Zinzendorf, Nikolaus Ludwig von
ZINZENDORF, NIKOLAUS LUDWIG VON
German religious reformer; b. Dresden, May 26, 1700; d. Herrnhut, May 6, 1760. Zinzendorf was one of the most striking and influential leaders of the Protestant world in the 18th century. He was chiefly responsible for reviving the old Church of the Czech Brethren, later renamed the Moravian Church. Zinzendorf came from an old Austrian Lutheran noble family that had achieved landed wealth in Upper Lusatia. As a student he came under the influence of A. H. Francke and of the Halle school of Lutheran Pietism. Later, as a student at Utrecht, he made Calvinist contacts, and when visiting in Paris, he approached members of the French episcopate, among them Cardinal de Noailles, with whom he maintained a lengthy correspondence. In 1722 he received on his Lusatian estate of Herrnhut (The Lord's Protection) a number of refugees from Bohemia and Moravia who had maintained much of the teachings of the Czech Brethren. Their coming acquainted Zinzendorf with the history and theology of the Unitas Fratrum, though these had already had some influence upon earlier Pietism through the medium of the work of J. A. comenius. It was Comenius's grandson Daniel Arnost Jablonsky (himself a bishop of the still surviving Polish Unitas) who in 1735 ordained the Moravian immigrant Nitzschmann and two years later Zinzendorf himself as bishops of the restored Church of the Brethren. As such, the Herrnhut group as well as a number of daughter communities in Prussia, the Netherlands, and England were recognized by the Prussian King Frederick William I as well as by Dr. Potter, Archbishop of Canterbury, as an "ancient Protestant Episcopal Church." In England and especially in the regions of the Americas, under Zinzendorf's active direction and participation, the Moravians soon undertook a vigorous and widespread missionary activity. Zinzendorf visited the American colonies and founded Bethlehem, Pa., in 1741. His meeting with John Wesley (in 1738 and later) ended in disagreement, but Wesley was influenced by Zinzendorf's disciple Peter Böhler and Methodism soon reflected Moravian piety. Zinzendorf's pietistic theology with its often overemotional aspects, at times taking the character of a specific mystical veneration of Christ's wounds, differed considerably from the quieter, more ethically oriented teachings of the older Unitas Fratrum. Both emphasized strong and joyous Christocentrism; and the congregational character of the movement, with its
emphasis on communal cooperation, maintained much of the old heritage. Zinzendorf's ecumenical church policy failed to end sectarian disagreements. He could not even prevent an open break with the Lutheran church, within whose framework he had hoped to keep the Moravian church as a sort of daughter organization. Yet when he died in 1760, exhausted, partly at least, from years of overwork in the service of his church, the survival of the Moravian church as a small but spiritually and educationally strong and creative religious group was assured.
Bibliography: j. t. mÜller, Zinzendorf als Erneuerer der alten Brüderkirche (Leipzig 1900). o. steinecke, Zinzendorf und der Katholicismus (Halle 1902). o. pfister, Die Frömmigkeit des Grafen Ludwig von Zinzendorf (2d ed. Vienna 1925), a psychological study. j. r. weinlick, Count Zinzendorf (Nashville 1956). r. a. knox, Enthusiasm (New York 1961).
[f. g. heymann]