Great Frost of 1709

Le lagon gelé en 1709, painted by Gabriele Bella, showing part of a lagoon which froze in Venice in 1709
Le lagon gelé en 1709, painted by Gabriele Bella, showing part of a lagoon which froze in Venice in 1709

Historical Context

During the winter of 1709, an extreme cold snap occurred in Europe that remains the coldest European winter of the past 500 years. On January 5, 1709, scientist and theologian William Derham recorded a temperature of -12 degrees Celsius (10.4 Fahrenheit) near London, England, the lowest since he had began recording in 1697. Other temperatures recorded across Europe reached as low as -15 Celsius. Derham stated: "I believe the Frost was greater (if not more universal also) than any other within the Memory of Man."

Thousands of people were killed, with conditions worsened because the winter happened during two major wars; the Great Northern War in Scandinavia and the War of the Spanish Succession. As many as 600,000 people died in France during the resulting wartime famine.

Modern climatologists have been unable to explain the causes of the winter, but have noted that it took place during a phase called the Maunder Minimum, when unusually low sunspot activity was recorded on the surface of the Sun.

Painting Info


Artist: Gabriele Bella
Location painted: Europe

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Related Events

  • 1709-01-05 The Great Frost begins during the night, a sudden cold snap that remains Europe's coldest ever winter. Thousands are killed across the continent and crops fail in France.

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