The Flood that Destroyed a Dutch City

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A Brief History

On November 5, 1530, The St. Felix’s Flood destroyed the city of Reimerswaal in the Netherlands and killed over 100,000 people, making it the fifth deadliest flood in human history.

Digging Deeper

Over the past month, we have seen one city destroyed by a tornado, another by an earthquake, and another by an army.  For our fourth city to experience near total devastation, we go back to mother nature.

The old town of Reimerswaal

The now lost city of Reimerswaal in the Netherlands is our victim this time around.  Reimerswaal was granted city rights in 1374 during the reign of Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV (the Netherlands would not become an independent country for a few centuries later).  Unfortunately for its inhabitants, a catastrophic flood ravaged the lands that became the Netherlands on Saturday, November 5, 1530, the day of St. Felix’s Feast, during the reign of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.  This day, later known as Evil Saturday, marked one of the worst natural disasters to ever afflict the Dutch people.  In addition to the destroyed city of Reimerswaal, considerable parts of Flanders and Zeeland washed away from the flood.  As Audrey M. Lambert wrote, “all the Oost Wetering of Zuid-Beveland was lost.”  Although a small part of the city remained as an island for the next century more floods continued to plague the few people left.  Eventually, by 1632, all of the remaining citizens left Reimerswaal as today nothing remains of the city that once existed for a few hundred years.  A new city by the same name is located to the South of the former city.  The sunken city of Reimerswaal is now a shellfish fishery, providing rich breeding grounds for the mussels that are harvested there.

Selected part of the map “Zelandicarum Insularum Exactissima Et Nova Descriptio, Auctore D. Iacobo A Daventria” showing the drowned land of Reimerswaal

Indeed, for as disastrous as London’s tornado and Basel’s earthquake were, those cities made a comeback and are to this day major world cities.  Reimerswaal has never done so and remains a lost city, a sort of Medieval Atlantis.  Instead, what was once a city is now known as Verdronken Land van Reimerswaal (“Drowned Land of Reimerswaal”).

Question for students (and subscribers): What is the worst flood you have experienced?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more on Dutch history, including a brief reference to this flood, please see the following book:

Gray, Jeremy and Kim Renfrew. DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Netherlands. DK Eyewitness Travel, 2011.


About Author

Dr. Zar graduated with a B.A. in French and history, a Master’s in History, and a Ph.D. in History. He currently teaches history in Ohio.