The Francke Foundations are a lively centre of scholarly research, a place of education and culture. Today, the Foundations are again taking up contact with diverse institutions all over the world, orientated towards the worldwide connections of the Franck Foundations in the 18th century. The extensive correspondence between August Hermann Francke and theologians, diplomats, rulers and fellow believers all over the world emphasise his interest which went far beyond borders. He thought in terms of the universe, sending his pupils as messengers into the world to spread his reform work. The network of correspondents who considered Halle to be the spiritual central point of their lives stretched from Copenhagen to Jerusalem, from Boston, USA to Archangelsk, from London to Madras.
Today, the modern Francke Foundations seek to maintain, revive and tend these connections. Comprehensive source collections pertaining to these early European and intercontinental cultural links can be found today in the Library and Archive as well as the Cabinet of Artefacts and Curiosities. Research on them offers manifold starting points for international projects, studies and cooperation. The cultural programme of the Foundations repeatedly takes up this international dimension of their own history in exhibitions, events and lectures.
It was the reform policy of Peter the Great (1672-1725) that enabled the links between Halle and Russia. The Tsar needed Western advisors to help reshape Russia into a modern secular state, and particularly to set up a higher education system. Thus, Laurentius Blumentrost – linked to the Francke Foundations through a friend of his father – was in charge of establishing the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg from 1716, later becoming its first president. Francke established a wide range of contacts with Russia, detaching staff to St. Petersburg, Moscow and Siberia, where they worked as doctors, private tutors, pastors and civil servants. Scientists from Halle, such as Francke’s student Georg Wilhelm Steller, took part in expeditions. Orphanages were built in Narva, Astrakhan and Tobolsk, based on the Halle model. The Francke Foundations have now re-established lively academic links with Russia.
Halle Pietism played a highly influential role in North American church history. Contacts were particularly extended during the time of office of the second director of the Francke Foundations, Gottlieb August Francke. After being expelled from the Salzburger Land, many Protestants from Salzburg left Prussian Brandenburg for the newly founded colony of Georgia from 1728 on. The Francke Foundations sent pastors to join them, who remained in contact with Halle.
In 1734 the German Lutherans in Pennsylvania asked their contact man in London, F. M. Ziegenhagen, to find them trained pastors. Ziegenhagen contacted Gotthilf August Francke, who in 1742 sent Heinrich Melchior Mühlenberg to America, where he created a nationwide church organisation. Mühlenberg is now regarded as the patriarch of the Lutheran church in North America. Two of his sons, trained in Halle, were to become key figures in the early history of the United States.
In the early 18th century, the Danish King Friedrich IV intended to set up a Protestant mission in the small trading colony of Tranquebar on the southeast coast of India. He dispatched Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg (1682-1719) and Heinrich Plütschau (1677-1752), two students of August Hermann Francke, the founder of the Francke Foundations in Halle. Following an eventful journey, the two missionaries arrived on the coast of south India on 9 July 1706. They took up their work, seeking dialogue with the local people with great curiosity, caution and sensitivity. They learned the local languages Tamil and Portuguese and began translating the bible on palm-leaf manuscripts. They explored the new world they lived in with interest, sending regular detailed reports to Halle, from where they received long-term support in return. Their printed reports were widely read and influenced broad circles in Germany, even including the writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
The mission network fell victim to wars in India and Europe. Financial support dwindled as the idea of missions fell out of favour in post-Enlightenment Europe. The last missionary sent from Halle to Tranquebar died in 1837.
Today’s Evangelical Lutheran Christians in Tamil Nadu are mainly united in the Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church.
August Hermann Francke was familiar with the social and religious situation in the Netherlands through his correspondence with the country’s most important theologian, Friedrich Breckling (1629-1711), among others. Francke was thus informed about the Dutch openness for Puritan ideas and the unusual course of the Nadere Reformatie. The founder of the Halle orphanage, Georg Heinrich Neubauer (1666-1726), whom Francke sent to the Netherlands via Hanover in 1697, no doubt also provided detailed reports. He was tasked with inspecting existing orphanages in Amsterdam, such as the Burgerweeshuis. Francke hoped to gain information on their financial administration, construction design and social and educational care for his own plans.
August Hermann Francke’s only trip abroad also took him to the Netherlands in 1705. However, the Pietist life found few genuine disciples there. Nevertheless, he took the country’s symbiosis of spiritual life, business trading and social commitment as a model.
Heinrich Wilhelm Ludolf (1655-1712), one of Francke’s contemporaries, forged the links between the Francke Foundations and Britain. He had moved to London as the secretary of Prince George of Denmark, later the husband of Queen Anne, the last of the Stuarts. As Puritan and Pietist ideas on belief were closely related, Ludolf and Francke both became correspondent members of the British Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, along with other prominent figures such as the Archbishop of Canterbury. Ludolf found a position for Francke’s student Anton Wilhelm Böhme (1673-1722) as a court priest in London in 1705. In return, Böhme sent English pupils to Halle. Queen Anne provided generous funds for their bed and board, enabling the construction of a special building for these students – the “English House” in the Foundations (House 26). Böhme’s successor, Friedrich Michael Ziegenhagen (1694-1776), maintained the links and acted as a point of contact between Gottlieb August Francke and the Lutheran communities in Pennsylvania and Georgia.
It is little known that the Halle student Georg Müller founded five orphanages based on the Halle model in Ashley Down, Bristol, in 1836. The George Müller Foundation continues his charitable work in England to this day.
An influential German minority, mainly Lutherans, lived in the Baltic region during the 18th century. Pietism was established there at an early date, and many German-speakers in the region worked to spread Pietism among the Latvians, Estonians and Lithuanians. A fervent follower of Francke since his days as a student in Halle, Eberhard Gutsleff for example published an Estonian book of songs and hymns, which was printed in Halle. An orphanage based on the Halle model was founded in Alp near Reval in 1717. There was also a short-lived Lithuanian Seminary in the Francke Foundations, founded by Gotthilf August Francke in the summer of 1727. Johann Richter and Friedrich Wilhelm Haack taught a number of students, and a Lithuanian-German dictionary was published in 1730.
The universalist and pedagogical ideas of the Bohemian Johann Amos Comenius were an important inspiration for August Hermann Francke. Via the Netherlands, Francke came into possession of a number of Comenius’ papers and published one of his works posthumously. Parts of the Protestant population of Bohemia were expelled around 1700, finding refuge in Prussian Brandenburg, where Francke took care of their spiritual wellbeing. Religious books were printed in Czech in Halle, including translations of the works of Francke and Johann Anastasius Freylinghausen. This development reached a climax with the publication of a Czech bible in 1722.
The Comenius manuscripts that Francke had obtained were only rediscovered in the library of the Francke Foundations in 1935. They are now stored in the Prague State Library, presented to Czechoslovakia by the GDR as an official gift on a state visit in 1957.
Before the foundation of the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy, there were several years of great freedom of religion in Hungary and Transylvania. During this period, Pietism also won followers in Hungary. Andreas Torkos (1699-1737) is regarded as the founding father of Hungarian Pietism, having studied under Francke on Spener’s recommendation. He translated various works into Hungarian, including Luther’s Small Catechism, which was printed in the Francke Foundations. Francke’s writings also found their way to Hungary in the years that followed, translated by Hungarian students in Halle. One of these translators, Johann Sartorius Szabo, opened an orphanage modelled on Halle in Nemescsó in 1724. Among the many Pietists from the Carpathian region who studied in Halle was Matthias Bél (1684-1749). He was a student in Halle from 1704 to 1708, going on to become a longstanding parish priest, headmaster and scholar in Pressburg (Bratislava), which was occasionally referred to as “Little Halle” during Bél’s lifetime due to his work. Bél also wrote the Notitia Hungariae historico-geographica, which secured him a place in the ecclesiastical history of Hungary.
The Silesian regions of modern Poland were strategically important for August Hermann Francke’s plans for international reform. The Lutherans in Poland were in a difficult situation due to the country’s successful re-Catholisation after the Reformation. Francke was well informed of the situation and attempted to help his fellow believers out of their defensive position. With the support of the “Secret Council”, a group of Silesian aristocrats, he published works in the Polish language, including Johann Arndt’s Four Books of True Christianity in 1716. Ten years later, a Polish bible was also printed. However, sales were disappointing and Francke’s links to Poland only bore fruit under the growing influence of the Herrnhut Brethren. Francke’s contacts to the Lutherans and reformed Protestants in Poland were gradually lost after Friedrich II of Prussia took the throne.
Another area illustrates Francke’s interest in Poland: The travel diaries of the emissaries of the Institutum Judaicum et Muhammedicum, founded in the Francke Foundations in 1728 by Johann Heinrich Callenberg are still in existence today. These journals are informative documents on the religious practice of Polish Jews and the inter-faith “culture of debate” between Christians and Jews. The former institute’s entire archive is now housed in the Francke Foundations.
An astounding yet unsuccessful plan was behind the Francke Foundations’ contacts to Greece. The diplomat and linguist Heinrich Wilhelm Ludolf, a friend of August Hermann Francke, planned to found a Collegium Graecum for young Greeks in Halle. Trained as Pietists in Halle, these students were to influence the Greek Orthodox church, which was undecided between the Protestant and Catholic faiths, towards Protestantism. To initiate the plan, two young theologians were sent to Constantinople and Adrianople in 1700 to persuade young Greeks to study in Halle. In fact, a number of Greek students did come to Halle after the foundation of the Collegium Orientale Theologicum in 1702. However, they found the Pietist circles oppressive and did not receive the promised scholarships, and soon returned home again. The only lasting success was the parallel Old Greek and New Greek edition of the New Testament. This publication was regarded as a milestone on Greece’s path to national autonomy in the 19th century.