. Much later, in 1598, Ruggieri will be subject of other accusations. His reputation as a sorcerer remains. Once again, his famous wax dolls are the culprit. A figurine full of needles is discovered, and he is accused of casting a spell against Henry IV who had been crowned a few years before, in 1594. A trial takes place during which Cosimo proclaims his innocence by relating his role in the St. Barthélemy’s event, during which time, Henry de Navarre, although newly married to Marguerite de Valois, was nonetheless a Huguenot destined to be eliminated. To believe Ruggieri, his life was only spared because he intervened with the Queen Mother. He defended him and assured the Queen that Henry would never cause any harm to the Valois family. This is how Ruggieri pleads his innocence by stating that it does not make any sense to want to cast a spell on someone that one has tried to spare previously. The King himself intervenes and declares that wax dolls are only an old wives' tale. Perhaps he remembered these terrible nights in August 1574 where his life hung by a thread. Regardless, the astrologer was not condemned. As was fashionable at that time, he devoted the last years of his life writing the almanacs mentioned previously.
A man like him cannot die unknown. In 1615, He is in Paris and resides near rue du Four (today called rue de Vauvilliers). Realizing that he is close to death, his people call a priest to administer the last rites. When the latter arrives, accompanied by capucine monks, Ruggieri, although very old, finds the strength to throw out his visitors. He claims with anger: “Get out all of you, you are mad, there are no other devils than the enemies who torment us in this world, no other god than the kings and princes who can give us honors and wealths.” The Church representatives leave, so outraged by such a display of atheism that they deny him a Christian burial. The knowledge of Cosimo’s impiety spreads in the region of Paris. When he dies, on March 28, 1615, his remains will be dragged on a rack in the streets before being thrown in the gutters. This incident will have repercussions as far as the Parliament of Paris. It is true that at this time, under the reign of Louis XIII, still child, and under the regency of Marie de Medici, France is indirectly ruled by Concini. This Florentine, who is the protector of Ruggieri, had brought with him a Portuguese Jewish physician along with his relatives and friends. In order to quiet down the growing rumor that France was being governed by heretics and sorcerers, on May 10, 1615, the Parliament will put back in force an old edict dating of 1394 to deport all the Jews.
It is surprising to imagine that a person such as Ruggieri died in such manner. He will live, and sometimes be a protagonist, through eight of the most cruel religious wars, one worse than the other. He will interact with people, more or less important, some of them having met tragic endings. During his life, more kings will rule: François the 1st, Henry II, François II, Charles IX, Henry III, Henry IV and lastly Louis XIII. Along with these kings, two regencies will take place, the one of Catherine de Medici and the one of Marie de Medici. He is not afraid to oppose powerful people, and instead of suffering the consequences, he is feared. He goes through a century filled with assassinations, tortures, the worst abuses, and it is considered a heinous crime to pray differently to a common god. On the other hand, he scrutinizes the skies, he casts spells, and pierces wax dolls with needles - and this image has crossed the times to represent one of the symbols of sorcery. He boasts, that is the least, his lack of Christian belief, if not to call it paganism. However, it is only his remains which will be decimated, and ironically, he will die a priest!
Mercure Francois - Tome 4 - Histoire de notre temps- Paris 1617
Michaud - Biographie Universelle - Paris 1843
Jean Orieux - Catherine de Médicis - Flammarion 1986
Yvan Cloulas - Catherine de Médicis - Fayard 1979
Michel Simonin - Charles IX - Fayard 1995
Georges Imann-Gigandet - Ruggieri, magicien de Catherine de Médicis - Paris, F. Sorlot 1941
Leon Poliakov - Histoire de l'antisémitisme - Tome I - Paris, Calmann-Levy 1955-1977
Paul Lacroix - Le Moyen-âge et la Renaissance - Paris 1851
Eugène Defrance - Catherine de Médicis : ses astrologues et ses magiciens envoûteurs, documents inédits sur la diplomatie et les sciences occultes du XVIe siècle... - Paris, Mercure de France 1911
Francis Decrue de Stoutz - Le Parti des politiques au lendemain de la Saint-Barthélemy. La Molle et Coconat - Paris : Plon, Nourrit et Cie, 1892
Prosper Levot - L'abbaye de St Matthieu de Fine-Terre - F. Alégouet 1884
Grillet de Givry - Le Musée des sorciers, mages et alchimistes - Tchou 1966
Prince Jacques de Broglie - La Tragique histoire du château de Chaumont - Paris : au Fil d'Ariane (Sainte-Ruffine, par Moulin-lès-Metz, impr. Maisonneuve), 1963
Louis Pauwels, Guy Breton - Histoires magiques de l'histoire de France - Paris : A. Michel 1977
Voltaire - Essay sur l'histoire générale et sur les moeurs et l'esprit des nations, depuis Charlemagne jusqu'à nous jours - p.370 - Genève : Cramer 1756
Simon Goulart - Thrésor d'histoires admirables et mémorables de notre temps - Genève : P. Marceau 1610
Laurent Bouchel - La justice criminelle en France - 1621
Thanks to those having brought a help to the development of this website and more particularly to Anne for having accompanied me in my research.
The evocation of the life of Cosimo Ruggieri undertaken here does not want to be a final and complete document but a simple synthesis of some contradictory and nonirrefutable historical elements. All contribution, precision and correction are welcome if argued and justified
1 / Barthélemy nouvelle
2 / Peines de reine
3 / Chemin
4 / Question
5 / Foi en toi
6 / Renaissance
7 / Chanson
8 / Beauté
9 / Des rives
14/ Un Ange Numérique
18/ Dix vagues
39/ Palais Royal
44/ Halles project
45/ Ventre de Paris
A strange "passage d'enfer"