Halle Pietism and Reformation


Philipp Jakob Speners (1635-1705)  Philipp Jakob Spener (1635-1705)

The map of Europe split along denominational lines as a result of the Reformation. Constant wars affected the very fabric of civil societies in the 17th century. A series of disasters throughout Europe created an atmosphere of the Last Days, in which calls for religious renewal became loud. In the Netherlands, a Calvinist reform movement focussed on the moral conduct of the individual. In England, Puritanism demanded a moral renewal of the Church. The group of followers of an individually internalised piety, Pietism, grew in the Lutheran parts of Germany under the spiritual leadership of Philipp Jakob Spener (1635-1705).

Elector John Sigismund had converted to the reformed faith of the followers of John Calvin in 1613, but had allowed the populace to remain Lutheran. Ever since, Brandenburg – later also Prussia – had therefore been a denominationally mixed land in which the concept of tolerance was incorporated into public law by the rulers. Huguenots as well as natives of Salzburg and Bohemia flocked into the land, and stimulated the economy and public life. The close link of the Pietists to the court of Brandenburg-Prussia was brought about by Spener, who in 1691 had assumed the position of provost at the Church of St. Nicholas (Nikolaikirche) in Berlin.



Stich-Gesamtansicht FS 3  Copperplate engraving by Gottfried August Gründler

The centre of Halle Pietism was the "school town" established by August Hermann Francke in 1698 which, as a "nursery" for children and adolescents, sought universal reform of society through broad education and the teaching of individual responsibility according to Christian principles. The orphanage in Halle became the symbol of this, the largest social reform movement of the Early Modern Age after the Reformation. Francke’s reform ideas achieved virtually worldwide dissemination through a carefully fostered, close-knit network. The focus on the individual so unique to Pietism sharpened the view of the needs of and opportunities open to every individual. The converted were to spread the reform ideas through their actions, actions which would have global effect thanks to the worldwide network. With the Bible as his foundation and his understanding of himself as "God’s tool", Francke initiated an array of innovations which can still be seen across the world today: the results of comprehensive educational reform, of pioneering changes in welfare and community and of fruitful religious renewal.



On 13 July 1698, August Hermann Francke laid the foundation stone for the Halle orphanage, which was to become a symbol of modern social welfare around the world. The combination of material care and outstanding schooling was intended to give needy boys and girls the chance to escape poverty and social deprivation, and to lead a self-determined life. Countless new orphanages were established "based on the Halle model". One major example is the "Rauhes Haus" set up in 1833 by Johann Hinrich Wichern (1808-1881) in Hamburg.
In addition to the care of orphans, Francke also initiated regular "surgeries for the poor", in which people who could not afford to pay for the doctor were examined free of charge by the resident doctor and given free medicines from the Institution dispensary. These people also received financial support through the Institutions.
Francke did not just provide healthcare for the poor; he also sought to encourage the state to take responsibility. In 1698, he drafted a "charity ordinance" for Glaucha which served as a model for later municipal laws providing for the relief or support of the poor. He also inspired local rulers to develop a system of relief in their territories - frequently with the assistance of officials who had themselves attended Francke’s schools.

Spendenbüchse1_Ziegler August Hermann Francke recounted the beginnings of his social work in a memorable story: he found four thalers and 16 groschen in an alms box and decided to establish a public charity school with this capital.Photo: Thomas Ziegler


Museumsnacht 2009_Illumination Waisenhaus  In accordance with the central demands of the Reformation and as a key element in the necessary societal changes, August Hermann Francke also launched an educational campaign intended to reach boys and girls as well as men and women from all social classes. He established the first teacher training seminar in Germany for professionalization of the teaching profession. Every single child in the Foundation schools was closely observed, challenged and encouraged by the teachers or instructors. The Institutions' flexible school system based on academic merit made it possible to overcome social barriers. The so-called "subject class system" allowed each child's schooling to be adapted in line with his or her knowledge in the individual subjects. Innovative teaching and communication methods corresponded with a meticulously structured and controlled daily routine which focussed primarily on imparting a fundamental canon of values. This canon was rooted in the idea of using one's time on earth responsibly as a precious gift from God. A sense of order, a sense of duty, individual responsibility and a commitment to the common good are among the most well-known Prussian virtues which were disseminated from Halle throughout Prussia and Europe over generations by students who later worked as pastors, tutors, teachers and officials.


Zwei Modelle von Salzkothen  Collection of models from Germany’s first middle school in the Cabinet of Art and Natural Curiosities, which were used in the object teaching introduced by Francke in his schools. August Hermann Francke’s reforms were also aimed at school teaching itself. Following the example of Johann Amos Comenius (1592-1670), Francke made object teaching an integral component of educational theory and practice in his schools and thereby established the Realschule - literally "real" school - secondary school system. In 1718, instruction in the natural sciences was expanded by the valuable collection of mechanical models from Halle pastor Christoph Semler (1669-1740), which are still on display today in the Cabinet of Art and Natural Curiosities at the Francke Foundations. The "school garden principle" as it was developed in Halle is also an expression of "realistic" instruction: this was the very first teaching garden for instruction on botanics.

Enlightenment educators Johann Bernhard Basedow (1724–1790) and Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746–1827) were also influenced by Francke’s pioneering educational theory. Johann Julius Hecker (1707-1768) learned about Francke's educational reform while working as a teacher at Francke’s schools. Hecker went on to found the "Economics and Mathematics Secondary School" in Berlin in 1747, thereby establishing a new type of school that to this day focuses on pupils' practical and vocational education. Hecker also contributed significantly to the reform of the Prussian primary school system.


Königliches Pädagogium  At the same time as the charity school, August Hermann Francke also established an educational institution for the sons of the European nobility and the wealthy bourgeoisie. In 1702, this school received the royal privilege from Frederick I in Prussia and became known worldwide as the "Royal Paedagogium" (Königliches Pädagogium). Francke initially supported the sons of the minority Lutheran nobility in Silesia. The close links between English Puritanism and Pietism also allowed pupils from Great Britain – for whom Queen Anne Stuart (1665-1714) paid board and lodging – to come to Halle. With Francke’s increasing international activities, children from Russia, the Baltic countries, Transylvania, Sweden, Denmark and Switzerland were also educated at the Halle Paedagogium. These pupils would later spread Francke’s reform ideas all over the world as politicians, officials, scientists and theologians. The Paedagogium was one of the most well-known Protestant educational institutions of the era. It provided the best facilities, a broad and well-grounded educational plan, had extensive teaching and educational material and the largest library in the region. Due to its proximity and organisational links to the other institutions, these outstanding resources also benefitted all other schools.


In contrast to the Catholic Church and Lutheran Orthodoxy, Pietism took a positive approach to the emerging natural sciences. Francke was of the opinion that studying nature was useful and to the glory of God.
Moreover, in his role as professor, Francke sought to reform theological studies. His aim was to offer the best possible preparation for the ministry by introducing a greater practical focus. For this purpose, students were offered the opportunity to gain professional experience as teachers at the institution schools. At the same time, teaching gave poorer students a means of subsistence, since they received free board and lodging in return. These reforms made the theological faculty at the University of Halle a pioneer in this area, and attracted large numbers of students. What was more, a royal decree stipulated that all students wishing to enter the ministry in Brandenburg-Prussia had to complete at least part of their studies in Halle. Halle Pietism had, therefore, an influence on the entire Prussian church.
Medical students were able to gain practical experience in the Institution hospital under the supervision of the orphanage physician. This practice was a major factor in the introduction of clinical traineeships in the study of medicine.


Schreibkunstschrank Bekrönung Göltz_klein  Detail of the crest painting on the Scripts Cabinet in the Cabinet of Art and Natural Curiosities - The detailed iconographic programme depicts the entire world of writing and manuscripts with numerous examples of scripts, writing materials and toolsPhoto: Klaus E. Göltz In its rejection of so-called "adiaphora", in other words everything which served merely as a distraction and diversion, Pietism seemed to inhibit the development of belletristic literature in the first half of the 18th century. However, Pietists produced an unparalleled amount of religious devotional literature which engendered a private culture of reading across all social classes. Thanks to innovations in typography, the world’s first Bible institute at the Halle orphanage enabled high-quality, extremely low-cost letterpress printing and made the Bibles and devotional books produced in many languages bestsellers. August Hermann Francke was pursuing the fundamental Reformation demand that everyone should have a Bible, and in fact achieved much more: the reading revolution stimulated by Pietism, combined with a reflection of individual emotional worlds, was a tremendous stimulus for belletristic literature. All great authors of the Romantic period and sentimentalism were influenced by Pietism. These include Goethe, Schiller, Lessing, Herder, Wieland and many others. Karl Philipp Moritz (1756-1793), a writer from a Pietist family, even founded a magazine for experiential psychology that is regarded as the first psychological periodical.



Macht_Hoch_Die_Thür Luther had already recognised the integrating effect of singing together for congregations, and wrote hymns himself. Congregational singing became a medium which carried the concerns and demands of the Reformation deep into the heart of society. Singing, which was initially closely linked to the Church, became popular on a broad societal basis with the emergence of Pietism and absorbed new developments in musical culture. Even in the 17th century, the populace had for the most part sung simple songs learned by rote at Church. The Pietists knew how to harness the community-building effect of song. Francke’s son-in-law Johann Anastasius Freylinghausen (1670-1739) held public song services at the Halle orphanage. Up to 2,000 people attended these devotions on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
In 1704, Freylinghausen also published a hymnbook incorporating new hymns, such as those by Paul Gerhardt. The strong melodies and the rhythm of the new hymns made them popular in the home and also influenced the liturgical music of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1759) and George Frideric Handel (1685-1759).


Graf_Stolberg_Wenigerode_Stekovics_ganz The Halle Pietists maintained close contacts with the Protestant nobility in southern Germany, Thuringia, Saxony, Brandenburg and the Harz region. The princes and counts in these regions were frequently under the direct authority of the emperor and therefore, in accordance with the Peace of Augsburg, retained religious sovereignty in their lands. Many of these nobles were influenced by Pietism and brought Francke’s students to their territory as officials or pastors, who then improved local administration as well as the welfare and school system. In this way, the Pietist reform ideas influenced entire dominions.
Francke strongly supported the Protestant nobility in Silesia in their denominational disputes with the Catholic sovereigns, the Habsburgs. A "Privy Council" comprised of numerous central German nobles supported Francke in the course of these disputes.
Like many other nobles, Henriette Catharina von Gersdorff (1648-1726) had her grandson, Imperial Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700-1760) educated at Francke’s Royal Paedagogium. Count Nikolaus then emerged as founder of the Moravian Church and shaped his own version of Pietism.
Through his supporters among the imperial nobility, Francke was able to extend his links as far as the imperial court in Vienna, a centre of European political power.


Several centres of European power became aware of August Hermann Francke’s reform ideas. Prussian Kings Frederick I and Frederick William I supported Francke's reform work through extensive privileges, granted him great influence and with his help modernised the school and social system throughout their land.

Important intermediaries such as Heinrich Wilhelm Ludolf (1655-1712), a diplomat at the English court and author of the first Russian grammar book, established contacts with the royal court of Peter the Great in St. Petersburg. As early as 1698, the advisers to the Tsar on education sought dialogue with Francke in Halle.

British Queen Anne supported English pupils at the Halle orphanage, and the court chaplains at the royal court in London, Anton Wilhelm Böhme (1663-1722) and Friedrich Michael Ziegenhagen (1694-1776) – who were influenced by Francke – acted as intermediaries of Halle Pietism in Southern India and North America.

Francke also had close contact with the Danish King Frederick IV (1671-1730), and Pietism subsequently had a strong influence on the Danish church system. At the King’s request, theologians from Halle established a mission station in the Danish commercial settlement of Tranquebar in Southern India. This was the first Protestant mission in history.


Heinrich Melchior Mühlenberg  Heinrich Melchior Mühlenberg (1711-1787) Two hundred years after the Reformation, the worldwide network of the Halle orphanage ensured the systematic dissemination of Lutheranism beyond the borders of Europe. As early as 1699, August Hermann Francke collaborated as a corresponding member with the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK) in London, which pursued reform goals similar to Pietism for the British Empire. In 1705, the SPCK published the English translation of Francke’s most important prospectus under the title "Pietas Hallensis" and supported the dissemination of Halle Pietism in the British colonies in North America and India. Halle missionaries were active in Tranquebar, Southern India as of 1706. Based on Francke’s model, they founded social institutions and schools there, including the first school for girls on the Indian subcontinent. Letterpress printing was established on Indian soil from here with a complete printing house staffed by personnel from Halle.
Francke became interested in North America at an early stage and corresponded with the Puritan Cotton Mather (1663-1728) in New England. Salzburg Lutherans under the leadership of Halle pastors later settled in the colony of Georgia. Henry Melchior Muhlenberg (1711-1787), who was sent from Halle, became patriarch of the Lutheran Church in North America from 1742.


WaisenhausKab Modell_Meinicke  A donation of 4 thalers and 16 groschen provided was the starting point and inspiration for pioneering work. August Hermann Francke’s reform ideas took on a physical shape and form with the imposing school town which he built before the gates of Halle over the course of just a few decades. To this day, the layout of the complex reflects Halle Pietism's educational approaches and concepts of order: classrooms and teaching cabinets are located in the centre. These are complemented by communal facilities, some in buildings extending over several floors, such as the Prayer and Singing Room, Dining Hall and purpose-built public library. Then there are the living quarters for the orphan boys and girls, boarders and employees, and separate from this section the purpose-built brewery and bakery, a laundry and toilet wing, the first children’s hospital in Germany as well as an extremely modern water supply system. Foundation-run enterprises such as the dairy, printing house and dispensary complete the picture. Francke’s school town became a model for numerous institutions of this kind across the world. Today, the central area of the complex conceived by Francke around the Linden Courtyard is a unique example of functional social and educational architecture of the Early Modern Age in its historic completeness.


A well-organised information network at two levels enabled Francke to spread his concepts on the one hand, and on the other to gather new ideas for implementing his projects. He was in close contact with many scholars of his time such as Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716). Pietism was, for a time, the state religion in Denmark. Theologians such as the Archbishop of Novgorod and statesman Feofan Prokopovich (1681-1736) integrated Francke’s ideas into their reform plans.

The first Protestant mission in Tranquebar (Southern India) because the nucleus of the Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church (TELC) and a model for an open exchange between the cultures. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) possessed the complete edition of the "Halle Reports" (Hallesche Berichte), a periodical which for the first time reported directly and regularly from Southern India. Men shaped by Halle Pietism were part of the innermost circle of the founders of the United States of America.

In the 19th century, Protestant revivalism and above all Christian social welfare drew on the work of August Hermann Francke. The George Müller Foundation in Ashley Down, Great Britain, which remains committed to Francke’s social ideas to this day, emerged from the orphanage established near Bristol by German emigrant George Müller (1805-1898) in 1836.

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