Christian Friedrich Schwarz
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Born on 8 October 1726 at Sonnenburg, in the electorate of Brandenburg, Prussia. Having learned Tamil to assist in a translation of the Bible into that language, he was led to form the intention of becoming a missionary to India. He received ordination at Copenhagen on 8 August 1749, and, after spending some time in England to acquire the English language, embarked early in 1750 for India.
He arrived at Tiruchirapalli on 30 July via Tranquebar. Tranquebar was for some time his headquarters, but he paid frequent visits to Thanjavur and Tiruchirapalli, and in 1766 moved to Tiruchirapalli. Here he acted as chaplain to the garrison, who erected a church for his general use.
In 1769 he secured the friendship of the king Raja Serfoji, who, although he never converted to Christianity, afforded him every countenance in his missionary labours. Raja Serfoji built a church to show his affection to Schwartz and it is still a symbol of tolerance seen on the part of the great Chola rulers towards different religions. Shortly before his death he committed to Schwarz the education of his adopted son and successor. Schwarz taught the prince, Prince Serfoji, and another slightly older pupil Vedanayagam using the gurukulam approach, where teacher and taught live together.
In 1779 Schwarz undertook, at the request of the British authorities in Madras (present day Chennai), a private embassy to Hyder Ali, the ruler of Mysore. When Hyder invaded the Carnatic, Schwarz was allowed to pass through the enemy's camp without molestation. After twelve years in Tiruchirapalli he removed to Thanjavur, where he spent the remainder of his life. He died on 13 February 1798.
Schwarz's direct success in making converts exceeded that of any other Protestant missionary in India, in addition to which he succeeded in winning the esteem of Muslims and Hindus. The raja of Tanjore erected a monument, executed by John Flaxman, in the mission church, in which he is represented as grasping the hand of the dying missionary and receiving his benediction. A monument to Schwarz by John Bacon was placed by the British East India Company in St Mary's church at Chennai. Schwarz High School in Ramanathapuram has produced notable students, among them Dr. Abdul Kalam, the former President of India.
The following is the wording of the Memorial commissioned by Raja Serfoji
To the memory of the Reverend Christian Frederic Swartz. Born at Sonnenburg of Neumark in the Kingdom of Prussia, the 26th of October 1726, and died at Tanjore the 13th of February 1798, in the 72d Year of his age. Devoted from his Early Manhood to the Office of Missionary in the East, the similarity of his situation to that of the first preachers of the gospel, produced in him a peculiar resemblance to the simple sanctity of the apostolic character. His natural vivacity won the affection as his unspotted probity and purity of life alike commanded the reverence of the Christian, Mahomedan and Hindu. For sovereign princes, Hindu, and Mahomeden selected this humble pastor as the medium of political negotiations with the British Government Maha Raja Serfojee
Replica of the Schwartz Memorial at the Tanjore Palace Museum
1911 Britannica references
- Remains of Schwarz, with a sketch of his life
- Memoirs of Life and Correspondence, by H. N. Pearson (1834, 3rd edition 1839)
- Life of Christian Friedrich Schwarz, by H. N. Pearson (1855).
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Schwarz, Christian Friedrich". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.