In the 18th century, the Halle Orphanage acquired extensive green spaces through the purchase and consolidation of numerous plots of land, which for a long time characterized the external appearance of the Francke Foundations. The gardens were used primarily for economic purposes, but also for recreation and education of the foundations’ students. The cabinet exhibition, which we also present online due to the Corona pandemic, provides an insight into the former garden world of the foundations by means of plans, archival documents, books and herbarium leaves.
The vast majority of the green spaces were used commercially, whether for the orphanage’s kitchen or to raise finances. The orphanage gardeners cultivated the areas with culinary plants, fruit trees, or fodder plants for the livestock, depending on the location and soil conditions. The apothecary garden was used to cultivate medicinal herbs for the orphanage pharmacy. In the second half of the 18th century, thousands of mulberry trees characterized the appearance of the gardens, because silkworm breeding also had to be carried out in the Halle Orphanage by order of the Prussian King Frederick II.
For recreation of the students and teachers living on the foundation grounds, walking paths led through the gardens. The students of the Paedagogium had their own garden areas for this purpose, which were redesigned in the style of the English garden fashion from the end of the 18th century. In 1744, a pleasure garden was added to the garden landscape of the foundations. In 1744, Gotthilf August Francke (1696–1769) had a greenhouse built as an orangery for Mediterranean potted plants on the edge of the extensive farm gardens in the style of contemporary Baroque garden fashion, and he also laid out a small garden with flowers.
Germany’s first School Garden
At August Hermann Francke’s elite school, the Paedagogium Regium, botany lessons were held during recreational hours as part of the then highly modern realia lessons. To illustrate these lessons, a school garden known as the »Hortus Medicus« or »Botanical Garden« was created in 1698, based on university models, in which students learned about contemporary medicinal plants and created herbaria. The herbarium of the former botany teacher at the Paedagogium Christoph Friedrich Dam, for which he collected plants from 1729 to 1732, is preserved in the Gleimhaus in Halberstadt and conveys an impression of the oldest school garden in Germany with original plants in the cabinet exhibition.
For further reading, the publishing house of the Francke Foundations offers a booklet in the series of Kleine Schriften:
Cornelia Jäger: Vom Hortus Medicus zur modernen Umweltbildung. Die Geschichte der Schulgärten in den Franckeschen Stiftungen. Halle 2013, 112 pp., 38 colored illustrations, 1 site plan, €7,50; ISBN 978-3-939922-41-4