“A Memorial to After-Ages”: Philanthropy, Spiritual Autobiography, and the Past, Present, and Future in the Work of August Hermann Francke


Examining the philanthropically minded work and the writing of the Prussian Pietist August Hermann Francke (1663-1727), a professor and minister, who in 1695 began a series of philanthropic ventures in Halle, including schools, an orphanage, and a variety of other charitable activities, this paper analyses how Francke conceived of time, place, and history. In his autobiographical account he observed that his successful establishment of an orphanage and other charitable institutions in Halle were the result of divine provision in response to prayer. Published in 1705 and entitled, Pietas Hallensis: or, A publick demonstration of the foot-steps of a divine being yet in the world. In an historical narration of the orphan-house and other charitable Institutions, at Glaucha near Hall in Saxony, Francke’s account was read by other Pietists, Puritans, and eighteenth-century Christians as a source of spiritual nourishment and inspiration for taking social action. Francke intended the account to be a record for future generations because, as he observed, his contemporaries undervalued what God was doing among them due to their “ungrateful Unbelief.” This paper addresses how Francke anticipated the future use of his autobiographical account to inspire philanthropic ventures aimed at helping those on the margins of society, most notably the poor and orphans. The paper also addresses how Francke intended his charitable activities and spiritual autobiography to be a source for confirming God’s work in the world and reorient Christian piety by claiming the physical space of cities as a site of practical devotion to God.


Darin Lenz
Professor of History and Chair, History, Biola University, California, United States


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Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


2024 Special Focus—Spaces, Movement, Time: Religions at Rest and in Movement



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