Above: Logo of the Moravian Church
Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor
PETRUS HERBERT (1530-OCTOBER 1, 1571)
German Moravian Bishop and Hymnodist
Petrus Herbert was a major figure in the early history of the Moravian Church. Our saint, born at Fulneck, Moravia, in 1530, graduated from Wittenberg University in 1557. He joined the Bohemian Brethren at Jungbunzlau (now Mlada Boleslav, Czech Republic). Herbert, ordained in 1562, translated the Unity’s revised confession of faith into German and presented a copy of it to Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II (reigned 1564-1576) in 1564. Maximilian, although a lifelong Roman Catholic, harbored strong Lutheran sympathies. Two years later Herbert presented a copy of the Kirchengesang (1566), the new German-language hymnal of the Moravian Church, to Maximilian, to whom he and the other two editors of that volume had dedicated said hymn book.
One purpose of the Kirchengesang (1566) was to prove that the Moravian Church was an orthodox Christian organization. Herbert, Michael Tham the Elder, and Jan Jelecky edited the hymnal. The volume contained 348 hymns (90 of which our saint had translated) in the main section and 108 Lutheran hymns in the appendix. Joseph Theodor Muller (1854-1946), German Moravian minister and archivist, wrote that
simplicity and beauty of style
distinguished Herbert’s hymn texts. The Kirchengesang remained in print for a long time, going into print again in 1580. Revised editions debuted in 1606, 1639, 1661, and 1694.
Herbert served in the Unity of the Brethren in other ways also. He represented the Moravian Church in theological discussions with John Calvin (1509-1564) in Switzerland. Our saint also joined the denomination’s Select Council in 1567. Later he represented the Brethren in discussions with Duke Christoph of Wurttemberg (reigned 1550-1568) regarding young men from the Unity of the Brethren being able to attend the University of Tubingen. Herbert also became a Consenior of the Unity, which meant that he became legally responsible for the denomination’s estates and property.
Herbert died at Eisenschutz (now Ivancice, Czech Republic) on October 1, 1571.
I have added four of our saint’s hymns to my GATHERED PRAYERS weblog. Most of his hymns, I have concluded, have not entered into English-language hymnody. That, I argue, is unfortunate.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
JULY 11, 2016 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT OF NURSIA, FATHER OF WESTERN MONASTICISM
THE FEAST OF NATHAN SODERBLOM, SWEDISH ECUMENIST AND ARCHBISHOP OF UPPSALA
Holy God, whose majesty surpasses all human definitions and capacity to grasp,
thank you for those (especially Petrus Herbert)
who have nurtured and encouraged the reverent worship of you.
May their work inspire us to worship you in knowledge, truth, and beauty.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1 Chronicles 25:1-8
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
NOVEMBER 27, 2012 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES INTERCISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR
THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGIAN
This is post #1450 of SUNDRY THOUGHTS.