A walk through the historic school town
The Francke Foundations in Halle have a unique history. In the 18th century they were regarded as one of the most important educational institutions in Germany, but after German reunification in 1990 they underwent an unprecedented rescue operation. The historic structure of the building was preserved, but in an unfortunate condition. The great commitment of many people has made it possible to restore architecture to its former glory and to give the Francke Foundations a home again as a cosmos of education. You are invited to take an exciting walk through history and the present!
The Historic Orphanage shines today again as splendidly as it did 300 years ago. In GDR times it had been neglected for decades until it finally rained through the roof down to the ground floor and the building threatened to collapse. The orphanage was rescued in 1993-95 as part of an unprecedented renovation project. Today it is again widely recognisable as an outstanding cultural monument.
Starting from the Orphanage, the impressive half-timbered and stone buildings of August Hermann Francke's (1663-1727) school town grew up in an easterly direction on a longitudinal rectangular ground plan between 1701 and 1748. Between the orphanage in the west and the Royal Pedagogium in the east, the buildings, which are now completely preserved, set standards in the history of educational architecture, including the Long Houus 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 schoolrooms could be converted into living quarters and laboratories into business or archive rooms without major conversion work. Discover the buildings and their history(s) here in a short tour.
This spacious building, dating from 1732–1734, provided classrooms and living quarters for orphan boys. A solid stone structure with large windows and light rooms, it symbolises Francke’s innovative and internationally acclaimed approach to orphan care.
From 1717 this building served as the bakery and brewery for the school town. The building was thoroughly refurbished from 1741 to 1744 to provide the growing numbers of orphan girls with classrooms and living quarters.
Constructed in 1713–1716, Europe’s largest timber-framed residential building housed theology students and pupils of the Latin grammar school. At 115 metres long with a grid-pattern façade and an unassuming appearance, the Long House is architecturally unique for the baroque period.
Founded in 1697, the school with its boarding facilities provided children of the nobility and wealthy with the comprehensive education needed for their later duties in society. In the eighteenth century, this was ranked among the very best schools in Prussia.
Constructed in 1747–1748, this was the refectory for wealthier pupils at the Latin grammar school. In 1816, it became the Foundations’ administration and pay offices.
In 1726–1728 a new library was built at the Halle Orphanage. Today this is Germany’s oldest surviving independent secular building designed specifically as a library. The double-sided bookcases extending into the room saved space and resembled a theatre set.
In 1710 Carl Hildebrand von Canstein (1667–1719) founded the world’s first Bible Institute at the Orphanage in Halle. By 1938 around 10 million affordable and compact editions of the Bible had been printed here. Constructed in 1727–1735, this building housed the Institute’s printing shop and administration offices.
This building, dating from 1709–1710, symbolises Francke’s efforts to institutionalise girls’ education. It initially housed both the girls’ orphanage and elementary school.
Constructed in 1709–1710, the English House was generously funded by Anne, Queen of Great Britain (1665–1714). Primarily for pupils from England, it was indicative of the international reach of Halle Pietism and the excellent reputation of Francke’s schools.
On the ground floor of the building erected between 1710 and 1711, the dining room was used to feed pupils, carpenters, students, teachers and employees. The school town counted more than 3000 people in 1727. The large assembly hall on the upper floor of the building was used equally for church services and secular events. It became a model for many Protestant assembly halls. On Wednesdays and Saturdays public singing lessons were held here.
In 1702 Francke and his family moved into the converted Zur Goldenen Rose tavern from the mid-seventeenth century. Until he moved to the St. Ulrich’s Church rectory in the centre of Halle in 1715, Francke directed the development of the Foundations from here.
Up to 3,000 children and adults were fed in their daily lives in Francke's school town. The fresh water, the agricultural goods and the small dairy on the foundation grounds contributed to an almost self-sufficient supply system. In the former brewing and baking house, the oven in which bread was baked for the school town several times a week has been preserved to this day. Today, the laundry, cattle sheds and barns tell of the hustle and bustle on the grounds to ensure school lessons, protect the health of the residents, make the ongoing extensions to the buildings possible and welcome guests and visitors.
Francke founded a printing press in the Orphanage in 1698. Well into the twentieth century it not only produced large print runs of devotional writings, but also school books used throughout Germany. The warehouse, constructed in 1732, provided storage for the books and paper.
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 and is the oldest surviving field barn in the city of Halle.
In 1729 a dairy was established to help feed the children and staff in the school town. The dairy was close to the gardens in the south of the grounds, but apart from the residential and school buildings. Livestock was kept in a stockyard, and straw and gain stored in the surrounding barns.
In 1718 this building was constructed for the dairy’s abattoir and the school town’s laundry. From the start, Franke was careful to ensure proper hygiene in the school town, with everything from external latrines to an ample supply of fresh water and weekly changes of bedsheets.
The agricultural outbuilding was part oft he dairy and used fort he provision of food fort he Foundations. The whole row of houses was connected by a system of tunnels.
Work started on this house for the farm tenants in 1718. Initially the house was divided into separate living quarters and stables. The area around the dairy providing fresh produce was supplemented by the extensive gardens to the south.
In 1738–1741 the new brewery and bakery building was built opposite the Dining Hall. Underground passages connected it directly to the refectory kitchen in House 27 and to the buildings beyond.
Dating from 1721–22, this was Germany’s first children’s hospital. Primarily for children in the Foundations, the infirmary was run by the orphanage doctor, who was also a university professor. Here he introduced the systematic bedside-teaching of student doctors.
Halle’s oldest surviving printing shop building was constructed in 1743 as a warehouse for the Canstein Bible Institute. The Bible Institute’s printing shop was housed here from 1830. It was merged with the Orphanage press in 1884. At the beginning of the 20th century, a wing with large machine rooms was added to the building. Today, modern mobile shelving systems house magazines for the archive, the library and the publication's department.
This mid-sixteenth-century building exemplifies the houses once comprising the small town of Glaucha, the main site of Francke’s activities. Francke bought the tavern with its separate wagon house and used it for educational and social purposes.
In 1946 the Francke Foundations were dissolved and integrated into the Martin Luther University. This building was built from 1952–53 held East Germany’s first ‘Workers and Peasants Faculty’, which prepared ‘proletarian’ workers for university studies.
In his schools Francke had already introduced as a method practical object-based teaching. Halle’s first purpose-built technical middle school, designed by Friedrich Wilhelm Ernst Steudener (1802–1859), dates from 1856–1857.
In 1697 Francke founded the Latin grammar school to prepare pupils for university. In 1904–1906 the school was given its own building, constructed in the Wilhelminian style. Severely damaged during bombing in 1945, it was later fully converted to house East Germany’s first ‘Workers and Peasants Faculty’.
Built in 1913–1914, the technical high school responded to an increase in pupils and demands for higher standards in science subjects. Since the subsoil was unstable, the building was constructed on firmly anchored concrete piles rather than a standard foundation.
Reconstituted after the fall of the Wall, the Francke Foundations’ first new building (1993–1995) provided a modern building for the Kindertagesstätte August Hermann Francke.
In 1978–1979 a standard East German ‘Erfurt II’ prefabricated concrete-slab building was constructed to house the school with its gym. At the same time apartment blocks were built to the south east of the grounds.
The girls’ high school was given its own building in 1896, continuing the tradition of girls’ education started by Francke. The building was constructed in red brick, much favoured at that time, and was soon nicknamed the ‘Red School’.
The day care and after-school facilities for the neighbouring residential area were constructed in the same concrete-slab tower block style as the surrounding apartment blocks. In 2003–2004, the building was fully modernised and an extra storey was added.