Those who subscribe to such beliefs will confidently assert that one of Nostradamus’ many intricately abstruse quatrains foretells the coming of the Great London Fire of 1666. As far as city-wide conflagrations go, the 1666 blaze that made its way across much of London makes the Great Chicago Fire look like a smoldering waste basket by contrast. On the other hand, certain distinct similarities exists between the two great metropolitan wildfires, not the least of which is that both cities rose from the ashes significantly more modern than they had been before which directly led to both Chicago and London taking a more prominent place in their respective societies.
The Great Fire of 1666 ripped a fiery path through London stretching at least 40 miles long, destroying more than 15,000 homes, nearly 100 churches and an unknown quantity of businesses. The cause behind such devastation was easily to determine: all those buildings were constructed of wood and many were lined with tar paper to keep out the famous London rain. Add to this mix the fact that most streets were very narrow and the distance between neighbors close enough to reach out and touch and the fact that London had no organized fire brigade at the time points to such a destructive event as a matter of when and not a matter if.
The task of rebuilding London the day after the fire was finally extinguished looked hopeless, but over the years new buildings of brick or tone replaced the space where wood and tar had once stood a stack of kindling next to a fireplace. The Great London Fire of 1666 also directly inspired the most famous architect of his day, Christopher Wren, to commence work on St. Paul’s Cathedral.
That magnificent temple was not the only phoenix to rise from the ashes of the Great London Fire of 1666. Another inspirational creation owing a debt of genesis of the death rattle of inferno was John Dryden’s epic poetic call to the patriotic spirit of Londoners, Annus Mirabilus Where others views the destruction wrought by the fire as yet more evidence—along with the waste being laid across the city by the Black Plague—as proof that God was punishing the city, Dryden saw in the massive damage caused by the fire the opportunity to cleanse and purify London of its flaws and erect in its wake a much greater metropolis. The fire, as Dryden outlines its path across the city in his poem, could be transformed into a redemptive act of God rather than a punishment from God to provide the opportunity for the salvation of an entire city.
Ultimately, Annus Mirabilus makes it greatest appeal to the patriotic fire still burning among the dying embers of the flames with the suggestion that what appeared to be pure havoc transform into the moment at which England took its rightful and deserved placed as the greatest city in the greatest country destined to lead the world into the future.