Ice Saints

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The ice saints , also called Gestrenge Herren , Eismen or May frosts , include several name days of Christian saints in May, on which the last frost nights of spring are possible according to various regional farmers' rules.

The name days refer to the Julian calendar (jK). Because of the calendar reform in 1582, these days are around 10 days after the name days in the Gregorian calendar (gK).

The ice saints and their memorial days

  1. Mamertus , (5th century) - May 11th (jK)
  2. Pankratius , (3rd / 4th century) - May 12th (jK)
  3. Servatius , (4th century) - May 13th (jK)
  4. Boniface , (3rd / 4th century) - May 14th (jK)
  5. Sophia , (3rd / 4th century) - May 15 (jK)

In the Catholic Church of Northern Germany Mamertus is considered the first ice saint, in the Catholic Church of Southern Germany, German-speaking Switzerland and Austria's Pankratius. “Ice men” usually only refers to Pankraz, Servaz and Bonifaz, the “Cold Sophie” was added. This can be interpreted as the fact that the cold air, which sometimes comes from the north, arrives in southern Germany about a day later when it reaches that point.

Farmers rule agricultural background

The peasant rules with the ice saints reflect medieval regional special experiences. There are conflicting regional rules. Without knowing which region the variant of the rule with the Ice Saints comes from, it is worthless. In addition, it was probably erected during a medieval cold period.

In the Little Ice Age from the beginning of the 15th century to the 19th century, very cold, long winters and cool summers with plenty of precipitation often occurred . In the middle of the 17th century and until the middle of the 19th century, glaciers penetrated the Alps twice and destroyed farms and villages. Famine was not uncommon in many regions. The average growing season was shorter than it is today; this presented the farmers (especially in cool parts of the country, e.g. in the east of Germany and in the low mountain ranges) with a dilemma every year : if they sowed late, the harvest was small; if they sowed early, the young plants were threatened by spring frost. According to the medieval farmer's rule, the mild spring weather only becomes stable when the "Cold Sophie" (May 15th (jK), May 25th gK) is over. The farmer's rule was passed on, since ground frost can destroy a seed. So the sowing could only take place after the "Cold Sophie".

Climatological findings

In meteorology , the ice saints represent a so-called singularity .

From the beginning of May the temperatures in Central Europe are sometimes quite high. However, high temperatures can be interrupted by weather conditions in which cold polar air flows into Central Europe. If the sky is clear under the influence of high pressure, the nocturnal radiation can lead to ground frost .

In the history of the climate , warm and cold periods alternated irregularly over and over again. So there was the medieval warm period from 950/1000 to 1200/1300 ; it favored the colonization of colder parts of Europe as well as agriculture and cattle breeding. This period was followed by the so-called Little Ice Age (beginning of the 15th to the 19th century). There were also considerable climatic fluctuations in the Little Ice Age; for example, the periods from 1570 to 1630 and from 1675 to 1715 were particularly cold periods.

Since the end of the Little Ice Age and especially towards the end of the 20th century, the growing seasons have become increasingly longer and frost breaks in spring are less frequent and shorter and also less severe than in the past.

The climate in Germany is very different from region to region; Large-scale weather phenomena are superimposed (both weakened and intensified) by local weather events. In Trier , for example, between 1951 and 1961, an average of 0.4  days of frost were measured in May (that is four days within ten years), but none between 1991 and 2006. The beginning of spring is apparently a few days earlier than years ago. Some sources report that an actual short drop in temperature has been scientifically confirmed, but in the time around May 22nd. This is later than May 15, but earlier than the Ice Saints' feasts in the Julian calendar , which many weather rules refer to.

Long-term series of measurements in Payerne (Switzerland) show no accumulation of frost during the ice saints (neither according to the Julian nor the Gregorian calendar). However, in the vast majority of years there are ground frosts at least once or twice in May, in almost half of the years there are more than two days with ground frost in May.

50-year series of measurements by the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics show a significant drop in temperature for various places in Austria at the time of the ice saints postponed by the Gregorian calendar reform , which can also lead to frost in high altitudes due to the generally lower temperature.


Another cold snap in June is known as sheep cold .

Peasant rules and proverbs

In the course of time, various peasant rules and proverbs that refer to the ice saints have developed:

  • Pankraz, Servaz, Bonifaz are only giving
    way to summer.
  • No summer before Boniface,
    no frost after Sophie.
  • You're never safe from night frost
    until Sophie is over.
  • Servaz has to be over
    if you want to be safe from night frost.
  • Pankrazi, Servazi and Bonifazi are three frosty Bazi.
    And finally, Cold Sophie is never missing.
  • Pankraz and Servaz are two bad brothers,
    what spring brought, they destroy again.
  • Never plant before Cold Sophie.
  • Mamerz has a cold heart.
  • Cold Sophie does everything here. ( Bavarian : here = there, broken)
  • Mamertius, Pankratius, Servatius often bring coldness and annoyance.

Church history

Outside of the Reformed churches , the ice saints are among the weather saints ; they were bishops and Christian martyrs in the 4th or 5th centuries.

See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. May frosts. In: Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon . 6th edition. Volume 13, Bibliographisches Institut, Leipzig / Vienna 1908, p.  120 .
  2. a b The Ice Saints. Meteo Schweiz , October 10, 2017, accessed on May 18, 2019 .
  3. ↑ Convert calendar. 10 days difference from the year 1582. Retrieved on May 11, 2020 .
  4. The return of the migratory birds , at
  5. Is that the attack of the hasty ice saints? , Die Welt of May 2, 2014.
  6. see ZAMG: Die Eisheiligen: reliable, but not punctual , (article from May 9th 2017)