»Various uses and delights« – Gardens at the Francke Foundations during the 18th and 19th centuries

A virtual cabinet exhibition from the Francke Foundations’ Library

[Translate to Englisch:] Herbarblatt

Gardens [created] to serve the economy of the Orphanage

The right of first refusal for surrounding properties, as stipulated in the Privilegien of the Halle Orphanage, enabled August Hermann Francke (1663–1727) and his son Gotthilf August Francke (1696–1769) to acquire a large contiguous plot of ​​horticultural land between 1698 and 1739. Located in front of the gates of the city of Halle, Francke and his son commissioned boundaries between the former private gardens to be removed, paths to be straightened and the area to be closed off from the outside by means of a wall. Initially, the garden plots were used in a similar way as before, e.g., the former vineyards and cherry trees covering the hills continued to have vines, fruit trees and herbs. Increasingly, the use of the garden areas was standardised. From the middle of the 18th century on, gardeners cultivated culinary plants in the Orphanage’s kitchen garden and fruit trees in its orchard garden. The field garden, as with the use of grass under the fruit trees, primarily served to harvest animal fodder.

In the archive, invoices concerning the Orphanage’s gardens document the delivery of garden products to the kitchen and their being sold. The largest income was earned by selling vegetables and fruit. Selling trees from the tree nursery and, above all, orangery trees garnered only small profits. The cultivated types of fruit and vegetables were rarely documented.

The income and expenditure for the Orphanage’s gardens were meticulously recorded. Such a detailed accounting as this billing kept by the Orphanage’s gardener George Heinrich Schömberg, which lists the individual species of fruit, vegetables and herbs, is indeed an exception. Schömberg differentiated the deliveries to the Orphanage’s kitchen according to each type of fruit tree, vegetable and herb. He also listed the income acquired by selling the harvested quantities.

Hieronymus Bock (1498–1554) is regarded as one of the “fathers of botany.” In this important and widespread work on Central European (medicinal) plants, he summarised the knowledge he acquired through his travels. The cabbage, referred to here as “Cappes,” was of key value to the farm gardens at the Halle Orphanage

The apothecary garden and the mulberry tree plantation

An apothecary garden was created in order to cultivate medicinal herbs for the Orphanage’s pharmacy. Medicinal plants delivered to the pharmacy during the 18th century were, for example, thyme, sage and elderflower.

In the middle of the 18th century, the southern part of the pharmacy garden served to grow medicinal plants for the Orphanage’s pharmacy. In its northern part fruit trees, especially plum trees, were grown. From 1772 on, the part occupied with fruit trees was leased; it was converted into a field because of an increasing number of cases of fruit theft in 1784. Around 1800 the small south-western part sufficed for cultivating the medicinal herbs required for the Orphanage’s pharmacy..

In 1744, the Prussian King Friedrich II. (1712–1786) decreed that at the Halle Orphanage, as in all orphanages within his realm, “mulberry tree plantations should be laid out, hereby also utilising the orphaned children and constantly instructing them as to their garnishing and proper cultivation.” As a result, thousands of mulberry trees shaped the gardens during the second half of the 18th century, especially in the so-called (mulberry) plantations. However, despite all efforts, the production of silk proved to be a loss-making business for the Foundations as a whole, and it was finally given up in 1805.

Outdoor relaxation

Although the Orphanage’s location on the outskirts of the city of Halle permitted short walks into the countryside, Gotthilf August Francke commissioned private walking paths to be laid out across the garden grounds, allowing students and teachers to relax.

In 1744 he arranged for a greenhouse to be built in the site’s extreme southwest corner. It was intended not only for the cultivation of cold-sensitive plants, but also for the wintering of orangery trees typical of that time. A flower garden referred to as the “Lustgärtgen” was positioned in front of the greenhouse. A nearby summer house and a stone table enabled a relaxing stay in the open air. In the summer-time, the citrus plants located in the Orphanage’s orangery, which were very popular then, adorned this part of the garden.


The pupils at the Pädagogium had their own green spaces which, from the end of the 18th century on, were redesigned in the style of English gardens with pavilions and a memorial for the Foundation’s founder.

1. List of plants of the Orphanage’s Orangerie, 1762. In: Vorschriften für die Gärtner und Winzer des Waisenhauses.

Whenever gardeners at the Orphanage acquired new positions, inventories were compiled. Hence, for example, all orangery plants were recorded in the archive of the Francke Foundations in 1762. The term Orangerie, which at present primarily serves to refer to the building, was utilised during the 17th and 18th centuries as a synonym for the collection of various foreign plants wintering in the greenhouse. The trees producing bitter oranges (Pomeranzen), lemons and oranges make up the large majority in the list, which tallies with the citrus fashion of the time. The plants “privately” owned by the director Gotthilf August Francke were listed separately.

2. Beschreibung des Hallischen Waisenhauses und der übrigen damit verbundenen Frankischen Stiftungen nebst der Geschichte ihres ersten Jahrhunderts. Zum Besten der Vaterlosen. Herausgegeben von Johann Ludwig Schulze, Georg Christian Knapp und August Hermann Niemeyer. Halle: Waisenhaus, 1799.

On the east side of the Ballonplatz square above the Pädagogium’s botanical garden, an urn-shaped memorial honouring the Foundation’s originator August Hermann Francke was erected. Around 1800, behind the monument, one could see the Pädagogium’s small English garden with its pavilion at the highest point.

Gardens and education

From the 17th to the 19th centuries, trees bearing delicious fruit served as a widespread symbol for a successful upbringing: raising children was compared to caring for young fruit trees in a tree nursery. The work of a teacher was thus compared to that of a tree gardener. Indeed, in a work on plans for his educational institutions August Hermann Francke applied the contemporary metaphor of a “garden of plants” from which well-educated, pious and productive young people would emerge.


1. Freyer, Hieronymus: Nützliche und nöthige Handleitung Zu Wohlanständigen Sitten […] Zum Gebrauch des Paedagogii Regii zu Glaucha an Halle abgefaßet. Halle: Waysenhaus, 1706.

The Royal Pädagogiums’s inspector, Hieronymus Freyer (1675–1747), wrote a booklet on morals aimed at the pupils attending his school. In the frontispiece it is preceded by a symbolic illustration of fruit-bearing trees with a subsequent epiphany that commences thus: »Mankind is like a tree: And when the beautiful fruits of true virtue show on its green branches / So he finds space in all gardens.«


2. Niemeyer, August Hermann: Grundsätze der Erziehung und des Unterrichts für Eltern, Hauslehrer und Schulmänner. 5th, improved ed. vol. 3. Halle: Waisenhaus, 1806.

August Hermann Francke’s great-grandson, August Hermann Niemeyer (1754–1828) presided over the Francke Foundations and the Royal Pädagogium with great success. He was also a well-read educational writer. His work Grundsätze der Erziehung und des Unterrichts [Principles of Upbringing and Teaching] appeared in three volumes and nine editions between 1796 and 1838. In it, he recommended gardening for schoolchildren, not only in keeping with the zeitgeist but also considering it of value for one’s health, personality training and education.

As early as the mid-1600s, the school reformers Jan Amos Comenius (1592–1670) and Andreas Reyher (1601–1673) recommended utilising school gardens for the visualisation of the lessons. August Hermann Francke applied this for the first time in Germany.

The first school garden created at the Royal Pädagogium in Germany

At the Royal Pädagogium, August Hermann Francke’s elite school, botany lessons were given during recreational hours. At the time the Pädagogium provided an ultra-modern form of tuition on the real world (Realienunterricht). In 1698, in order to visualise its manner of teaching, a school garden named »Hortus Medicus« or »Botanical Garden« was created based on university models, where pupils were enabled to study contemporary medicinal plants and create herbaria (collections of dried plants).


Site plan of the Royal Pädagogium’s gardens and the Botanical Garden, c.1750.

Halle, Francke Foundations: AFSt / A 35/03/02

The drawing shows the low-lying botanical garden with its eight square beds, the higher-lying balloon square, accessible by stairs, and the garden area located above. On the side facing away from the Pädagogium, we see a row of trees.

Construction plans for building the Pädagogium’s greenhouse, 1765.

Halle, Francke Foundations: AFSt / W XV / I / 33

This planning dossier includes sketches and cost estimates pertaining to the greenhouse in the Pädagogium’s botanical garden. This building was constructed in 1767 and funded by the Englishman John Thornton (d. 1790). Having visited the Francke Foundations in 1766, he arranged that his son could be taught at the Pädagogium between 1767 and 1770.

Main accounts concerning the Royal Pädagogium in Halle, 1695-1701

Halle, Francke Foundations: AFSt / W Rep. 2 VIa / 245/1

The earliest document for the Pädagogium’sHortus Medicus is to be found in the Pädagogium’s first account book. On 7 April 1698, the gardener’s wages were noted for two days. Accordingly, labour in the garden began on 6 April 1698, the very day on which August Hermann Francke obtained the first piece of land in order to found the Francke Foundations. This purchase included an inn named “Zum Goldenen Adler” and the garden.

View of the Botanical Garden at the Royal Pädagogium. Source: Bilderbogen mit Detailansichten der Franckeschen Stiftungen, 1842.

Halle, Francke Foundations: AFSt / B Sc 0073

From 1718 until the school’s closure in 1870, the Pädagogium’s Hortus Medicus, or Botanical Garden was located directly south of the building erected for the Pädagogium in 1713.

Between 1729 and 1732, the former botany teacher at the Pädagogium, Christoph Friedrich Dam, had acquired plants for a herbarium. Having been preserved in the Gleimhaus in Halberstadt, this collection provides us with a detailed look into this school garden by means of the original plants. In the cabinet exhibition only those plants from this herbarium are depicted which Johann Christian Senckenberg (1707–1772) noted during his visit to the Pädagogium’s garden in May 1730. In 1772, however, Christian Friedrich Schrader (1739–1816) published a complete list of species encountered in the Pädagogium’s botanical garden, including no less than 1,139 plant species.

1. Johann Christian Senckenberg: Diary entries on botany dated 31 May 1730.

Frankfurt am Main, Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg, Archivzentrum: UBA Ffm Na31, 174

The medical student Johann Christian Senckenberg (1707–1772), while visiting the botanical garden as part of the University of Halle’s Collegium Botanicum, made notes on the plant species on display. Today these observations are the earliest available list of plant species related to this garden. They begin below the following underlined heading »[was] in the garden of the paedagogio regio« [the Royal Pädagogium].


2. Herbarium page depicting the Persian lilac (Syringa x persica L.). Source: Dam, Christoph Friedrich: Herbarium Vivum: in tres Tomos divisum, collectum Halæ Saxonum in Pædagogio Regio Glauchensi. Bd. 1. 1729.

Halberstadt, Gleimhaus: A 261

Between 1728 and May 1732, Christoph Friedrich Dam taught botany among other subjects at the Royal Pädagogium. In Halle, where he resided from 1729 until the early of spring of 1732, Dam compiled a three-volume herbarium, which to date has been preserved in the Gleimhaus in Halberstadt. In total, this publication comprises 1,090 plants originating from various gardens and excursion destinations. The herbarium includes many garden plants that were popular at the time. However, the majority comprises native and exotic plants to which medicinal properties have been ascribed.

Well stocked with publications on botany - the Royal Pädagogium’s teachers’ library

The Pädagogium’s former teachers’ library held important contemporary books on botany, with the works of the Swede Carl von Linné (1707–1778) being particularly well represented. He revolutionised botany in the 18th century by means of introducing binary nomenclature. This library also housed important illustrated works containing high-quality illustrations of plants. For example, the Botanica in originali by Johann Hieronymus Kniphof (1704–1763) and the »Botanical Bilderbuch« for »young people and friends of botanical science« published by Friedrich Dreves (1772–1816) and Friedrich Gottlob Hayne (1763-1832).

Several tutors of the Royal Pädagogium composed their own textbooks, which were usually printed in the Halle Orphanage. For instance, Johann Julius Hecker (1707–1768) wrote on botany and on the anatomy and physiology of the human body. The successful natural history textbook compiled by the former tutor at the Pädagogium Johann Christian Wilhelm Nicolai (1757–1828) appeared in numerous editions for more than half a century.

1. Kleiner Odermennig (Agrimonia eupatoria L.) In: Kniphof, Johann Hieronymus: Botanica in originali seu herbarium vivum […]. [2. ed.]. Centur. 1-12. Halle: Trampe, 1757-1764.

This valuable hand-coloured botanical work kept at the Royal Pädagogium’s teachers’ library comprises a total of 1,200 illustrations of plants. It was produced by means of the natural printing process. As delicate plants only allowed for a small number of printing processes, this publication had a very limited print run. Moreover, the individual copies of Botanica in originali were quite dissimilar. The Erfurt professor Johann Hieronymus Kniphof (1704–1763) was the initiator of this edition; from the second centurie onwards, Friedrich Wilhelm von Leysser (1731–1815) acted as its scientific editor.

2. Hecker, Johann Julius: Einleitung in die Botanic […]. Halle: Waisenhaus, 1734.

The most important teacher for promoting the school garden’s charisma at the Pädagogium was Johann Julius Hecker (1707–1768). Active between 1729 and 1735, Hecker for instance utilised “Several additional hours on botany,” and compiled this textbook for botany at the Pädagogium. He later set up the first school garden in Berlin at the economic-mathematical secondary school, founded on the principles established by August Hermann Francke. Hecker’s botanical textbook mainly provides information on the healing effects of herbs and their application in the field of medicine. Thus, this publication reflects the key concept of botany tuition then presented at the Pädagogium.

Saat-Lein, Flax (Linum usitatissimum L.) In: Botanisches Bilderbuch für die Jugend und Freunde der Pflanzenkunde. Edited by Friedrich Dreves and Friedrich Gottlob Hayne. Bd. 3. Getreue Abbildungen und Zergliederungen Deutscher Gewächse. Leipzig: Voss und Compagnie, 1798.

The botanists Friedrich Dreves (1772–1816) and Friedrich Gottlob Hayne (1763–1832) created this botanical picture book based on Friedrich Justin Bertuch’s (1747–1822) Bilderbuch für Kinder. High-quality, life-like illustrations of plants should arouse a desire to occupy oneself with botany. The concise German texts with the most necessary and useful information on the individual plant species are also presented in an abbreviated rendition in both English and French.