Anna Maria in Bethlehem
The gospel is Good News for the poor and suppressed – this is the message of a painting that shows deceased converts from different nations gathering around the risen Christ. Among them is Anna Maria, born as the daughter of an enslaved plantation worker in the West Indies and baptised on December 29th, 1737 in St. Thomas/Virgin Islands. She holds her nephew Michael in her lap who died at the age of one. The palm leaf in her hand alludes to the Book of Revelation. The original was painted by the most important artist of the Brethren’s Congregation, J.V. Haidt, in 1747, for a synod in Herrnhaag and today hangs in the small church hall in Zeist. One of the nine other known copies is on display in the church hall of Herrnhut. Because Haidt himself moved to America in 1754 another copy can be found in Bethlehem in Pennsylvania.
It was on Christmas Eve in the year 1748 when servants for the first time handed burning candles to each guest as a symbol for the advent of Christ. A painting that captures the moment is part of the collection of the Herrnhut archives.
The community in Berlin-Rixdorf revives this tradition and joins on the first sunday of advent to prepare the lights for Christmas Eve. Small white candles are wrapped in coloured paper. In the beginning the candles were wrapped in red paper symbolising the blood of Christ and this is still the case in Herrnhut, but in Rixdorf the colours used are green, gold and white.
On Christmas Eve during the love-feast for the children two sisters bring a tray with the burning candles and distribute them among the children. To bring this candle back home after mass while it is still burning is a huge challenge – and one that probably no child has ever mastered.
Die Herzen schmecken nicht nur, wieder einmal symbolhaft sind sie halb weiß bepinselt für die Reinheit, halb rot für das Blut Christi.
250 g butter
1 egg yolk (of a medium egg)
120 g sugar
100 g peeled ang ground almonds
280 g wheat flour (plus flour for rolling out the dough)
Filling and Decoration
220 g raspberry jam
100 g icing sugar
1 lemon (juice)
50 split or whole peeled almonds
heart-shaped cookie cutter
1. For the shortcrust mix butter, a pinch of salt, egg yolk and sugar. Add almonds and flour and knead quickly into a dough. Shape the dough into the form of a flat brick, wrap it in cling film and cool it for at least one hour.
2. Preheat the oven (190 °C/180°C fan/2-3 gas). Briefly knead the dough, roll it out on a floured worktop (3 mm thick) and cut out hearts (5 cm). Place the cookies on the baking tray covered with baking paper. Knead and roll out the leftovers, adding as little four as possible, until the dough is used up. You may have to cool the dought again between turns.
3. Bake the cookies, one tray at a time, in the preheated oven for 8 -10 minutes until they are light brown.
4. For the filling pass the jam through a sieve, keep aside two tea spoons of jam for decoration. Cover the back side of half the hearts with jam, put together one heart with jam and one without and press them together carefully.
5. For the decoration mix the icing sugar with 3-4 table spoons of lemon juice; mix into a smooth, thick icing. Cover one half of a heart; add the raspberry jam to the rest of the icing and cover the other half of the heart. Put an almond onto the icing while still wet. Allow the cookies to dry overnight. Store them in an air-tight container.
Herrnhut inside Berlin
Until today direct descendants of those emigrants who had to leave Bohemia in 1737 due to their protestant faith live in the Bohemian village that is part of the Berlin district of Neukölln. On a pedestal in this district is a statue of Friedrich Wilhelm I., the Prussian king who in 1737 granted asylum in Rixdorf to 350 people from Bohemia. For a long time some of the narrow lanes bore Chech names and the mala ulicka was only renamed Church Lane (Kirchgasse) in 1909. Other Bohemian settlements of the time in Prussia included the southern part of Friedrichstadt in Berlin and Nowares near Potsdam. The commitment of the refugees in Rixdorf to the principles of the Unitas Fratrum is reflected by the existence of a prayer hall similar to that in Herrnhut and a Bohemian graveyard with the characteristic flat memorial slabs at Kirchhofstraße (Churchyard Street). Until today the members of the community practice their religion and the gable of the old school house that is part of the Museum of the Bohemian Village in Kirchgasse 9 (9, Church Lane) shows the Hussite chalice.
It is not our custom to bargain
On March 21st 1827, the company Dürninger & Co for the first time ordered “10 000 cigars – as profitable as possible” from the company of Gildermeister & Gluer in Havanna. Imported cigars were hitherto unknown in Germany. As Dürninger since 1907 catered for the king of Saxony their cigar department in 1913 received the title “purveyor to the court”.
In 1747 Zinzendorf had brought Abraham Dürninger to Herrnhut, a merchant from Strassbourg who took over the highly indebted shop and developed it into one of the largest trading houses in Europe. His textile production made him the largest exporters of canvas in Upper Lusatia and one of the leading Saxonian business men of the 18th century.
Abraham Dürninger was held in high regard for his efficiency, integrity and modesty; he also was the first merchant in Germany to sell his goods at fixed rates. Due to this unusual work ethic he became what might be called the inventor of fair trade.
Although he suffered several strokes of fate, Johann Amos Comenius (1592-1670) never lost his faith in the benevolence of man. The Chech theologician, philosopher, educator, and last bishop of the United Brethren was sure of the human ability to educate himself and of the unlimited capacities of the mind. His method was holistic and free of force. He wanted to encourage the “desire to fathom something”, learning should be “playful and diverting” … in his book Orbis sensualium pictus – The Visible World he writes: “The ground of this business, is, that sensual objects may be rightly presented to the senses, for fear they may not be received. I say, and say it again aloud, that this last is the foundation of all the rest: because we can neither act nor speak wisely, unless we first rightly understand all the things which are to be done, and whereof we are to speak. Now there is nothing in the understanding, which was not before in the sense. And therefore to exercise the senses well about the right perceiving the differences of things, will be to lay the grounds for all wisdom, and all wise discourse, and all discreet actions in ones course of life. Which, because it is commonly neglected in schools, and the things which are to be learned are offered to scholars, without being understood or being rightly presented to the senses, it cometh to pass, that the work of teaching and learning goeth heavily onward, and affordeth little benefit.”
The woodcut of a locust is part of a pronounciation table that Comenius developed as a didactic means (a vivid and vocal alphabet).
Alltogether twelve missinary ships of the brethren set sails between 1770 and 1926. These ships mostly provided supplies for those missionary outpost in Labrador that were not otherwise connected by sea. Five out of these twelve ships were named “Harmony”.
At 27, Johann August Miertsching (1815-1875) was appointed to missionary service and travelled via London on the sailing vessel “Harmony” to the missionary settlement Okak in the North of Labrador. There Miertsching studied Inuktit, the language of the Inuit, taught children and later also preached in the local language. Only just returned to his home, he received an order by the British admiralty. This made him travel to the Arctic as an interpreter for a naval expedition in search of the missing Franklin expedition which had set out to find the Northwest Passage three years before.
The details of the incredible hardships endured by all members of the expedition on the sailing vessel HMS Investigator – storms, ice, freezing cold, hunger, despair, their unbelievable courage when their ship was stuck in the ice for several winters before they finally rescued themselves by forced marches through arctic deserts – are all described in Miertschings travellog.
Miertsching, Johann August
Frozen ships. The arctic diary of Johan Miertsching, 1850-54. New York: St. Martins Press 1967.
Zinzendorf brought back the habit of drinking tea from England and it became part of one of the ceremonies held by the Herrnhut community that does not follow a particular liturgy. Brothers and sisters meet at irregular intervals for a so-called love-feast. The singing of spiritual songs alternates with reports, greetings and brief speeches as well as – after funerals – with mementos of the deceased. Servants of love, usually a couple, serve tea to the participants; traditionally the man pours the tea while the woman holds the cup. Scones are served with the tea. Zinzendorf, however, emphasised that worldly nourishment was not the main focus of this tradition.
Alea iacta est
A large oval silver bowl is placed on the table. It is April or May at Herrnhut and four people have gathered in the baroque conference room of the bailiwick. Out of more than 1000 verses from the bible they draw one for each day.
Count Zinzendorf provided the community with their first motto during the usual sing-along on May 3rd 1728: ” Love has driven him here, love dragged him from the throne and I should not love him?” This probably started the tradition of one brother going to each house in the village every morning to recite the motto for the day, a verse from the Old Testament. In fact since that day the verses are drawn from the traditional set of verses comprising 1829 cards – since the first printed booklet of mottos in 1731 they were drawn for an entire year in advance.
The daily motto was seen as a means to figure out the will of the Lord and the Herrnhut community considered marriage decisions to be part of his responsibilities, too. Therefore it was a motto that in 1859 settled the marriage of Maria Heyde with August Wilhelm Heyde, a missionary who lived in Tibet and was entirely unknown to her. The adventurous life of this woman who, at the age of 22, set out on her own and traveled to Tibet to meet her future husband is the topic of a special exhibition in the sisterhood homes in Kleinwelka.
In 1950 the “Sterngesellschaft GmbH” was nationalized and in 1951 the name was changed to VEB Oberlausitzer Stern- und Lampenschirmfabrik (Upper Lusatia star and lampshade factory). Among the items produced were bird cages, not in a nostalgic fashion but in the style of the 1960s and 1970s. Countless budgies in the GDR lived their lives in these cages.
When manufacturing – and even worse, the production of stars – no longer seemed to befit socialist industrial production, decision was taken to get rid of it. What happened was highly unusual for the era – the production was given back into the hands of the United Brethren. The economic situation remained precarious as the new business was subjected to stately production schedules.
Above the entrance of the parent house of the Moravian stars at Löbau Street there is the coat of arms of the business man, book and music supplies dealer Pieter Hendrik Verbeek. He invented the first durable star that could be assembled. Due to this innovation it became possible to sell the star through the missionary book shop at Herrnhut and to post it packed into a compact parcel. In the years 1894-95 Verbeek had the first head quarter of the Moravian star company (Herrnhuter Sterne GmbH) built where from 1897 onwards the stars were sold. Over the following years Verbeek continuously developed the construction of the star, founded another company, the “Sterngesellschaft mbH” and in 1925 had the first bodyless star patented.
Traveling at ease
This vehicle is known from almost every western. It was used not only by settlers but also by missionaries and the Herrnhut missionaries Heckewälder and Zeisberger most probably also travelled in a covered wagon on their way to the wild West. This oxcart is a small wooden model owned by the Ethnological Museum in Herrnhut. Starting with the so-called Conestoga Wagon – named after the valley in Pennsylvania where it was first built – the development during the first half of the 19th century led to the creation of the prairie schooner, a covered wagon pulled by oxen or horses that was indispensable for the exploration and colonisation of the Middle and Far West before the age of the railways.
The Paschal Lamb marked with the banner of victory is a symbol for the resurrection of Christ. Surrounded by the words “VICIT AGNUS NOSTER – EUM SEQUAMUR” it was used like a logo by the Herrnhut community. In the German-speaking countries the translation „UNSER LAMM HAT GESIEGT – LASST UNS IHM FOLGEN“ (“Our lamb has conquered, let us follow Him.”) was in use, too.
Probably through its link with St. Agnes the lamb also appears on the shop fronts of butchers though not surrounded by the verse. St. Agnes, a legendary Roman Christian, already bears the lamb in her name. She suffered death as a martyr around the year 250 AD being pierced by a sword in the throat – just like a lamb was slaughtered in those days. Swiss butchers choose Agnes as the patron saint of their guilds first during the Middle Ages – together with her symbol, the lamb or Agnus Dei. In the course of reformation the saint was dropped from the guild sign but not the lamb.
Bread and wine
Not only the clergy but all believers should participate in the holy communion including the wine. This was an essential demand in all reformatory movements of the 16th century. The Hussite chalice therefore is representative of the core of their religion which the Bohemians had maintained and were able to live freely now in their new home. As most of the Bohemians who emmigrated to Berlin-Rixdorf joined the Herrnhut fraternity this chalice is part of the city arms of Berlin-Neukölln until today.
During the Holy Communion according to the Herrnhut liturgy all participants remain at their places. After they have shaked hands with their neighbours bread and wine are passed on through the rows.
Tea in the countryside
Regal garden, Herrnhuter cementary and the garden of the Museum for Local History – these three together are known as the “Herrnhuter Gärten”. The regal garden with its baroque style is a memorial to its founder, von Zinzendorf. Following his orders the Moravian gardener Töltschik started building the garden in 1728. In later years the area was expanded and its arrangements were refined, while every day one of the brothers was deputed to work there. For the inauguration von Zinzendorf invited more than hundred guests to the garden. Walking through the contemporary garden of the Museum for Local History the visitor discovers a small garden pavillion dating back to the times of von Zinzendorf. Its roof bears some resemblance with the castle at Pillnitz near Dresden. Like the pleasure palace of August the Strong this garden pavillion has an Asiatic appearance. This reflects a predilection for the exotic many rulers entertained at the time. Within the gardens at Herrnhut there are alltogether 30 historic summer houses.
On June 17th 1722 the carpenter Christian David cut down the first tree for the construction of Herrnhut. The immigrants were allocated a plot of forested land near the road from Löbau to Zittau by the count’s steward. Considering the lack of water and the solitude of the area a woman was reported to have exclaimed “How will we get bread at this deserted place?”
That the immigrants were mostly craftsman was probably an advantage in dealing with the challenges of this new settlement. The first well was dug in the same year, 1722, and in 1745 the first tap water was carried in wooden tubes from the Berthelsdorfer Revierteil to Herrnhut – a masterpiece of engineering in a landscape with an only minimal gradient. The leeking wooden tubes were later replaced by iron pipes. Five wells from this time have survived until today; this now covered water pump stands near the bailiwick.
Rhombicuboctahedron – this is the mathematical term for the core shape of the Moravian star. Its surface is covered with pyramidal points, 17 of them with a square and eight with a triangular base. The last, eighteenth square space is left without a point; through this opening a source of light is inserted. A geometry book dating back to about 1900 contains valuable instructions to build such a star.
A more robust variety of this star was created from metal by a master plumber named Krautwurst. For this star the paper points glued together by sisters in the Brüderhaus were slid on to a metal frame.
This resulted in a type of star that was easy to build from individual components; its transport was easy and postage was reasonable.
The world at Herrnhut
Since 1732 missionaries brought home large numbers of ethnologically important objects.
Thus, the beginning of missionary activities by the “United Brethren” of the Moravian Mission in 1732 also marks the beginning of its ethnological collection. Among the highlights of the Ethnological Museum at Herrnhut are Buddhist ritual objects from a temple yurt used by Westmongolian Kalmyks in Southern Russia and 36 ethnographical objects from the South Sea and the Northwestern coast of America collected during the third journey of James Cook (1728-1779), the English captain and discoverer.
According to a legend Heinrich Rauch, who in 1740 was the first to get into contact with the Indian tribe of the Delaware, was so exhausted by the journey that he went straight into the tent of their chieftain Tschoop and fell asleep. The chief was amazed by this degree of trust and the missionary told him afterwards about “Christ who became our brother”.
Records by Herrnhut missionaries were used by the author James Fenimore Cooper when he wrote “The Leatherstocking Tales”; in particular the scriptures of John Heckewelder and the “History of the Mission of the United Brethren among the Indian in North America” by George Henry (Georg Heinrich) Loskiel were essential sources.
Count Zinzendorf himself served as a missionary among Indians between 1741 and 1743. In 2000 a stamp commemorated the meeting of Zinzendorf and Konrad Weiser with Iroqoise chieftains in 1742; the Iroquoise, however, were not proselytised successfully.
I am the vine; you are the branches. (John XV, 5)
The genealogical tree in the shape of a vine mentions – besides several German and European place names – a considerable number of exotic cities and countries from allover the world: Calcutta 1782, Algiers 1739, America 1734. The vine has been depicted in a copper engraving owned by the Museum of Local History at the Bohemian village in Berlin-Rixdorf.
It was a particular ambition of the Herrnhut community to spread their faith in the world. A potter from Franconia and a Moravian carpenter were the first missionaries sent out from Herrnhut on August, 21st 1732. The missionaries who since went into the world from Herrnhut saw themselves as on a par with local people – in accordance with their strict command of equality. They took an interest in local rites and customs and studied the indigenous languages. Until today the Herrnhuter are therefore held in high regard in the areas they proselytised.
Seeds in the fields of god
Everywhere at Herrnhut there are pruned trees; particularly during winter, when they are without leaves, these are often believed to be willow trees by nonlocal visitors. In fact they are lime trees, the Czech national tree. The lime tree is a symbol of justice, love, and peace; it is a meeting place and a continuous reminder of their lost Bohemian home country for members of the community.
Most impressive is an alley of pruned lime trees planted in 1742 that leads up to the cementary at Herrnhut, where the lime tree is the only vegetation permitted besides grass and ivy.
“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1. Cor., 15.20)
For the Herrnhut community death is not a threatening experience; passing away for them means coming home in joyful anticipation of god. In the graveyard each brother and sister is buried in an individual plot resembling the seating arrangements in a prayer hall. All coffins are white, the uniform memorial slabs are lying flat on the ground – in death and before god all humans are equal.
Play of colours
By introducing a particular Herrnhut costume, Zinzendorf visually emphasized equality among his protegés. He may well have done this to curb any rising vanities among them. The costume, therefore, did not continue traditions from their lost Bohemian home but is rather based on costumes worn in Upper Lusatia. Part of the female costume is, besides the tucker, a bonnet that is not sewn but traditionally pinned together patiently using tiny needles.
Like in other traditional dresses the status of a woman is indicated by certain attributes. In the Herrnhut costume this is the so-called choir ribbon: girls wear it red, young unmarried women display a dyed pink ribbon. Blue is the colour for married women and widows wear white. By this means marriageable women are easily detected.
Czech brass bands
It was not the sound of an organ, but music for brass instruments that people from Bohemia and Moravia brought from their home countries. Therefore the brass is particularly appreciated by the fraternity. In the large prayer hall at Herrnhut there was not only a gallery for the organ and singers. A second gallery was reserved for the brass; this unfortunately does no longer exist because the entire building burned down in 1945. The Herrnhut brass ensemble may justly be called the oldest ecclesiastical brass ensemble in Germany. On special religious holidays they play the wake-up call and their tunes gather the community for the Holy Communion. Furthermore they accompany the parish procession to the churchyard at sunrise on Easter morning.
From Alpha to Omega
One of the four requests of the Bohemian reformation was to provide believers with a bible they could read for themselves. Therefore in 1613 a bible translation was printed in a hidden print shop in Kralice (Kralitz) in southern Moravia; the initial A reproduced above adorns the beginning of one of its chapters. Named after its place of origin, this book, the “Bible of Kralice”, became the authoritative bible translation from Hebrew and Greek into the Czech vernacular. When the brethren had to leave their home in the course of counter-reformation, the chaplains of the fraternity took their copies with them into exile; it probably was the first book they seized and this is the reason why many copies today are scattered over libraries in Germany, Poland, Hungary and other countries. Jesuit missionaries were particularly keen to trace copies of this bible translation during the counter-reformation and many copies were destroyed; yet several hundred survived until today in Czechia and Central Europe.