The Correspondence of August Hermann Francke

Primary Contributors:

Franckesche Stiftungen zu Halle. Archiv und Bibliothek

Portrait of August Hermann Francke, by Antoine Pesne (1683–1757). (Source of image: Franckesche Stiftungen zu Halle. Archiv und Bibliothek)

August Hermann Francke (1663–1727)

August Hermann Francke was born in Lübeck and grew up in Gotha, the centre of the Thuringian church and of school reform. He studied theology in Erfurt, Kiel, and Leipzig, where he joined the Pietist reform movement and with fellow students founded a discussion group for the interpretation of the Bible (Konventikel). It was in Leipzig that he met Philipp Jakob Spener (1635–1705), who became his spiritual mentor.

In 1692, Francke was appointed professor at the newly-established Frederick-University in Halle and made pastor in the suburb of Glaucha. In the spirit of ‘true piety’, and with the support of the state of Brandenburg-Prussia he founded the Glaucha Institutions (later named in his memory as ‘Franckesche Stiftungen’), beginning with the establishment of an orphanage and a school for the poor. He also established schools and boarding houses to take in pupils from all backgrounds, and acquired and maintained a number of essential businesses, including a pharmacy and a bookstore. By the end of his life, approximately two-and-a-half thousand people had taught, worked, studied, and lived in the institutions he had overseen and nurtured.

Francke’s talents were manifold: he worked as pastor, preacher, theologian, and as university professor. He served as head of an orphanage, and as an educator, while also being an entrepreneur, a builder, and forger of religious ties across Northern and Eastern Europe, with a particular focus on England and the Netherlands, North America, and Southern India. At the heart of his endeavours in Halle lay Christian educational and social reform. Following the death of Philipp Spener, Francke was considered by his contemporaries to be the most important representative of Pietism, an important reform movement within Lutheranism which exerted a decisive influence on Protestantism theology worldwide, as well as on poor relief, public welfare, education, medicine, literature, and cultural life.

Partners and Additional Contributors

The letters of this correspondence have been catalogued and digitized by the Francke Foundations in several cataloguing projects funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).

Key Bibliographic Source(s)

Epistolary of August Hermann Francke


About 3,150 of Francke’s letters—a total of 9,800 pages—survive. The earliest letter is dated 1677 and the latest 9 June 1727, with the majority dating from the final decade of his life. Most are in German, but 459 documents are in Latin or in a mixture of German and Latin. Other languages used occasionally include English, Italian, and Portuguese. About 80% of the letters were sent from Halle. Roughly half are copies or drafts and 174 letters been preserved in more than one manifestation; 103 letters have only survived in printed form.

Francke’s letters are addressed to 655 different recipients, who were primarily theologians, pastors, missionaries, representatives of the nobility, members of the University of Halle, and employees of the Francke Foundations. Francke’s correspondence reflects the broad range of his activities. Alongside biographical details, they provide information on the institutional history of the Stiftungen (Foundations), on the spread and establishment of Pietism in Brandenburg-Prussia, and Germany and Europe as a whole, as well as— through missionary work — in India. They also contain rich discussions concerning theological and philosophical issues.

The initial phase of the EMLO catalogue includes a selection of 251 letters addressed by Francke to the missionaries of the first Protestant mission in Tharangambadi in southern India. The catalogue will be supplemented gradually by further letters as the metadata is made ready for upload.


The archives of the Francke Foundations hold 1,567 of the surviving letters in Francke’s correspondence. Further letters are kept in a number of other archives and libraries, including the manuscript department of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin and the Geheimes Preussisches Staatsarchiv in Berlin as well as in the archives of the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg.

Francke’s correspondence was kept in the archives of the Francke Foundations to protect and preserve them for posterity and the collection’s focus is on the the history of the institution and of Halle Pietism. Although sections of Francke’s original correspondence have been lost, missing letters are referenced his diaries, which served as a register of correspondence. Copies of the letters were filed according to places or geographical regions.

Most of Francke’s vast correspondence is available only in manuscript; just a few selections of his letters have been published and may be consulted, in the following publications:

Philipp Jakob Spener, Briefwechsel mit August Hermann Francke. 1689–1704, ed. Johannes Wallmann and Udo Sträter in collaboration with Veronika Albrecht-Birkner (Tübingen, 2006; URN:

Carl Hildebrand von Canstein, Der Briefwechsel Carl Hildebrand von Cansteins mit August Hermann Francke, ed. Peter Schicketanz, Texte zur Geschichte des Pietismus, 3, 1 (Berlin, 1972; URN:

August Hermann Francke: A. H. Franckes Briefe an den Grafen Heinrich XXIV. j.L. Reuß zu Köstritz und seine Gemahlin Eleonore aus den Jahren 1704 bis 1727 als Beitrag zur Geschichte des Pietismus, ed. Berthold Schmidt and Otto Meusel (Leipzig, 1905; URN:

Scope of Catalogue

The catalogue’s metadata include content summaries and keywords. As these are only available in German, they are not included at present in EMLO.

Further resources

Selected Bibliography

Vier Thaler und sechzehn Groschen. August Hermann Francke. Der Stifter und sein Werk. Ausstellung der Franckeschen Stiftungen vom 21. März 1998 bis 31. Januar 1999, Kataloge der Franckeschen Stiftungen, 5, ed. Paul Raabe unter Mitwirkung von Hannelore Ruhle and Elke Stateczny (Halle, 1998).

Helmut Obst and Paul Raabe, Die Franckeschen Stiftungen zu Halle (Saale). Geschichte und Gegenwart (Halle, 2000).

Helmut Obst, Augst Hermann Francke und sein Werk (Halle, 2013).

Die Welt verändern. August Hermann Francke—Ein Lebenswerk um 1700. Katalog zur Jahresausstellung der Franckeschen Stiftungen vom 24. März bis 21. Juli 2013, Kataloge der Franckeschen Stiftungen, 29, ed. Holger Zaunstöck, Thomas Müller-Bahlke und Claus Veltmann (Halle, 2013).

Das Hallesche Waisenhaus. Die Franckeschen Stiftungen mit ihren Sehenswürdigkeiten, Kataloge der Franckeschen Stiftungen, 3, ed. Thomas Müller-Bahlke (Halle, 2015, revised and expanded).

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