Above: Johann Cruger
Image in the Public Domain
As a writer and editor of tunes this distinguished musician occupies a special niche in the hymnic hall of fame.
–Armin Haeussler, The Story of Our Hymns: The Handbook to the Hymnal of the Evangelical and Reformed Church (1952)
Johann Cruger ranks among the greatest composers in the Lutheran Church. He, born at Gross-Breesen, Brandenburg, on April 9, 1598, studied at Guben, Sorau, and Breslau before studying at the Jesuit school at Olmutz then the Poets’ School at Regensburg. At Regensburg Cruer studied music under Paul Homberber, who had been a student of Giovanni Gabrieli. Next our saint traveled in Austria, Hungary, Bohemia, and Moravia before settling in Berlin in 1615. Then he worked as a private tutor until 1620, when he began to study music and theology at the University of Wittenberg.
Cruger settled at Berlin again in 1622, when he became the cantor (organist and choirmaster) at St. Nicholas Church and a teacher at the Gray Cloister. Our saint held both posts for the rest of his life–about 40 years. Cruger composed at least 122 chorale tunes, 18 of which remained in widespread use at the times of the publication of The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) and Lutheran Worship (1982). In 1657 Paul Gerhardt became the deacon at St. Nicholas Church. They became friends and Cruger set 21 texts by Gerhardt to music.
Cruger edited and published five important volumes:
- Neues vollkommliches Gesangbuch (1640), with 161 hymns;
- Praxis Pietatis Melica (first edition, 1644; forty-fourth edition, 1736); the twenty-third edition (1688) included 1114 hymns; the forty-third edition had 1316 hymns;
- Geistliche Kirchenmelodien (1649), with 161 hymns;
- Geistliche Lieder und Psalmen (1653), with 92 tunes and no texts; and
- Psalmodia Sacra (1657), with 319 texts; intended for Huguenot immigrants.
Cruger died at Berlin on February 23, 1662. He was 63 years old.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
MARCH 16, 2017 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SAINT ADALBALD OF OSTEVANT, SAINT RICTRUDIS OF MARCHIENNES, AND THEIR RELATIONS
THE FEAST OF SAINT ABRAHAM KIDUNAIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT, AND SAINT MARY OF EDESSA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ANCHORESS
THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CACCIAFRONTE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, BISHOP, AND MARTYR
THE FEAST OF SAINT MEGINGAUD OF WURZGURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND ABBOT
Holy God, whose majesty surpasses all human definitions and capacity to grasp,
thank you for those (especially Johann Cruger)
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