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Building Wachovia, Episode 1

The Life of Count Zinzendorf

By Casey Landolf, Matthew McCarthy, and Maizie Plumley

Born on May 26, 1700, Nikolaus Ludwig, Count of Zinzendorf and Pottendorf, was raised by his religious maternal grandmother, who hosted many Pietist leaders at her estate. Being surrounded by these individuals influenced the Count, who decided to give up a government position in Saxony, one he had studied for, to fulfill a life of divine work for the Lord. Zinzendorf would soon be approached by a man telling him of the oppression of a small religious group in Moravia. Offering them shelter, the Moravians emigrated to land in Upper Lusatia. This land was owned by Zinzendorf and would become known as Herrnhut. The Count helped proved vital in shaping the Moravian Church. He wrote church doctrine, became superintendent of the Church, and led the Moravian Church in establishing and expanding the Moravian Church throughout the western world.

Hosts

Casey Landolf

Maizie Plumley

Guest

Matthew McCarthy

Cast

Announcer/Reader: James Landolf

Researched by

Matthew McCarthy

 

 

Transcript for The Life of Count Zinzendorf

Introduction

Announcer: This is Moravian Mornings. A podcast discussing the history surrounding the Moravians who settled in Wachovia.

 

Casey: Good morning, everyone! This is our first episode of our bonus series, Building Wachovia. As of right now, we have four episodes developed for this series that detail biographies of some individuals that greatly helped the development of the Moravian Church. All of these individuals are linked to Wachovia in some way, even if they did not live in Wachovia. If we’re able to, we’re really hoping to focus on a range of people that helped with the area.

 

Maizie: We wanted to include more guides from Historic Bethabara Park, so for some episodes, other guides will be joining us to teach us about some of these important individuals. The first guide joining us from the park is Matthew McCarthy who is going to teach us about Count Nikolaus Zinznedorf, and he actually researched and wrote this episode. For time sake, we chose not to go into detail about much of the Moravian Church’s doctrine that was influenced by Zinzendorf. Alright everyone, grab your coffee, and let’s learn about the man who helped shape the Moravian Church.

 

The Life of Count of Zinzendorf

Matt: Nikolaus Ludwig, Count of Zinzendorf and Pottendorf, was born on May 26th, 1700 in Dresden, Germany. Nikolaus’ father did not live long enough to see his son grow up due to his sudden death only six weeks after the Count’s birth. His mother, Charlotte Justina, remarried four years later to a field marshal in the Prussian army.[1] Charlotte’s marriage left Nikolaus in the care of his maternal grandmother, the Baroness of Gersdorf. Her estate hosted many Pietist leaders and their ideas during the Count’s childhood. Beginning around the 1670s, the Pietism Movement in Germany began as a response to seek reform in the Protestant Church.  Key aspects of the movement centered on a more practical Christianity seeking programs for social betterment, a hope for Christ’s kingdom on Earth, and personal transformation.[2] These guests, along with his grandmother’s great love for the Lord, influenced the young Count. Zinzendorf later stated, “It was my happiness early to experience a heartfelt impression of the Savior.”[3]

A member of an old Austrian family, the Count was able to receive a formal education in the city of Halle and later the University of Wittenberg. Great piety existed in Halle, so religion continued to greatly influence him during his education. His time at University was to prep him  to fulfill a position of high-esteem in the local government of his home court of Saxony. Reluctantly, the Count would take a position for a short while. Though his sights were set elsewhere. He wanted to fulfill a life of divine work for the Lord.

By 1722, many things of great importance occurred in the Count’s life. First, his nuptials with a young Countess named Erdmuthe Dorothea Reuss-Ebersdorf.

 

Reader: “The betrothment took place on the 16th of August, and the marriage was solemnized on the 7th of September, in the presence of a numerous assembly of the relatives of both parties.”[4]

 

Matt: Next, is the purchase of a grand estate from his grandmother known as Bertholdsdorf. Lastly, Zinzendorf was visited by a man named Christian David while staying in Schweinitz, who told him about the oppression of a small group following the Unitas Fratrum in Moravia.[5]  He invited David and the Moravians to seek solace on one of his properties. David returned to Moravia with the good news that the Count had opened his property for the group to settle. David, along with several others, travelled from Moravia to the Count’s Bertholdsdorf estate in Saxony, just right over the border in the easternmost tip of Germany.

 

Reader: “By June 17th, 1722, the first tree was felled in what would later be called the settlement of Herrnhut.”[6]

 

Matt: The knowledge of Herrnhut’s existence spread throughout western Europe, with many flocking to the settlement for religious freedom. In 1727, Zinzendorf wanted to draw together the settlers who had become divided due to disagreement on their beliefs, so a doctrine (or a reformation of life, as the Count would later recall) would need to be drawn up and signed by all inhabitants of Herrnhut.[7] Also, specific roles would come along with this document: the appointments of twelve elders of the church and a nomination of Zinzendorf as superintendent of the Church.[8] Later edits greatly reduced these elders to only four, but all living in Herrnhut had specific roles and duties to fill.

 

Reader: “No teacher, elder, or superintendent, or any one placed in respect over another, shall use any other authority than that of being a promoter of their joy and happiness, and a careful assistant in their sufferings, afflictions, and destitutions.”[9]

 

Matt: As Herrnhut grew, so did the Moravian Church across nations and borders throughout western Europe and later in the Americas. The Count spent a significant amount of time visiting other Moravian settlements, giving special attention to those in England. Zinzendorf’s time and work shifted to defense in that country, as the sole religion was the Church of England. Also, Zinzendorf attributed these issues to the “English character.” He states this character was led by their reason and their imagination, an enemy that led them astray from authority.[10] Unfortunately, this was also occurring back in his homeland of Saxony. So much so that by 1736, the Count was exiled from his homeland as a heretic by the King of Saxony.[11] The cause was from a certain individual (not stated) who took great pains to take the accusations brought against the Count and Moravian’s to a higher court in Upper Lusatia, the region where Herrnhut was located.[12] Zinzendorf would have to shift the base of operations to Marienborn, but quickly got back to travelling. Often he would be found in London among the growing English Moravians and later, taking a special trip to Pennsylvania in 1741-42 to check on the settlement of Bethlethem and address the growing number of Germans in that territory.

By 1746, the Count was growing fatigued from his decade-long exile from Upper Lusatia. Zinzendorf voiced his continued hope to close friends that his exile would finally be ended. Many of those who had spoken negatively about the Count had passed on from this life or even laid aside their anger towards him, despite the growing circulation from the press of the attacks against him.[13] By September 1746, the matter would be brought before the King for reconsideration. Later Zinzendorf was informed he could re-enter Upper Lusatia, which pleased the Count. He set out on his journey back to the settlement of Herrnhut and his home estate that he had not seen in a decade, arriving on the 16th of September. Following his arrival, a royal inquiry would commence regarding public concern on the matters of the Moravians, all heard favorably by the King.

 

Reader: “The Count felt sincerely grateful for the resolution of the Saxon Court, to have the cause of the brethren thoroughly investigated, and his particular esteem and devotedness to that illustrious [cause] was thereby reanimated.”[14]           

 

Matt: By the early 1750s, Zinzendorf and the Church took strides in expanding outside Pennsylvania while continuing to recover from a great personal loss. His only son to live to adulthood, Christian Renatus, passed away from tuberculosis on May 28th, 1752 in London.[15] Also, overall favorability of Moravian’s in England was on the rise and Lord Proprietors’ looked to them as reputable settlers for the New World. In particular, John, Lord Carteret, Earl Granville, extended offers to the Count several times before he finally accepted, purchasing a 100,000 acre tract of land in North Carolina and signing documents for proof of sale in December 1753.[16] This expanse of land would later be named Wachovia. Unfortunately, the Count would never see this prosperous settlement with his own eyes.

While no longer exiled, Church duties and illness during the early 1750s delayed the Count’s return to Herrnhut until June 2, 1755. He was finally home! The Count now being in his mid-50s, he suffered another tragic blow. Never seeming to recover from the death of her son, Christian Renatus, Countess Erdmuth Dorothea died on June 19th, 1756.

 

Reader: “A funeral sermon commenced on June 30th, where she was spoken highly of for her “laudable qualities and uncommon gifts and grace.”[17]

 

Matt: The loss took its toll on the Count, leading to a period of inactivity in his Church work. After some time, church elders advised him to remarry while still head of the Church. He would marry Anna Nitschmann, a big presence in the Church as female elder for 27 years.[18] They wed in June 1757 and remained together till the end. Zinzendorf’s health was failing, brought on by a previous illness in his lungs. Unfortunately, this left him with many sleepless nights and continued weakness. His weakened state left him unable to attend to his fellow Moravians, but did not hinder him from completing the “watch words” for the following year, 1761.[19] Watch words were phrases from scripture to be reflected on daily by church members. In the midday hours of May 5th, 1760, Zinzendorf took little food and fell deathly ill shortly after lunch.[20] As the next few days passed, it was apparent he would never recover. They would call his closest family and members of the Church to be with him in his final hours. On May 9th, upwards of 100 persons cramped in the Count’s bedroom watched him pass on from this life, just 17 days shy of his 60th birthday. Anna Nitschmann was “called home to Him” just twelve days after her husband’s passing on May 21st, 1760.[21]

 

Reader: “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.”[22]

 

After Death

Matt: During the Count’s life, Germany’s national religion was Lutheranism, founded in the 1500s upon the German native Martin Luther’s reforms of the Catholic Church. By the 1700s, rumblings of change in the Lutheran Church gave birth in the rise of a new movement called Pietism. Nikolaus had been surrounded by these views since his childhood, but the entirety of his life he identified with the Lutheran Church, even later becoming a bishop and continuing to identify the Moravian Church as a specific sect of Lutheranism.

No one can argue against the great role of Zinzendorf had in the first half of the eighteenth century for establishing and expanding the Moravian Church throughout the western world. The Count’s theology was progressive, but also highly controversial in the eighteenth century. During the 1740s, 50s, and 60s, public concern and written attacks against the Church and the Count continued to grow in number.[23]  Many questions surrounded the Moravian Church post-Zinzendorf’s death in 1760. Now would be the time for August Gottlieb Spangenberg to set the record straight for the poor public image of the Moravians, in the process omitting much of the Zinzendorfian theology, but this is a topic for another episode.

 

Conclusion

Casey: I actually saw in the History of the Moravian Church by J.E. Hutton that stated that Zinzendorf actually wanted to preserve the Moravian Church inside the Lutheran Church,[24] which is incredibly interesting and really shows, or I at least think shows, his perspective on where the Moravian Protestant religion belonged, and the Moravian Church apparently belonged under the Lutheran Church according to Zinzendorf.

 

Maizie: Oh wow, that is really interesting. I had no idea. Thank you all so much for listening. Next week, we will be presenting the biography of Zinzendorf’s successor, Augustus Spangenberg.

 

Announcer: This has been an episode of Moravian Mornings, a Historic Bethabara Park podcast. If you have any questions or would like our hosts to discuss certain topics, please email us at Moravianmornings@gmail.com or message us on our Instagram page, also titled Moravian Mornings. Thanks for listening. Auf Wiedersehen.

 

Notes

[1] Ed. August Gottlieb Spangenberg, The Life of Nicholas Lewis Count Zinzendorf, Bishop and Ordinary of the United (or Moravian) Brethren (London: Samuel Holdsworth, 1838), 2.

[2] Douglas H. Shantz, An Introduction to German Pietism: Protestant Renewal at the Dawn of Modern Europe (Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press, 2013), 1.

[3] Ed. August Gottlieb Spangenberg, The Life of Nicholas Lewis Count Zinzendorf, 3.

[4] Ed. Adelaide Fries, Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. Volume I (Raleigh, NC: Edwards & Broughton Print Company, 1922), 38.

[5] Ed. August Gottlieb Spangenberg, The Life of Nicholas Lewis Count Zinzendorf, 39.

[6] Ed. August Gottlieb Spangenberg, The Life of Nicholas Lewis Count Zinzendorf, 39.

[7] Ed. August Gottlieb Spangenberg, The Life of Nicholas Lewis Count Zinzendorf, 80.

[8] Ed. August Gottlieb Spangenberg, The Life of Nicholas Lewis Count Zinzendorf, 84.

[9] Ed. August Gottlieb Spangenberg, The Life of Nicholas Lewis Count Zinzendorf, 65.

[10] Colin Podmore, “Zinzendorf and the English Moravians,” Journal of Moravian History, No. 3 (Fall 2007), 39.

[11] J.E. Hutton, History of the Moravian Church, Book I, Ch. V.

[12] Ed. August Gottlieb Spangenberg, The Life of Nicholas Lewis Count Zinzendorf, 209.

[13] Ed. August Gottlieb Spangenberg, The Life of Nicholas Lewis Count Zinzendorf, 370.

[14] Ed. August Gottlieb Spangenberg, The Life of Nicholas Lewis Count Zinzendorf, 380.

[15] Ed. Adelaide Fries, Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. Volume I, 83.

[16] Ed. Adelaide Fries, Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. Volume I, 67.

[17] Ed. August Gottlieb Spangenberg, The Life of Nicholas Lewis Count Zinzendorf, 501.

[18] Ed. August Gottlieb Spangenberg, The Life of Nicholas Lewis Count Zinzendorf, 470.

[19] Ed. August Gottlieb Spangenberg, The Life of Nicholas Lewis Count Zinzendorf, 500.

[20] Ed. August Gottlieb Spangenberg, The Life of Nicholas Lewis Count Zinzendorf, 501.

[21] Ed. Adelaide Fries, Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. Volume I, 228.

[22] Ed. August Gottlieb Spangenberg, The Life of Nicholas Lewis Count Zinzendorf, 509.

[23] Douglas H. Shantz, An Introduction to German Pietism: Protestant Renewal at the Dawn of Modern Europe

[24] J.E. Hutton and M.A. Hutton, History of the Moravian Church (United States: Moravian Publication Office, 1909), Book I, Ch. V.

 

 

 

Bibliography

Fries, Adelaide, Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. Volume I. Edwards & Broughton Print Company. Raleigh, 1922.

Hutton, J.E., and M.A. Hutton,  A History of the Moravian Church. Moravian Publication Office, United States of America, 1909.

Podmore, Colin, “Zinzendorf and the English Moravians.” Journal of Moravian History. No. 3. Penn State University Press, 2007.

Shantz, Douglas H, An Introduction to German Pietism: Protestant Renewal at the Dawn of Modern Europe. John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2013.

Spangenberg, August Gottlieb, The Life of Nicholas Lewis Count Zinzendorf, Bishop and Ordinary of the United (or Moravian) Brethren. London, 1838.

 

Music (Freemusicarchive.org)

Allegretto (green pastures) by Dee Yan-Key (Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)

Grand Piano Theme – Echo – Loopable by Lobo Loco (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/)

On my Way to Work by Lobo Loco (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/)

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