Zinzendorf, Nikolaus Ludwig von (1700-1760)

German nobleman, Pietist leader, and theologian of Moravian missions

ZinzendorfZinzendorf was born in Dresden. At the age of ten, following tutoring at home, he attended a boarding school in Halle conducted by August Hermann Francke. From 1716-1721 he traveled and studied law at the University of Wittenberg. He became a legal councilor at the Dresden court of the Saxon elector August the Strong in 1721. Following his marriage in 1722 to Countess Erdmuthe Dorothea von Reuss, he established his manorial home at Berthelsdorf in eastern Germany. Zinzendorf was released from state service in 1727 and devoted his life to leadership of the Moravians. Refugees from Bohemia and Moravia (present-day Czech Republic) had arrived on his land beginning in 1722, bringing with them the heritage of the suppressed Hussite Unity of the Brethren (Unitas Fratrum). Together with German Pietists, these people formed the nucleus of the new town Herrnhut and were the first members of the Moravian Church, which emerged as a separate denomination by the 1740s. As leader of the Moravians, Zinzendorf traveled oversee activity in Europe, England, the West Indies, and the eastern United States. His activities often aroused controversy, as he sought to guide the development of unique forms of Moravian witness. Self-sufficient settlement congregations were established to enhance the spirituality of the inhabitants and to serve as homesZinzendorf2for those who traveled to conduct renewal activities within established state churches or as missionaries among those who had never heard the gospel. He was consecrated a bishop in 1737. His greatest contribution to missiology was his awakening within Protestantism of an awareness of cross-cultural mission as a fundamental task of the church. Though not a systematic writer, he revealed in his published materials a consistent desire to seek contemporary expression of Christian theology.

David A. Schattschneider, “Zinzendorf, Nikolaus Ludwig von” in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed. Gerald H. Anderson (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998), 762.

This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright © 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of Macmillan Reference USA, New York, NY. All rights reserved.


Digital Text

Loskiel, George Henry. The History of the Moravian Mission Among the Indians in North America from its Commencement to the Present Time with a Preliminary Account of the Indians Compiled from Authentic Sources. Trans. Christian Ignatius La Trobe. London: T. Allman, 1838. Orig. London: John Stockdale, 1794.


Zinzendorf, Nikolaus L. von. Hymns Composed for the Use of the Brethren by the Right Reverend and most illustrious C. Z. London: Printed for James Hutton, 1749.

_____. Nine Public Lectures on Important Subjects in Religion, preached in Fetter Lane Chapel in London in the Year 1746. Translated and edited by George W. Forell. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1973.


Allen, Walser H. Who are the Moravians: The Story of the Moravian Church, a World-Wide Fellowship. Bethlehem, PA: n.p., 1966.

Atwood, Craig D. Community of the Cross: Moravian Piety in Colonial Bethlehem. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2004.

Fogleman, Aaron Spencer. Jesus is Female: Moravians and the Challenge of Radical Religion in Early America. Philadephia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007.

Freeman, Arthur J. An Ecumenical Theology of the Heart: The Theology of Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf. Bethlehem, PA: The Moravian Church in America, 1998.

Hamilton, Taylor. A History of the Moravian Church or the Unitas Fratrum of the United Brethren during the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. Bethlehem, PA: Time Publishing Company, 1900.

Heckewelder, John. A Narrative of the Mission of the United Brethren among the Delaware and Mohegan Indians from the year of its commencement in the year 1740 to the close of the year 1808. Philadelphia: n.p., 1820.

Holmes, John Beck. Historical Sketches of the Missions of the United Brethren for Propagating the Gospel Among the Heathen, from their Commencement to the Year 1817. London: n.p., 1827.

Hutton, J.E. A History of Moravian Missions. London: n.p., 1922.

Kinkel, Gary Steven. Our Dear Mother the Spirit: An Investigation of Zinzendorf’s Theology and Praxis. New York: University Press of America, 1990.

Langton, Edward. History of the Moravian Church: The Story of the First International Protestant Church. London: George Allen & Unwin, Ltd., 1956.

Lewis, A.J. Zinzendorf the Ecumenical Pioneer: A Study in the Moravian Contribution to Christian Mission and Unity. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1962.

Merritt, Jane T. At the Crossroads: Indians and Empire on a Mid-Atlantic Frontier, 1700-1763. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

Podmore, Colin. The Moravian Church in England, 1728-1760. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998.

Reichel, William, ed. Memorials of the Moravian Church Vol. I. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1870.

Sawyer, Edwin Albert. The Religious Experience of the Colonial American Moravians. Nazareth, PA: Moravian Historical Society, 1961.

Sensbach, Jon. “Searching for Moravians in the Atlantic World.” In Self, Community, World: Moravian Education in a Transatlantic World, edited by Heikki Lempa and Paul Peucker, 35-53. Bethlehem, PA: Lehigh University Press, 2010.

Sessler, Jacob John. Communal Pietism Among Early American Moravians. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1933.

Schattschneider, David A. “Moravians Approach the Indians: Theories and Realities.” In Unitas Fratrum, 21/22 (1988): 37-48.

_____. “The Missionary Theologies of Zinzendorf and Spangenberg.” Transactions of the Moravian Historical Society, 22 (1975): 213-33.

Weinlick, John R. Count Zinzendorf. New York: Abingdon Press, 1956.

Wessel, Carola. “‘We do not want to introduce anything new…’: Transplanting the Communal Life from Herrnhut to the Upper Ohio Valley.” In In Search of Peace and Prosperity. Edited by Hartmut Lehmann, Hermann Wellenreuther, and Renate Wilson, 246-62. University Park, PA: n.p., 2000.

Westmeir, Karl-Wilhem. “Becoming All Things to All People: Early Moravian Missions to Native North Americans.” In International Bulletin of Missionary Research, 21 no. 4 (October 1997):172-176.

_____. “Zinzendorf at Esopus: The Apocalyptical Missiology of Count Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf–A Debut to America.” In Missiology: An International Review, 22 no. 4 (October 1994): 419-436.

Wheeler, Rachel. To Live Upon Hope: Mohicans and Missionaries in the Eighteenth-Century Northeast. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008.

Hymns by Ludwig von Zinzendorf.

The Moravian Studies Bibliography at the Moravian Theological Seminary provides access to the “Leading Historical Figures in the Moravian Tradition,” including Zinzendorf.

In History of the Moravian Church, J. E. Hutton describes Zinzendorf’s role in mission history (Book Two, Chapter VI: The Foreign Missions and Their Influence).


“Nikolaus Ludwig Graf von Zinzendorf.” In Beyreuther, Erich. Zinzendorf und die Christenheit, 1732-1760. Marburg: Francke-Buchhandlung GmBh., 1961.