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Zinzendorf, Nikolaus Ludwig, Graf von

German Lutheran pietist leader Nikolaus Zinzendorf, b. May 26, 1700, d. May 9, 1760, founded the Renewed Unitas Fratrum, or MORAVIAN CHURCH. He was shaped by the PIETISM of his godfather, Philipp Jakob SPENER, and the religious training of A. H. Franke's Paedagogium at Halle. He was educated as a jurist at Wittenberg University, where he also studied theology, and then served (1721-27) the Saxon court at Dresden. He withdrew from public life in 1727 to assume leadership of a group of religious exiles from Moravia who founded the community of Herrnhut on his estate. Zinzendorf's piety, which focused on "Jesus mysticism" and religious community, expressed itself uniquely in the Herrnhut settlement and its worldwide outgrowth.

Although he was criticized by orthodox Lutherans, Zinzendorf accepted the authority of the Augsburg Confession and considered his church part of the Lutheran Church. Between 1737 and 1747 he traveled widely, founding congregations in England, Holland, and North America.

Zinzendorf's greatest contribution was in the development of Moravian worship under his leadership. A prodigious hymn writer, he constructed a devotional life of intricate festival cycles graced by the classic musical genius of 18th-century Germany.

James D. Nelson

Bibliography: Forell, G. W., ed., Zinzendorf: Nine Public Lectures on Important Subjects in Religion (1973); Lewis, A. J., Zinzendorf, the Ecumenical Pioneer (1962); Weinlich, J. R., Count Zinzendorf (1956).

Moravian Church

The Moravian Church is a Protestant communion closely linked to LUTHERANISM. It has its roots in the Czech REFORMATION and is a direct continuation of the Bohemian Brethren.

Influenced by the spiritual heritage of John HUSS, Brother Gregory founded the Bohemian Unity of Brethren, which, having functioned within the Utraquist group of HUSSITES for a decade, separated in 1457 and established an independent ministry. The reform movement based itself solely on the Bible, and its leaders were able to procure non-Roman ordination from a bishop of the WALDENSES. Occasional persecution of the Unity became systematic in the 16th century, a period marked by the theological creativity of Lukas of Prague (c.1460- 1528) and Jan Augusta (1500-72) and by contact with other Protestant reformers. Toleration obtained in 1609 was short-lived as the Czech Protestants were expelled by Catholic advances in the THIRTY YEARS' WAR (1627). John Amos COMENIUS, the Unity's last bishop, led the group into exile. A century later, representatives of German PIETISM encouraged survivors of the Unity to migrate from Moravia to Saxony, where in 1722 the community of Herrnhut was founded. Graf von ZINZENDORF assumed leadership, and a spiritual awakening swept the congregation in 1727, which is often taken as the founding date of the Moravian Church.

The Moravians were pioneers in Protestant home and foreign missions, seeking renewal of European Christianity and the evangelization of the non-Christian world. August Gottlieb SPANGENBERG, sent to America in 1735, founded churches in Georgia, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. Zinzendorf stimulated the church by his missionary leadership and religious genius, especially in community formation and cultic celebration. He also troubled the church with financial instability and devotional excesses that nearly wrecked it in the 1740s. After his death more moderate leadership was introduced by Spangenberg.

Moravianism is basically presbyterian in structure, and its bishops are chosen on spiritual merit to serve in pastoral and cultic roles rather than in administrative ones. Composed of approximately 360,000 members, the Moravian Church has played a major role in the development of Protestant worship, evangelism, missions, and theology in the last three centuries.

James D. Nelson

Bibliography: Gollin, G. L., Moravians in Two Worlds: A Study of Changing Communities (1967); Hamilton, J. T. and K. G., History of the Moravian Church: The Renewed Unitas Fratrum, 1722-1957, rev. ed. (1967); Langton, Edward, History of the Moravian Church (1956).


Originally a German Lutheran religious movement of the 17th and 18th centuries, pietism emphasized heartfelt religious devotion, ethical purity, charitable activity, and pastoral theology rather than sacramental or dogmatic precision. The term now refers to all religious expressions that emphasize inward devotion and moral purity. With roots in Dutch precisionism and mysticism, pietism emerged in reaction to the formality of Lutheran orthodoxy. In his Pia Desideria (1675), Philipp Jakob SPENER proposed a "heart religion" to replace the dominant "head religion." Beginning with religious meetings in Spener's home, the movement grew rapidly, especially after August Hermann Francke (1663-1727) made the new University of Halle a Pietist center. Nikolaus Ludwig, Graf von ZINZENDORF, a student of Francke's and godson of Spener, helped spread the movement. His MORAVIAN CHURCH promoted evangelical awakenings throughout Europe and in North America in the 18th and 19th centuries. John Wesley (see WESLEY family) and METHODISM were profoundly influenced by pietism.

James D. Nelson

Bibliography: Stoffler, F. E., The Rise of Evangelical Pietism, 2d ed. (1971).

Spangenberg, Augustus Gottlieb

Augustus Gottlieb Spangenberg, b. Prussia, July 15, 1704, d. Sept. 18, 1792, a bishop of the MORAVIAN CHURCH (1744-90) and its leader from 1762, founded the first Moravian settlements in North America. Sent from his native Germany, Spangenberg conducted missionary work in Georgia (1735), worked in Pennsylvania (1736-39), establishing a communal society at Bethlehem, and directed mission work in North Carolina in the 1750s. In 1762, Spangenberg returned to Germany to lead the denomination following the death of his predecessor, Graf von ZINZENDORF.

James D. Nelson

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