A Luther Legacy: August Hermann Francke



    The Lutheran Journal, Vol. 51, #2, 1984 - Erwin Weber


When Luther went into hiding at the Wartburg Castle in 1521, he not only translated the New Testament into German, but also wrote a series of sermons to aid ministers in explaining the Gospel. In a sermon titled "The Gospel for the Festival of Epiphany" Luther stated, "We must cling to the pure Scripture alone which teaches nothing but Christ, so that we may attain piety through Him in faith, and the do all our works in freedom for the benefit or our neighbors. The implications of Christian faith must take on concrete expression in society.

Luther and his colleague, Philipp Melanchthon established good Christian schools. They became models for all schools in Germany. In the late 17th century, August Hermann Francke was a professor at the Martin Luther University in Halle. He was also a pastor at the village church in Glaucha, a suburb of Halle. There he experienced first hand the utter misery of the people following the 30-Years War (1618-1648). There was dreadful poverty, hunger, physical and emotional degenerates, and above all, there were orphans or half orphaned children. Since the children came from the lower poor class, there was no one to take care of them. The were neglected, uneducated, and misused. They were driven to a life of crime and corruption. Francke picked up these children from the streets and alleys and opened a school for the poor and another for orphaned children.

These two schools were the beginning the famous Francke Foundation in Halle. It had a school for higher learning, with instructions in Latin, modern languages, natural sciences, such as botany, zoology, anatomy and astronomy, physics and chemistry and a laboratory for the purpose of instruction. These students became not only pastors, but also doctors, lawyers, and state officials. By the time Francke died in 1726, there were 3000 people at the Foundation. They served as pupils, students, craftsmen, cooks, nurses, doctors, teachers, professors, druggist, printers, and handymen. It was the largest institution of its kind in all of Europe. Its students established schools in Moscow and Siberia. They went as doctors to India, and were the first leaders of the Lutheran Church in America.

This article was written in 1984 while the foundation was under the communist regime in East Germany. It contains my photographs of Francke's statue, the historic library, and the Museum of Culture and Natural Sciences established by Francke in 1696.

My cover shows shows the New City Hall in Leipzig, the city where August Hermann Franke received his Master's degree from the University of Leipzig. Francke's discussion of the social problems of the day and his reform programs disturbed the university administration and he was forced to leave the institution.