Sunday, 19 May 2024

Christiansfeld 250th Anniversary

Christiansfeld is located between Kolding and Haderslev in the southern part of the Jutland peninsula in the border area between Germany and Denmark. It is the only Moravian Congregation in Denmark and the first Moravian settlement to be nominated to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2015, which declared that it displays the outstanding universal values (OUV) III and IV in the UNESCO valuation. Today, the congregation have approximately 350 members of which around 150 live in Christiansfeld. Many members of the congregation participate in and contribute to the life of the church all year round by participating in the Sunday worship service and by carrying out their different tasks.


Count Zinzendorf had a special connection to Denmark, as he was related to the Danish royal house. In 1728 Zinzendorf visited the future King Christian VI of Denmark and Norway who was strongly influenced by pietism and again in 1731 for the coronation of the King. Therefore, the Moravian Church was already present in Denmark from about 1739, where the Fraternal Society was established in Copenhagen and other minor societies around Denmark as in Stepping, near the future Christiansfeld. In the middle of the 1740s, the activities of the Moravian Church sparked resistance within the Danish ecclesiastical community and two decrees were published, aiming at limiting the influence of the Moravian Church movement in Denmark.

In 1768, King Christian VII visited Zeist as a part of his tour of Europe. The King was impressed by the settlement, and he realised the commercial potential of a brethren settlement in Denmark. The high-ranking Danish government officials C.A. Struensee and Lorenz Prætorius were the prime movers in the establishment of the settlement. L. Prætorius had established the Brethren Society in Copenhagen and contacted Herrnhut on behalf of the King. The negotiations were concluded in 1771 by the withdrawal of the two aforementioned decrees, and agreement of the King to a formal concession as a foundation for establishing a settlement. The content of the concession was mainly written by the Moravian authorities in Germany and Denmark. The estate at Tyrstrupgaard being Crown property, located between Kolding and Haderslev was purchased, and the precise location of the settlement was determined.

The concession of the settlement and the purchase of Tyrstrupgaard were finally confirmed on 11th June 1722.

Johannes Prætorius, the son of L. Prætorius, was deeply engaged in the negotiations between the Danish authorities and the Unity Elders Conference (UEC) in Herrnhut and Jonathan Briant, the chairman of the Brethren Society in Copenhagen were together tasked with establishing the town. Later on, J. Briant was named the first superintendent and L. Prætorius the first pastor of the developing settlement Christiansfeld.

The construction of the town plan was based on Herrnhaag and Gnadau and by start of 1773, the whole town plan was laid out and building materials and workers were obtained for the start of construction of the settlement.

The foundation stone was laid for the first four houses on 1st April 1772. They included Lindegade 17, the first room for worship, Lindegade 26 (superintendent's house), Lindegade 28 (the vicarage) and the hotel (Gemeinlogi). The two private dwellings and the hotel were already ready for occupation in August 1773. The church room in Lindegade 17 was inaugurated at the Elder's Feast on 13th November 1773. Work on the God's Acre was also initiated in this period. During the next ten years, 30 buildings were erected, fully or partly, including choir houses: the Brothers' House in 1774, Sisters' House in 1776 and the Widows' House in 1779, and in 1777 the main wing of the present Saal House was completed, while the two adjacent wings were not added until 1796-1797 and a retail building (Gemein Laden) was built in 1778.

Christiansfeld was established on agricultural land. The town plan has two parallel streets (Lindegade and Nørregade) with a central square (Grev Zinzendorf Plads) surrounded by the Saal House, the Sisters' House, the Vicarage, the former Principal's House and the First House. God's Acre is situated in the Northeastern corner of the settlement. The buildings used by girls and women, as Sisters House, Widows House and Girls School are situated in the north side of the town and closest to the Sister's entrance door in the Saal House.

An important reason for the King to initiate the establishment of Christiansfeld was the desire to introduce more sophisticated and developed industrial production and commerce. The production of high-quality goods for sale and for their own use was the aim of the Moravian Church, and to support this the King had, through the concession, given favorable tax conditions for the first ten years as well as a financial subsidy to the construction of the buildings.

The aim was accomplished by the foundation of a wide variety of businesses during the first few years. In the Brothers' house a bakery, a tailoring shop and a weaving mill, a tannery, a shoemaker, a carpenter, a small smithy, a pottery, a glazier and a goldsmith is mentioned already in 1776. Workshops in the Sisters' house were established in 1776 and a clothing industry was initiated.

The two enterprises for which Christiansfeld is famous for even today are the Christiansfeld Stoves and the Christiansfeld Gingerbread (honey cakes), both founded in these early years.

The town was prospering during the period 1810-1820, when the choir houses were extended and both girls' and boys' boarding schools were established. It was also in this period that most of the family houses were built, and the border of the original town was established.

Christiansfeld experienced financial decline later in the 19th Century, as both the end of the advantageous tax conditions given in the concession, as well as the financial and agricultural crises following the Napoleonic wars consequently meant a decrease in the building activity and the market prospects. In spite of this decline, some parts of the community thrived. Philipp Jacob Roentgen was called to Christiansfeld and became leader of the schools. In a few years he turned the decline to success with a rising number of pupils. Roentgen also engaged in very successful missionary work in Denmark and his work laid the foundation for the flourishing of interest in mission work and the later founding of Nordslesvigsk Missionsforening (North Schleswig Missionary Society), the predecessor of Br¿dremenighedens Danske Mission (Danish Moravian Mission) (B.D.M.), which is still very active.

Christiansfeld was under German rule from 1864 to 1920. The disruption between Danish-minded and German-minded Sisters and Brothers, caused tensions in the congregation, but the religious community was maintained.

During the inter-war period, the buildings that were owned by the Unity (The Deacony, the property managing arm of the Moravian Church based in Herrnhut) were taken over by the Congregation, except for Tyrstrupgaard and the Boys' school, which was sold. The Congregation still has ownership of about 35 properties in the town.

In recent years, major parts of the original town have undergone restoration with the help of grants received from larger private foundations, Ministry of Culture, the Municipality and by finance from the congregations as much as possible. The latest project completed was the renovation of God's Acre and that was accomplished in 2019. Currently the west wing of the Widows' House is undergoing major restoration in a project to transform the house to a beautiful new museum for the Moravian Church in Christiansfeld and the missionary work that originated in the town.


Celebrations will take part during the whole of 2023 and include several activities. On 1st April (the foundational day of Christiansfeld), the whole congregation will assemble in the neighbouring romantic garden in Christinero, where there will be short speeches and celebrations. After a walk back to Christiansfeld there will be a short ceremony on Zinzendorf Plads, in front of the Church Hall. The congregation will host refreshments on the nearby Prætorius Torv.

On 13th August, Love Feast is held with invited guests from the Danish authorities and the Danish State Church, other denominations, the Moravian Church, the congregation, and friends of the Moravian Church.

Br¿dremenighedens Museum and the local museum, Museum Kolding, will join together in arranging an anniversary exhibition about the foundation of Christiansfeld and the history of the city. The exhibition will open on 20th June and display artifacts from the Christiansfeld Moravian Museum's collections.

More than 20 musical arrangements, both classical and modern music will take place and it is hoped to attract many people. The anniversary will be celebrated with an intriguing musical program, including diverse pieces such as Joseph Haydn's The Creation (08/10/2023), Bach's The Passion of John (31/03/2023) and a first performance of Magnoliakoret, a piece written by Olga Witte including elements from the Moravian history and a meeting of modern church music, experimental jazz and modern classical music (10/08/2023). During 2023 Juliane Ilgner, the organist in Christiansfeld, will arrange matinees on the last Saturday in the month at 11 o'clock.

The Union of Danish Amateur Choirs, Kor 72 will be performing a workshop with pieces from our rich collection of music from the archives in Christiansfeld and present the result in a concert in the Hall on Sunday 29th October, at 3.50pm. These and other concerts will mark the anniversary.


In relation to the anniversary, Brødremenigheden and the local museum, Museum Kolding, has collaborated on a publication of a new anthology about the founding and early years of Christiansfeld. The book will, among others, contain chapters about the musical history, the first sisters, the foundation, and the predecessors to Christiansfeld in the area.

Brødremenigheden in Christiansfeld is pleased to publish the book of order for living in Christiansfeld, in German bearing the title: 'Der evangelischen Brüdergemeine zu Christiansfeld brüderliches Einverständnis über derselben Ordnungen' printed 1781. The book contains the original German text in extenso, a translation to Danish and a translation to modern Danish. The book will be distributed to the whole Christiansfeld Congregation.

Finally, we will be very happy to see any of you at the celebrations!

If you have questions about the arrangements, you are welcome to contact Jørgen Boytler, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Käte Thomsen, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Lise Brock Andersen

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