Henrietta Catharina, Baroness von Gersdorff

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Henrietta Catharina, Baroness von Gersdorff (maiden name von Friesen auf Roetha, October 6, 1648, Sulzbach, Upper Palatinate – March 6, 1726, Grosshennersdorf, Upper Lusatia, Saxony) was a German Baroque religious poet, an advocate of Pietism and also a supporter of the beginnings of the Moravian Church. She was the maternal grandmother of Nicolas Ludwig, Count von Zinzendorf.

Plaque on the wall of the Lutheran church in Großhennersdorf commemorating the place of eternal rest of Henriette von Gersdorff

Born the daughter of Karl, Baron von Friesen, she was educated in Dresden and Leipzig. She was a sister of Otto Heinrich von Friesen, chancellor to Saxon Elector Friedrich August I (August der Starke or Augustus the Strong). Unlike most girls of the time, she was trained in multiple disciplines and even as a youth she was recognized by her contemporaries for her German and Latin verses. She early became a correspondent with many theologians and scientists of the day.

At the age of 24 in 1672, she married Nicolas, Baron von Gersdorff (1629–1702), governor of the Saxon Upper Lusatia. In that capacity she was able to exercise a not unimportant influence in affairs of both church and state. She supported the movement called Pietism. In this she supported the efforts of Saxon Court Preacher Philipp Jakob Spener.

She not only encouraged the translation of the Bible into the Lusatian Slavic language of Sorbian but also encouraged the schooling of girls. In this connection she was engaged also in the founding of the Magdalenenstift School for girls in Altenburg.

Following her husband's death in 1702, she withdrew to her Grosshennersdorf estate in the mountains of eastern Saxony. There she devoted herself to the education of her grandson Nicolas Ludwig, Count von Zinzendorf. Her home was open to many visitors including Lutheran missionaries to Tranquebar and Greenland. She also frequently offered refuge to religious refugees escaping persecution in neighboring Bohemia and Moravia. The German Pietist poet Johann Jakob Rambach considered her spiritual poetry among the best of their day. Some of her verses are still used in the German Moravian Church.


translated from German Wikipedia, references there.