All Saints’ Flood (1570)


Storm at sea
The worst disaster in pre-modern times, the All Saints’ Flood, occurred in 1570. That year, on the 1st of November, the water rose even higher than it did in 1953. Unlike previously, this was the first time that there was any pre-warning. On the morning of the floods the ‘Domeinraad’ (Domain council) in Bergen op Zoom released a warning (in old-fashioned Dutch) for an ‘extremely high flood’. Ironically, the warning had no effect. It would be the worst flood disaster in the history of the Netherlands.

Numerous dikes on the Dutch coast collapsed and the water continued to wreak complete havoc. The entire coast was flooded between Flanders and Groningen, and up to the northwest of Germany. Antwerp (the land of Saefthinge, where four villages were buried in a thick layer of silt), Friesland (where more than 3,000 people died) and Zeeland, were hit particularly heavily. It was a disaster felt by the entire nation. In a letter to King Phillip II, the Duke of Alfa wrote that no less than five sixths of Holland were under water. The exact number of casualties is not known, but there is no doubt that the number exceeds 2,000. Tens of thousands of people were made homeless. Livestock and winter supplies were destroyed.