History of the Francke Foundations

Ein historischer Stich von Gottfried August Gründler zeigt die Gesamtansicht der Franckeschen Stiftungen. Zwei Engel fliegen darüber und tragen das Spruchband »Prospect des Waysen-Hauses zu Glaucha vor Halle«.

Halle Pietism

After the Reformation of Martin Luther (1483-1546), Halle Pietism is the most important reform movement of Protestantism between Reformation and Enlightenment. August Hermann Francke pursued and developed central reformatory goals. The focus was on the Bible, the regular reading of which in private groups, the so-called convention articles, had initially brought Pietists to criticism, as had the way of life in strict piety. Francke strived to put Christian convictions and reformatory impulses into practice and to make them fruitful for church and society (Praxis Pietatis). He responded to the social need with an education system that was to enable everyone to participate in society on their own responsibility and paved the way for a state welfare system. The world's first Bible Institute at the Halle orphanage, the emergence of the teaching profession and the first Protestant mission are among the many and varied effects of Halle pietism.

»A public work…«

In spring 1695, August Hermann Francke found four thalers and sixteen groschens in the donation box of his rectory and reported: »When I picked this up, I said with joy of faith: ‘That is honest capital. One must do something good with this. I want to use it to start a school for the poor.’« 30 years later, an almost autonomously functioning school city had emerged south of the city of Halle. School and living rooms, utility and provision facilities, choice collections and extensive teaching gardens formed an educational institute for children of all social classes. As early as the 18th century, the dimension of the buildings – which were made partly of stone and partly timber-framed was impressive. Role models for Francke’s work included the Dutch orphanages, which were considered the most advanced of their time. In 1698, he had sent his closest colleague and later building inspector Georg Heinrich Neubauer (1666–1725) there for research purposes. Elector Frederick III of Brandenburg supported the development of the school city with a privilege.

Education for all

Francke’s educational reform was based on new intellectual approaches. His major role models included Amos Comenius (1592–1670). However, the publication of Catholic bishop François de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon (1651–1715), On the Education of Daughters, did not escape his attention either. The multi-part education concept for girls and boys included German Schools, the Latin School and the Royal Pedagogium. In Francke’s school concepts, the individual became the focus of pedagogy for the first time. The boarding school pupils were trained according to their personal talents. Select collections such as a Cabinet of Artefacts and Natural Curiosities, a library, an anatomy parlour and large teaching gardens complemented the traditional lesson offerings. The in-house publisher and printing office produced high-quality textbooks that were used across Germany until the 20th century. Francke favoured visual instruction as a teaching method and thus established the Realschule system, as still exists in Germany today.

A new educational architecture

Starting from the orphanage, the impressive timber-framed and stone buildings of the school town grew in an eastward direction between 1701 and 1748 on a longitudinally rectangular ground plan. Between the orphanage in the west and the Royal Pedagogy in the east, the buildings that are now completely preserved set standards in the history of educational architecture, including the Lange Haus, Europe's largest timber-framed residential building, the oldest preserved secular library building in Germany and the world's first Bible Institute. Representation and functionality were so cleverly combined that classrooms could be turned into living rooms, laboratories into business or archive rooms without major conversion work. The representative claim is particularly evident in the Long House, which was erected in three short construction phases. Thanks to the uniformly constructed grid façade, the individual parts of the building merge to form an imposing structure, which was erected along the city wall and attracted a great deal of attention from residents, university members and guests.

Emanation in Germany and towards Western Europe

Until well into the 18th century, orphanages were constructed in Germany and Europe according to the Halle model that adopted the Halle reforms in the educational and care system. In Wernigerode, Christian Ernst zu Stolberg-Wernigerode (1691–1771), a close friend of Francke, had constructed an orphanage as an expression of the reforms in his county. In Potsdam, Prussian King Frederick William I had the Great Military Orphanage constructed according to the Halle model in 1724. Here, orphans of former military personnel were to receive an education – as in Halle – that would enable them to lead a self-responsible existence. In 1727, Danish King Frederick IV founded the new Royal Orphanage in Copenhagen according to the Halle model. It was not just the nobility that were guided by Halle; committed members of the middle class were likewise. In 1719, master tailor Siegmund Steinbart (1677–1739) established an orphanage in Züllichau that included a printing office with a book dealership and later a Royal Pedagogium.

Global Communication

To make the reforms implemented in Halle globally effective, August Hermann Francke made use of an effective communication network that also incorporated the political power centres of the time. The Prussian kings recommended Francke’s educational institution for the reform policy of Peter the Great (1672–1725). Francke’s transatlantic activities, in which Danish King Frederick IV (1671–1730) was also involved, converged at the London court. In addition to the intensive correspondence with supporters and the pupils and teachers trained in Halle, who acted as mediators of the Halle ideas at their workplaces, Francke placed his focus on a widely positioned publication system. At the same time, he collected news from around the world; thus, at the beginning of the 18th century, the Halle Orphanage was one of the best informed places in Germany. Francke established the forerunner of a news agency and published one of the first daily newspapers in Prussia. The flourishing book dealership was a lucrative source of income for the Halle Orphanage.

The Halle Pietists ensured the spread of Lutherism abroad. By the order of Danish King Frederick IV (1671–1730), two theologians trained by Francke constructed a mission station in the Danish trade colony Tranquebar on the southeast coast of India. The missionaries established social institutions and schools according to the Halle model for boys and, for the first time in India, also for girls. From here, the printing art was also spread throughout India. In 1919, the Danish-Halle Mission led to the creation of the Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church (TELC). At the same time, Francke’s contacts with the British colonies in North America also intensified. In 1733, Halle pastors reached Georgia, North America, to care for the Salzburg emigrants. In 1741, Heinrich Melchior Mühlenberg (1711–1787) was sent from Halle to Philadelphia. Today, he is considered a patriarch of the Lutheran church of North America. His sons received their education at Francke’s schools in Halle and today they are among the founding fathers of American democracy.

The Foundations after Franckes dead in 1727

When August Hermann Francke died in 1727, approximately 3,000 people, thereof well over 2,000 children, lived and worked in the school city. He entrusted his life’s work to his son Gotthilf August Francke (1696–1769) and his closest confidant Johann Anastasius Freylinghausen (1670–1739), who from then on ran the school city together. At the end of the 18th century, falling pupil numbers necessitated a fundamental renovation of the school programme. The scholar and politician, poet and publicist August Hermann Niemeyer (1754–1828), a great grandson of Francke, who associated with Goethe, Schiller, Klopstock and other greats of his time, knew how to give the Foundations modern impetus and to make them flourish again. He was celebrated by his contemporaries as the second founder of the Foundations. He influenced life in Halle at the beginning of the 19th century in his role as registrar and rector of the university and as director of the Francke Foundations. At the same time, his impact as a Prussian education politician and pedagogue was felt far beyond the city’s boundaries.

In the course of the 19th century, not only had the Prussian government intervened in the Foundations’ administrative power, but an adjustment to the Prussian school system had also taken place. Hermann Agathon Niemeyer (1802–1851) led the school city adeptly through this era. He laid the foundation for the Foundation schools, which existed thus until 1945, preserved the school city’s special character as a Christian educational institution and hired outstanding teachers such as Ernst Theodor Echtermeyer (1805–1844), whose textbooks were used by generations of German pupils. During this time, four new school buildings were constructed on the site of the Foundations: the Realschule in 1857, which was complemented by the reconstruction of the Oberrealschule with a modern languages offering in 1914; the Lyceum as a continuation of the Higher School for Daughters in 1896; and the rebuild of the Latina in 1906.

The Francke Foundations in the 20th century

In spite of heavy encroachments, the directorate of the Foundations was able to maintain the humanistic spirit of the schools during the time of National Socialism. However, intensive use and extreme financial scarcity became a threat to the historic buildings. In 1946, the Francke Foundations were dissolved and the school buildings, the boarding schools, the gainful businesses and the cultural history-related collections were integrated into Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg. In the north, a four-track motorway was laid alongside the Foundation buildings and in the southeast of the site multi-storey buildings were constructed. At the end of the GDR, the Foundations were on the brink of ruin. It was not until 1990 that the turnaround began for the Francke Foundations as well. An association of friends was established under the motto “Save the Francke Foundations!” and in 1991 the Francke Foundations were restored as a public trust. Thanks to wide social support, the restoration of the Francke Foundations was begun.

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