“I have sailed over Rungholt town today" - The First Grote Mandrenke

16 January 1219, on St Marcellus’ Day, the first Grote Mandrenke (the great man-drowner), a stormflood caused by a massive Atlantic gale, killed more than 30,000 people along the coasts of the North Sea. Almost 150 years later, on the same day in 1362, the Second Marcellus Flood descended upon the shores of England, Friesland and Denmark, killing 25,000 and destroying the rich trading town Rungholt.
“I have sailed over Rungholt town today, / six hundred years ago it was washed away. / The waves still pound there, wild and harsh, / just as before, when they destroyed the marsh. / The steamship's engines shake and creak, / From the sea comes a weird and mocking shriek: Trutz , blanke Hans. … (Detlev von Liliencron, “Trutz, blanke Hans”)

A reconstruction of Rungholt before the dike was washed over, taken from the German docutainment show “Terra X / Atlantis der Nordsee” 

Legend has it, that you can still hear Rungholt's church bells ringing in certain nights from the bottom of the Wadden Sea. In boozy hubris, the 5,000 or so inhabitants of the place, grown rich on salt trade, laughed at Blanke Hans, more or less “John Spray”, a synonym for the Great North Sea, and challenged him during a feast and the sea rose and drowned them under the waves, with divine approval, since the story goes that the locals got a pig drunk and forced the parson to give the befuddled brute the last rites on January 15th on top of it.

A 19th century map of Strand

Located on the island of Strand that finally went under in 1632 off the North Frisian coast, 20 miles west of Husum, Rungholt was long considered a legend until the remains of the large medieval city were discovered in the mudflats during the 1880s and the excavations go on to this day. Rungholt was located on a peat lense, a bog covering a depression in the sandy ground that was simply washed away when the dikes broke on St Marcellus’ Day but preserved the wooden remains of the town quite well, even though the Grote Mandrenke covered the place for centuries under salt water. Anyway, the coast line was significantly changed after the deluge and the Halligen began to appear, the small islands that shape the North Frisian coastal waters.

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