Predicitions for the End of the World from 999 to 1600

About a variety of people's predictions for the end of the world coming between 999 and 1600 a.d.


DEC. 31, 999

In the Apocrypha it was prophesied that the world would end in 1,000 years. Fanatics all over Europe believed that the Last Judgment was to be expected at Jerusalem on the last day of 999. Despite official discouragement by the Church, throngs of pilgrims proceeded eastward. Knights, citizens, serfs, and children by the thousands died from starvation on the long journey. Every natural phenomenon was greeted with panic. Thunder sent them to their knees, meteor sightings made them weep and pray in the streets. Many people gave away and pray in the streets. Many people gave away their property to insure themselves a place in heaven when the end of the world came. On the fateful day, crowds of people left their camps at the foot of biblical Mt. Zion and climbed to the top, where Jesus was supposed to appear. Nothing happened. At the beginning of the next century, families began to return home, only to find that what they had left behind was now in ruins from neglect. Later in the year 1000, barbaric Huns began invasions, famine struck, and plagues killed thousands.

FEB. 1, 1524

During the first half of the 16th century, London swarmed with fortune-tellers and astrologers. As early as June, 1523, a group of them concurred that the end of the world would begin with the destruction of London by deluge on Feb. 1, 1524. Because so many astrologers agreed, the prophecy met with implicit belief, and hundreds of families moved out of London to the high ground of Kent and Essex. By the middle of January, at least 20,000 people had left their homes. The prior of St. Bartholomew's was so frightened that he built--at enormous expense--a fortress at Harrow on the Hill stocked with a two-month supply of food. It was predicted that the inundation would be gradual, so that even disbelievers would have a chance to escape. Nothing happened. Yet so convinced was the metropolis that nearly the whole of London stayed awake, fearing that the deluge would suddenly burst and "take them like a thief in the night." The following day the astrologers had to account for themselves. Hurriedly they examined their figures and discovered a tiny error in their calculations. London would be destroyed and it would mark the end of the world--but in 1624, not 1524.

FEB. 20, 1524

"The world will end by a giant flood on Feb. 20, 1524." So said the German astrologer Johannes Stoeffler of Tubingen University. Such an eminent man was automatically believed, and very soon the Rhine was choked with wooden arks. Ironically, on the appointed day Germany suffered one of its worst storms, and hundreds died fighting to reach the supposed safety of their tiny crafts. Although the world hadn't ended, the violence of the storm had made it a close call, thereby greatly enhancing Stoeffler's reputation as a seer.


Again Stoeffler predicted the end of the world, but this time few people paid attention.

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