With energy and faith in God

The Transformation of the Francke Foundations since 1990

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2021 the historic buildings of the Francke Foundations are saved. The baroque school town of August Hermann Francke has been given a new lease of life in an incredible 30-year reconstruction process. »The successful reconstruction of the Francke Foundations is a successful example of the Wiederaufbau Ost and an exemplary achievement of our democratic society.« emphasises the Director Prof. Dr Thomas Müller-Bahlke. Broad social forces have contributed in a decades-long effort and invested a total of around 157 million euros. In addition to public grants from the EU, the federal government, the state of Saxony-Anhalt and the city of Halle, more than 20 million euros came from private sources and from a wide range of organisations such as the church, other foundations and, above all, the Association of Friends of the Francke Foundations. »The reconstruction of the Francke Foundations remains above all a citizens' movement« emphasises Minister President Dr. Reiner Haseloff in his greeting for the ceremony during the Francke Celebration 2021.

The baroque building ensemble of the foundations is historically unique and structurally impressive. An open-air exhibition stages it in an artistic intervention. Monumental photographs on banners along the central lines of sight of the Linden-Courtyard and the historic buildings demonstrate the strength with which the Foundations have been able to develop over the past 30 years. You can be there when we awaken memories of a time when some doubted whether reconstruction was feasible and when many had the courage to tackle the task.

In 1990 the buildings were in a very bad condition. Photos of the time show the foundations once again shortly before decay. Many people have a very personal connection to the Francke Foundations, they have learned, lived or worked here. To this day, their biographies are connected with the Francke Foundations.

»The resentment about the ugly consequences of the neglect of an important cultural heritage came later, that is, for me in the second half of the GDR era. And there, the rejection became so great, that I would have preferred to move into a prefabricated building, because the constant view of the Foundation`s complex made me sick.« Götz Traxdorf

The Historic Orphanage

View of the facade of the Historic Orphanage, battered as a result of structural negligence. Some windows are nailed with wood because the panes are missing.
Detailed view of the Histoic orphanage before the renovation. The outside staircase is not accessible and windows are nailed with wood.
View of the Historic Orphanage with the base station of the open-air exhibition on the meadow.

On a busy trade route to the south of Halle, August Hermann Francke built the Halle orphanage in 1698. The three-storey building, which is visible from afar, has a base storey, an open staircase and a spacious two-storey mansard roof with a tympanum. It adapted the architectural language of city palace and is the nucleus of Francke's reforms. The basic structure of the future school city is inscribed here: On the ground floor were the printing works, laboratories and storerooms, on the reception floor the bookshop and pharmacy opened their doors, on the upper floors were the students' residential and classrooms.

The building, which towers two storeys above the surrounding buildings, has been fitted with a mansard roof for the first time in the region. This roof construction creates an additional storey and thus allows an optimal use of space. The restrained façade decoration had a style-forming effect for a current in the Baroque, which is characterised by a sober and grand style as an expression of Pietist Protestantism. High double-wing windows illuminated the interior and decorated the clearly structured façade. The mansard roof provided space for the orphan boys as a dormitory in the lower roof, and later the Cabinet of Artefacts and Natural Curiosities, the famous »Wunderkammer«, was established here. Already in the 18th century there were public guided tours through the chamber. The biblical verse and pictorial programme in the tympanum of the orphanage's façade formulate Francke's motivation and his self-image as an instrument of God: »Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.They will soar on wings like eagles«, Is 40:31.

In 1995 the Historic Orphanage was reopened as the cultural centre of the Francke Foundations. Since then, exhibitions have been regularly shown here, conferences organised or events held in the impressive Freylinghausen Hall as a part of the annual cultural programmes, which attract audiences far beyond the borders of the city of Halle.

The rescue of the orphanage shows how shared efforts led to the goal. The European Union, the Federal Republic of Germany, the City of Halle, the German Foundation for Monument Protection, Lotto-Toto Saxony-Anhalt and the Association of Friends of Francke Foundations contributed to the financing. The incredible construction work began to gain momentum with the inauguration of the building in autumn 1995.

Through the Black Gate

Photo of the Francke's Home in the 1990s, crooked and with flaked plaster

»I was born in Francke's home - severely damaged in the bombing on 31 March 1945 and then provisionally rebuilt for living in - and I was the first to live there. I was one of the numerous 'foundation children' and lived here until 1975. The special atmosphere of harmony, mutual support and sympathy of the old and young residents of the foundation has left a lasting impression on me. Even today the foundations mean home to me.« Elke Wiegand

Francke's Home

In 1702 August Hermann Francke moved to the former Guesthouse of the Golden Rose to lead the development of his social and educational reform work in close spatial connection to the orphanage. In the immediate vicinity of the manorial-looking orphanage, August Hermann Francke's residence looks comparatively modest. This can also be seen as Francke's programme announcement, which has always put his private life in the background compared to his great reform work. Nevertheless, it is an outstanding place because he is so closely connected with the founder's personality.

The residential house of August Hermann Francke is part of the historic development of the southern Franckeplatz, the oldest preserved building substance of the Glaucha district. In the 18th century, the trade route to southern Germany shaped the suburb of Halle of the same name. A situation which in the late 17th century prompted August Hermann Francke to establish his educational and social work in Glaucha, which radiated worldwide. The Francke residential house is the first building of this architectural ensemble, which was made available to the public in 2008 following its renovation. Today, it houses the information centre, the central reception area for visitors and an exhibition on the life and work of Francke. On the top floor, the foundation's pastor invites visitors to the biblical attic.

»The Black Route, which leads to the foundations, was almost impassable after rainfall. On all the paths, the water collected in deep holes. Sometimes it was a feat to get from one house to another.« Paul Raabe: In Franckes Fußstapfen. Aufbaujahre in Halle an der Saale. Hamburg 2002, S. 38

At the Mägdeleinhaus a giant banner shows the condition of the building before the renovation.

»At the end of the row of houses, the somewhat skewed, partly boarded up Mägdeleinhaus (house 25) was a particularly drastic example of the decay in the foundations. It was said that it had been destined for demolition since 1969. It was inhabited by families who had to live there, as in many other places on the grounds, under very simple conditions. Since there was no heating, but more than 120 fireplaces, the air pollution caused by the foundations was enormous. Coal had to be delivered for the stove heating, which, as was customary in the GDR, was tipped in front of the cellars. The coal breeze - briquettes were rare - caused further unavoidable pollution, which further enhanced the neglected appearance of the row of houses.«Paul Raabe: In Franckes Fußstapfen. Aufbaujahre in Halle an der Saale. Hamburg 2002, S. 38

The Lindenhof

An der Rückseite von Haus 1 hängt quer über den Lindenhof ein Riesenbanner mit einem Foto von 1990.
At the back of house 1 hangs across the Lindenhof a huge banner with a photo from 1990.

Starting from the orphanage, the impressive half-timbered and stone buildings of Francke's Baroque school town grew up in an easterly direction between 1701 and 1748 on a longitudinal rectangular ground plan. Between the orphanage in the west and the Royal College of Education in the east, the buildings, which are now completely preserved, set standards in the history of educational architecture, including the Long House as the largest half-timbered residential building in Europe, the oldest preserved secular library building in Germany and the first Bible institute in the world. Representation and functionality were so skilfully combined that school rooms could be converted into living quarters and laboratories into business or archive rooms without major conversion work. The representative claim is particularly evident in the Long House, which was built in three short construction phases. Thanks to the uniformly constructed grid façade, the individual parts of the building merge into an imposing structure that was built along the city wall and attracted great attention from residents, university members and guests.

In 1990, families with their children lived in the buildings despite the disastrous condition of the buildings.

»In 1982, my son started school in the foundations at House 21. There the children sat in their class on the first floor in rainy weather with buckets! And: "I discovered the love of my life here, in house 8.« Christel Riemann-Hanewinckel

For the adolescents, the neglected foundation site was an exciting playground.

»The floors of the run-down half-timbered longhouses were pure adventure. A ride on the back of the crocodile of the natural history collection made us run away in fear after a crack.« Hans-Dieter Wöllenweber

»It doesn't have to be that there are constantly piles of rubble lying around in the Lindenhof for months on end, that garbage cans stand around untidily, trash cans with kitchen waste stink to high heaven in summer, windows in the ballroom (now gymnasium) have been smashed for years or - as in house 7, back front - are simply stuffed with straw like in an old cowshed.« Jürgen Storz

A huge banner on the Economy building shows the ruined state of the building around 1990.
A huge banner with the view of the Lindenhof as a large construction site (around 1990) at the Economy building.

Das Lange Haus

View into the Lindenhof with two information pillars of the open-air exhibition.

The Long House

The Long House is the most unusual building in terms of its half-timbered architecture. It was built in three construction phases, which cannot be seen in the overall corpus. This gives the impression of standing in front of a large building, which is approx. 115m long and whose gable is almost 26m high. This convincing illusion is created by the evenly distributed stands, the continuous bands of windows and the uniformly unadorned beam heads.

In the school cosmos of Franckes, students of theology found accommodation here in the building parts 8-9 (built 1714-1715) in the sub-collegium. Many of them accompanied their studies with a teaching position as informators at Francke's schools. In return they received free board and lodging. In the building parts 10-11, teaching and living rooms for the middle-class pupils of the Latin secondary school were built in 1713-1714. Children from Halle and foreign pupils lived here under the supervision of their student informers.  In the building parts 12-13, built in 1715-1716, the upper college for students in teacher training was accommodated. August Hermann Francke founded the first teacher training seminar in Germany here.

Then as now, entire educational and working biographies were linked to the foundations.

»My life has been connected with the Francke Foundations in many ways since 1961 until today - as a student teacher I lived in the attic of the Pedagogical Institute in 1962 and as an assistant in House 22 in 1966/67, I received my pedagogical-psychological training in Houses 1, 5, 22 and 23, I played football in today's Freylinghausen Hall, my work rooms were in House 22 and in House 3, and I spent endless hours in the library of the Institute of Pedagogy in House 1. The main library with Fräulein Mühl as an indispensable help in searching the handwritten catalogue and the archive were important working places. Thus an intimate relationship with the Francke Foundations has developed, which has become even closer since the reconstruction after the end of the GDR.« Berthold Ebert


»The floors of the run-down half-timbered longhouses were pure adventure. A ride on the back of the relocated crocodile of the natural history collection made us run away anxiously after a crack.« Hans-Dieter Wöllenweber

»When I returned from a weekend visit to my parents' house, instead of clean laundry I had logs in my rucksack to heat the tiled stove in my Konvikt room. Thanks to the personal and manageable atmosphere in the Konvikt and in the Francke Foundations, I was able to move from my village in the Old Mark Brandenburg to the big city without any problems. In summer we students used the Lindenhof like a living room. Many tourists therefore pulled out their (analogue) camera.« Ilka Reckmann

The economic area

In the south of the site of the historic school town was the farm area with warehouses, wash houses and a small agricultural facility. In 2021, the last buildings of the historic ensemble to be renovated were the large field barn, the small barn and the print shop building

Four renovation stages of the former printing shop hall for the Leo Lab. The result is a bright, large creative space on the ground floor.

Who would expect to find a large field barn in the middle of a large city, and from the early 18th century at that? This double cross barn from 1724 is of half-timbered construction and part of the former agricultural farm of the Francke Foundations. It is one of the best-preserved buildings in the historic school town. The two passageways with their four large gates, two each on the east and west side, are characteristic. There, the farm wagons loaded with hay, straw or grain could drive in at the front, were unloaded and drove out again at the back, two at a time. This was highly efficient and quite typical of the practically gifted Pietists of Halle.
Even though we have adapted the building for cultural and educational purposes, the barn character has been preserved inside. The ever-popular Spielehaus has moved back into the ground floor, a meeting place for young people, but also for families, who can try out international games together here.

Known as the »Druckereigebäude« (Printing House), the magazine building of the world's first Bible institute in the Francke Foundations, the Cansteinsche Bibelanstalt (founded in 1710), reflects in its today's use the core of the tasks of the Francke Foundations. Modern rolling shelving systems as additional magazines for the cultural memory of the foundations, the cultural-historical archive and library holdings, are found here together with the LeoLab, a new space for cultural education and outreach, under one roof.

»Every morning when I walk into my office, I am happy to be part of this great social inclusion project from the 18th century, which is more modern than much of what we have today across Germany«. Hortensia Völckers