Michael Schulteis: Youth in Bunzlau

By Wilibald Gurlitt

Translator’s Preface

The following was translated from Wilibald Gurlitt’s Michael Praetorius (Creuzbergensis): Sein Leben und Seine Werke (Michael Praetorius [of Creuzburg]: His Life and His Works) (Leipzig: Druck von Breitkopf & Härtel, 1915), p. 7-9. This is the second in a series of posts on Michael Praetorius.

For more on the author, click here. For more on this particular work of the author, read the Translator’s Preface here.

As you will see, not much can be said about the youth of Michael Schulteis, Michael Praetorius’ father, until he enrolled at the University of Wittenberg in 1528. However, Gurlitt does describe the intellectual and spiritual mood of Schulteis’ hometown during his youth, as well as make some interesting conjectures about Schulteis’ ancestry.

Michael Schulteis: Youth in Bunzlau

Michael Schulteis was born around 1515 in Bunzlau am Bober.1* We do not have any authoritatively certified reports about his early childhood and upbringing, the life of his parents, or the origin of his family. The Bunzlau City Archives are unorganized and unfit for research at present,2 and do not seem to preserve any records from the first quarter of the 16th century.3 The city’s church records only go back to 1740.4 Even the detailed chronicle of Bunzlau by E. Wernicke, which carefully records every accessible detail of the city’s history, does not offer any reliable clues as to the Schulteis family history. Therefore we can only offer conjectures about the ancestry of Michael Schulteis.

It is plausible that he is connected with the long-established Scholtz family that was especially distinguished in the city’s history at the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries,5 although their Silesian descendants in the 17th century usually latinized their name as Scultetus, not Praetorius.6 This postulation seems to be supported by the expressly used name “M. Scholtz” in a call letter (Berufungsschreiben) dated July 30, 1544, issued by the council in Haynau, which was well acquainted with the civil circumstances in nearby Bunzlau.7

Among the members of the Scholtz family who are referred to in the first two decades of the 16th century in Wernicke’s chronicle, four of them earned the right to work as masters in the guild of furriers and cloth-workers in Bunzlau: Georg, Jakob and two men both named Hans.8 Wernicke also identifies three other men named Scholtz – Peter, Wolfgang, and Gregor, the neglected sons of the hereditary patron (Erbvogt) Anselm Scholtz9 – but as unprincipled men they are out of the question. Plus, most of the important preaching personalities of the old Protestant church who did not merely “join the cause of the gospel for the sake of the belly” came precisely from the manual laboring class of the cities that were on the rise.10 It seems best, then, to look for the Schulteis forefather (Michael Praetorius’ grandfather) among the Scholtzes in Bunzlau who were master ferriers and cloth-workers. Perhaps in the future, when the Bunzlau archives are rendered accessible for once, we can still hope to find some documentary reports about the Schulteis family. Given the current state of affairs, these conjectures will have to suffice.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, the city of Bunzlau was known far and wide as the homeland of famous Silesians, especially poets,11 though certainly the singular Martin Opitz alone carried its name throughout the world. Thus Andreas Tscherning, likewise a native of Bunzlau and, after Opitz, probably the best among the city’s poetic greats,12 sang about his hometown in his Spring of German Poems (Deutscher Gedichte Frühling) (1642):

… Who does not know firsthand
That the town, despite its size, is still a fatherland
Of such distinguished people, who multiply its name?13

For the small city on the Bober, whose cultivation and prosperity have been much extolled,14 it was a significant day when, two weeks after the public victory of the Protestant cause cause in Breslau, Jakob Süssenbach, a former student of the Wittenberg university, delivered the first evangelical sermon in the Bunzlau parish church on May 8, 1524.15 This also marked the beginning of a new, truly productive era for the city. Reformation-friendly currents had probably been spread along the Bober, just as elsewhere in Silesia, before Luther’s conscience-liberating doctrine made its public entrance. But how impressively the Reformer’s personal action of conviction was perceived as a furthering of freedom and of true progress of the culture in precisely this city as well – a poem of Tscherning still expresses that in unmistakable terms a hundred years later when the poet celebrates Luther as the “ancestor (Ahnen)” of Bunzlau’s intellectual greatness.16 Accordingly the resistance that the introduction of the new doctrine experienced in the churches of Bunzlau was only a remarkably feeble one. The last Catholic priest of the city, Master Johannes, was no man of determined opposition; there was a saying about him among the common folk: “Nice and easy, just like the priest in Bunzel (Bunzlau).”17

Only the discussions with the clergy and monks of Bunzlau’s Dominican cloister took on violent forms. These often turned into ugly, spiteful, public bickerings, whose vulgar crudeness was ill suited to inspire a high opinion of the condition of Catholic spirituality in the religiously inclined Schulteis boy, who witnessed these coarse scenes as some of the earliest reminiscences of his youth. On the other hand, the pastor Jakob Süssenbach, who lived in Bunzlau in close contact with the Wittenberg circle of reformers until 1532,18 may have gained influence with the boy, familiarized him with the new religious views, and perhaps personally recommended him to Wittenberg. For there, in the winter semester of 1528, Schulteis was matriculated as “Michael Schultze Boleslauien[sis] dioc[esis] Vratislauien[sis]” (Michael Schultze of Bunzlau in the Diocese of Breslau).19


1 Boleslav in Bohemian, whence the Latin name Boleslavia (Civitas Boleslaviensis). The common folk called it der Bun(t)zel. Cf. Ewald Wernicke, Chronik der Stadt Bunzlau (1884), p. 9. The copy of the Bunzlau chronicle by Fr. Holstein mentioned on p. iv of Wernicke’s Chronik is in the possession of the Leipzig University Library (Cod. Ms. 1567). It does not contain any essential reports that go above and beyond Wernicke’s thorough work.

* Today this is the Polish city Bolesławiec.

2 Communication from Mr. Richter, the present mayor of Bunzlau (September 28, 1912).

3 Wernicke, op. cit., p. 4f.

4 Jungnitz and Eberlein, Die Kirchenbücher Schlesiens beider Confessionen (Breslau: Verein für Geschichte und Altertum Schlesiens, 1902), p. 8.

5 Wernicke, op. cit., p. 151f.

6 Ibid., p. 479.

7 Original in the Public Record Office (Staatsarchiv) in Weimar: Reg. Ll., p. 197, no. 138a, 7a.

8 Wernicke, op. cit., p. 163, 215.

9 Ibid., p. 151.

10 Cf. Paul Drews, Der evangelische Geistliche in der deutschen Vergangenheit (Jena, 1905).

11 Wernicke, op. cit., p. 278, 468ff.

12 Cf. H. Heinrich Borcherdt, “A. Tscherning” in Ein Beitrag zur Literatur- und Kulturgeschichte des 17. Jahrh. (Leipzig-München, 1912).

13 Wernicke, op. cit., p. 468.

14 Ibid., p. 278ff.

15 Ibid., p. 171. On J. Süssenbach, rf. p. 165ff.

16 Imparted ibid., p. 166.

17 Wernicke, op. cit., p. 131.

18 Ibid., p. 172.

19 C. Ed. Foerstemann, Album Academiae Vitebergensis (Leipzig, 1841), 1:133, b, no. 38. Also cf. Wernicke, op. cit., p. 279, and Enders and Kawerau, Luthers Briefwechsel, 12:244, note 3.

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Red Brick Parsonage is operated by a confessional Lutheran pastor serving in the Midwest.

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