August Hermann Francke and Halle Pietism

Francke-Denkmal  August Hermann Francke was born in Lübeck on 22 March 1663 as the third child of the lawyer Johannes Francke and Anna Francke, née Gloxin. He grew up in Gotha, where his father was appointed Privy Councillor to the court of Duke Ernst the Pious. Francke studied Lutheran theology, oriental and modern languages in Erfurt, Kiel and Hamburg. After gaining his Magister in 1685, he began to hold lectures in Leipzig. Following his spiritual "awakening" in 1687, he devoted himself entirely to Pietism. Francke taught and preached in the spirit of the Pietism of Philipp Jacob Spener (1635-1705), becoming his most important supporter. He was forced to flee Leipzig, however, and later Erfurt, because of his propagation of Pietist ideas. Friedrich III, Elector of Brandenburg with Pietist sympathies, appointed him as a professor at the newly founded Friedrich University in Halle, and as a pastor in the parish of Glaucha on the outskirts of the city in 1691. He was to live and work in Halle until his death in 1727.

Halle Pietism

Pietism was a reform movement within the Lutheran church, dedicated to improving clerical life, to spreading a new personal piety and to completing the original goals of the Reformation. In Halle August Hermann Francke began putting the reformatory ideas of Lutheran Pietism into practice, with the aim of a "transformation of the world through the transformation of man". His form of "Halle pietism" sought to right concrete social and educational wrongs, working towards a comprehensive reform of society. To this end, he devoted himself to a wide-ranging welfare programme offering children and young people the best possible educational opportunities regardless of social class. A close acquaintance of Francke´s, the influential Prussian Baron Carl Hildebrand von Canstein, supported his work. With his own personal fortune, he founded a bible institution with Francke in 1710. From 1712 until the early 20th century the Canstein Bible Institute printed millions of affordable bibles in small formats and sent them all around the world.

In the beginning, there were four thalers...

Spendenb├╝chse1_Ziegler  Francke wrote that in the spring of 1695 a visitor put "four thalers and sixteen groschen" in the poorrelief box in his vicarage, and "when I took this in my hands, I said with the joy of faith: This is honest capital, it must be put to good use; I will start a school for the poor with it." In the next 30 years Francke built his own town in Glaucha, as it were, outside the city walls of Halle. The sheer scale of the orphanage and school buildings, mainly half-timbered and five and six stories high, was already cause for amazement and admiration at the time. Friedrich III, recognised his institutions, which had originated as a private initiative, as a "public work". He supported Francke´s charitable work by granting a founding charter, which guaranteed the institution important privileges. Nevertheless, throughout their history the Foundations have had to contend with the constant struggle for financial survival.


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