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Count Nicholas Ludvig von Zinzendorf (1700-60)

Count Nicholas Ludvig von Zinzendorf was born at Herrnhut in Germany. He was raised by his grandmother and was educated at a Pietist school, Wittenberg University and the University of Utrecht where he studied law and politics.

Zinzendorf served as a councillor to the Elector of Saxony and preached in his spare time. In 1722 he purchased the estate of Berthelsdorf from his grandmother and offered it as a place of refuge for Moravian refugees from Silesia. Although he remained a committed member of the Lutheran Church, Zinzendorf encouraged the Moravians to re-establish their Brethren. He resigned his post at the Saxon court in 1727 and henceforth devoted all his time to the needs of the community.

In 1734 Zinzendorf was ordained, in the apparent hope that he could establish a Moravian branch of the Lutheran Church. These plans came to nothing and he was exiled by the Saxon government although the Brethren were not banned. In exile, he devoted much time to fostering overseas missions in the West Indies and elsewhere.

During a visit to England in 1737 he was introduced to Archbishop Potter and later that year in Berlin he was consecrated a Moravian bishop, with a responsibility which was defined four years later as that of general warden of the church. Zinzendorf visited England again in 1741 and met with John Wesley to discuss theological differences. In the same year, he visited North America and remained there for two years, serving as a Lutheran pastor in Phladelphia while attempting to organise German Protestant congregations in Pennsylvania into an ecumenical synod.

Upon his return to Germany, he tried to re-establish closer links with the Lutherans and took part in an ill-starred mission to Russia.

From 1749 to 1755, Zinzendorf based himself in London. His attempts to secure parliamentary recognition of the Moravians as an 'ancient Protestant Episcopal Church' were ultimately successful, but the costs incurred, brought the church to the brink of bankruptcy.

Zinzendorf returned to Herrnhut in 1755 and surrendered some of his powers. His death occurred after a period of declining health.

Source: Dictionary of Evangelical Biography 1739-1860, edited by Donald M. Lewis (1995)

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