Michael Schulteis: Educational Setting in Torgau

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. 10-13. This is the fourth 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.

This section picks up after Michael Schulteis, Michael Praetorius’ father, has either obtained his Bachelor’s degree from, or dropped out of, the University of Wittenberg and has been called to teach at the Latin grammar school in Torgau around 1534, at about age 19.

Gurlitt takes much of what follows from Section 2, Part 4 of Karl Pallas’ Die Registraturen der Kirchenvisitationen im ehemals sächsischen Kurkreise (The Registries of the Church Visitations in Former Electoral Saxony) (Halle: Druck und Verlag von Otto Hendel, 1911), which is Volume 41 of the series Geschichtsquellen der Provinz Sachsen und angrenzender Gebiete (Historical Sources from the Province of Saxony and Neighboring Regions), published by the Historical Commission for the Province of Saxony and the Duchy of Anhalt. I added a couple sentences from this source that Gurlitt did not include because, based on Endnote 10, the extra sentences perhaps lend further insight into Schulteis’ life in Torgau.

Michael Schulteis: Educational Setting in Torgau

In contrast to Wittenberg, which is regarded as the “mother of the Reformation,” Torgau is rightly called the “wet nurse of the Reformation.” More than anything else, the remarkable effectiveness of the Torgau grammar school1 seems to justify this reputation. After Wittenberg, it was the best and most sought-after school in electoral Saxony, and the Reformers took particular satisfaction in it. Luther became thoroughly acquainted with it on his first church visitation to Torgau in April, 1529, and afterwards praised it again and again as an ideal model school. He was also on friendly terms with many of its teachers. In August, 1531, Melanchthon reorganized it at the request of the Torgau council.2 Information about the setup of the school in which Michael Schulteis began his career can already be found in the visitation minutes of 1529. They essentially agree with the well-known model plan for a three-level Latin school which was appended as the final chapter to the Instructions for the Visitors of the Parish Pastors in Electoral Saxony (Wittenberg, 1528).3

Since we have no useable presentation of Torgau’s city history pertaining to the Reformation era, permit me to compile some excerpts from the “Special articles submitted to the council in Torgau” (March 22, 1534)4 that are significant for understanding Schulteis’ teaching years in Torgau. They are arranged according to the following areas:

1) Church: “The affairs of this place pertaining to the doctrine and life of the pastor [Gabriel Zwilling (Didymus)], the chaplain, and the other church and school officers – God be praised – have been found to be in order and absent of all dissension and discord.” The good relationship between the first Protestant clergymen and teachers in Torgau is also confirmed by a note in the diary of Summer, Torgau’s city physician and a contemporary of Luther: “There was utmost harmony among them; no disagreement was ever heard among them. They were each tolerant of each other and compliant with each other.”5

“The council has also consented that henceforth the pastor shall be the one to choose which chaplains, schoolmasters, schoolmaster’s assistants, sacristans, and students who have studied in Wittenberg for several years should be obtained for service in this city. He shall do so according to necessity, not choosing the ones to whom he is partial, but those who are the most qualified, always keeping in mind that the schoolmaster’s assistants should be people who will render due obedience to the schoolmaster. The pastor and council shall also have the authority to dismiss the deacons and other church and school officers if there is just cause, and to make other fitting Christian arrangements in religious matters… Since it has also been determined that another deacon is urgently needed on account of the large number of people [and the influx of nonresidents occasioned by the temporary residence of the court]6 and for many other pressing reasons, the Visitors have also prescribed another deacon at the request issued by the council and the congregation. He shall render the same obedience to the pastor that is required of the other two deacons, and shall serve by proclaiming God’s word clearly, purely, and without error, unmixed with the word of man or idle talk; by administering both sacraments in a Christian manner, in conformity with God’s word and the prescription of the visitation; by conducting services; and by visiting and comforting the sick on the basis of God’s word. In return his annual recompense shall be: 40 florins, 1 bucket of grain,* 5 cords of wood, and 1 bushel of salt – all from the general fund.” (Michael Schulteis took over this newly created position on November 19, 1539.)

“Also henceforth, on the evening of every high festival and on the actual festival day, a vesper service shall be held in which a Christian sermon about that particular festival shall be delivered in the presence of all the students, until such time in the future as the vesper service and sermon can also be prepared every Saturday at the convenience of the people. When the third deacon is taken on, an attempt may be made to see whether a short vesper service and sermon might be held every Saturday, and especially the Small Catechism for the youth and others. As for the evening sermon on workdays during the week, it is reasonable to discontinue it once again, considering that the morning sermon is sufficient, and so that the ministers of God’s word are not loaded down with too much. Also, the sermons, both on festivals and Sundays and on workdays and normal days, should not be drawn out for too long.”

2) School: “Henceforth there shall be four paid school officers, until further notice and amendment, namely the schoolmaster [Benedikt Flemming (served 1528-1539)]7 and three bachelors. In addition, there shall be a cantor [Johann Walther, beginning in 1534]8 and custodian for our dear women. Until the general fund has greater resources, the following bachelors and other church and school officers shall in the meantime be given the annual raise hereafter specified: Bachelor Markus [Crodel; became schoolmaster in the place of B. Flemming in 1539] – 10 florins; Bachelor Georg [Wachsrink] – 10 florins; Bachelor Michael [Schulteis]9 – 10 florins. Also in the meantime, until the general fund is healthier, 10 florins shall be bestowed and given to the organist every year as his honorarium, and 1 florin to the bellows operator every quarter… In return the aforementioned church and school officers shall also, in exchange for such improvement, attend to all the aspects of their ministry [Diensts] all the more diligently, considering that they have such an important ministry. … Since also the schoolmaster and his assistants have lived at the school up until now (some of them along with their wives), the Visitors have made provision, in order to prevent any sort of impropriety, that henceforth none of the school officers shall ever again live at the school along with his wife and children. However, one of these bachelors, if he has no wife, may have living space at the school, together with the nonresident students.10 And the bachelor who lives at the school shall take good care of the fire, the windows, and the boys who live with him at the school, so that the school does not fall into ruin. The bachelor who lives at the school shall also collect the wood money and purchase wood. … Also, when necessity demands that the students be punished, the schoolmaster and his assistants shall henceforth not carry out such punishment with knocking, shoving, and undue and excessive blows, but in good moderation… In return an honorable council shall also see to it that the students render all due obedience to the schoolmaster and the bachelors…for the youth, especially in these recent, dangerous times, are very quick to seize an opportunity to disobey. … Also, since the school in Torgau – God be praised – is invested with many and learned assistants, the school officers shall accordingly apply themselves diligently to the youth, so that the poor boys who are unable to be in universities, on account of their parents’ lack of means and the lack of other people’s patronage, may learn grammar and Latin thoroughly and well in the school at low cost… The schoolmaster and his assistants shall also see to it with all diligence that the instruction takes place in simplicity, as detailed in the Visitors’ printed instructions.”

“The youth and their abilities should be exercised by reciting the comedies. This suits us well, and we know of no better place where such a performance might be put on than our city hall in the summer, and at the drinking hall in the winter, which drinking hall we have hitherto lent them for this purpose as often as they have required it and have kept the doors closed to the rabble. We are also at liberty to give the boys 1 florin for refreshment for every comedy they put on, provided that the boys also derive benefit from such performances, and that a comedy shall be performed more than just on the last day before Lent.”11

3) Library: “The council in Torgau shall also take care that the library and books in the Franciscan monastery do not get torn up, but are maintained faithfully, well, and in such a way that those who want to study and read may go there to do so. They shall also take care that this library is augmented from year to year with the best and most useful books, to be furnished by the general fund.”

4) Choir [Kantorei]:12 “Since God the Almighty has favored this city of Torgau, more than many others, with a glorious ensemble of musicians and singers, the Visitors deem that, for the people who serve in this way, it is only reasonable that a publicly funded dinner be henceforth given to compensate them [what later became the convivum musicum generale or public musical banquet], as has been done in the past. They likewise make provision that, besides this, a council should also afford such persons an advantage over others in their respective trades, as much as ever possible and feasible, in order to make them all the more willing to exercise their abilities in this Christian and honorable way, and in order to encourage others all the better in that direction, until such time as a regular yearly honorarium can be made in return for their services.”

These content-packed primary source testimonies speak for themselves, and they offer deeper insights into the educational circumstances of Torgau at that time than the paltry collection of anecdotes that Grulich cites in an attempt to characterize this period.13 All that remains for us is to become more closely acquainted with the personalities with whom the young Schulteis came into contact, both by virtue of his office and in his day-to-day life.

Endnotes

1 Cf. Friedrich Joseph Grulich, Denkwürdigkeiten der altsächsischen kurfürstlichen Residenz Torgau aus der Zeit und zur Geschichte der Reformation, 2nd ed. by J. Chr. A. Bürger (Torgau: Verlag der Wienbrack’schen Buchhandlung, 1855), p. 167ff. The information imparted here requires careful verification, since the primary sources in the Grammar School Library [Gymnasialbibliothek], on which the work is based and from which also Otto Taubert confidently draws (Die Pflege der Musik in Torgau vom Ausgange des 15. Jahrhunderts bis auf unsere Tage [Torgau: Verlag von Friedr. Jacob, 1868]), are simply far too muddied.

2 Friedrich Lebrecht Koch, De scholae Torgaviensis constitutione ac forma (Wittenberg, 1815), p. 48f.

3 Karl Hartfelder, Ph. Melanchthon als Praeceptor Germaniae (Berlin, 1889), p. 419ff. Also cf. Fr. Paulsen, Geschichte des gelehrten Unterrichts, 2nd ed. (1896), part 2, and the ample examples of specialized literature recorded in both places.

4 Karl Pallas, ed., Die Registraturen der Kirchenvisitationen im ehemals sächsischen Kurkreise, in Geschichtsquellen der Provinz Sachsen und angrenzender Gebiete, vol. 41, sect. 2, part 4 (Halle: Druck und Verlag von Otto Hendel, 1911), p. 19-24.

5 J. Grulich, op. cit., p. 56, note †.

6 K, Pallas, op. cit., p. 15.

* German: 1 mld. Korns. I have taken “mld.” to be an abbreviation for “Mulde.”

7 Grulich, op. cit., p. 172.

8 O. Taubert, op. cit., p. 4. Note that 1534 was only when Walther began his work as cantor in the school. See further down under “4) Choir,” where the work he had already accomplished is alluded to with the phrase “glorious ensemble of musicians and singers.” – trans.

9 Cf. the thorough study by C. Knabe, Die Torgauer Visitations-Ordnung von 1529 (Torgauer Schulprogramm, 1881), p. 9f, where indeed no distinction is made between the identity of “Schulteis” and “Michael from Bunzlau,” and his arrival in Torgau is erroneously given as 1536. Notwithstanding this small mistake, the work contains valuable reports on Torgau personalities, compiled on the basis of account ledgers and council minutes. “Donat Michael” as an identification for Schulteis can hardly be debated, since only the first names are mentioned for the other two bachelors. What probably happened was that the young Schulteis, by participating in an especially memorable way in the edition of the Donat that the Torgau faculty published for their school in 1533 (cf. Karl Hartfelder, Melanchthoniana Paedagogica [Leipzig: Druck und Verlag von B. G. Teubner, 1892], p. 49f), acquired a nickname that he could not shake – “Donat Michael.” This name does not seem to correspond to a separate individual.

10 After this, Schulteis, as the last-named (and thus probably the youngest and unmarried) bachelor, may have lived “at the school.”

11 Letter from the council to the school personnel from 1534, quoted by K. Pallas, op. cit., p. 16.

12 Cf. O. Taubert, op. cit., p. 3f.

13 Grulich, op. cit., p. 53ff.

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

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