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Ludwig Helmbold (Hymn-Writer, Composer)

Born: 1532 - Mühlhausen, Thuringia, Germany
Died: 1598 - Mühlhausen, Thuringia, Germany

The poet Ludwig Helmbold (Louis Helmboldt), in the tone and power of his compositions, is more akin to Martin Luther and his contemporaries, although in age he belongs to a later generation..

He was, like Nikolaus Selnecker and Bartholomäus Ringwaldt, a native of one of the great free cities, Mühlhausen, where his father, a wealthy woollen manufacturer, was a senator and had married into one of the neighbouring noble families. At fifteen the young Ludwig already went to the university of Erfurt.

At eighteen his native city made him head-master of one of its schools - a position, however, which he found it best to resign in about eighteen months. He then returned to Erfurt, obtained a professorship, and for seventeen years was Dean of the Philosophical Faculty. At this university there was at that time both a Romanist and an Evangelical party; and when the former from political circumstances for a while obtained the preponderance, Helmbold, as a leader of the latter, was obliged to leave, to the great indignation of the town and the students. He went back to Mühlhausen, and at the age of forty took orders, and was appointed by the town-council to one of their churches, and to the rectorship of a great school; and was finally made general-superintendent, an office answering to that of a bishop with us.

Ludwig Helmbold was one of the principal poets of his day, and published a number of Latin odes and elegies, for which the Emperor Maximilian, at the Diet of Augsburg, awarded him the honours and emoluments of poet-laureate. Of his German writings the odes are said to be very poor, but he was a fertile song-writer both for the school and home, after the manner of Nikolaus Herman, and for the Church. One of his hymns is to be found in all German hymn-books, and has rooted itself among the people. It was written in 1563, when a terrible pestilence attacked Erfurt, and in the course of a year destroyed 4,000 of its inhabitants, so that the university had to be broken up for some months. Helmbold gave this hymn to the wife of one of his friends, as she was starting on a hasty flight from the city; and in most of the old hymn-books it is headed ‘The True Christian's Vade-Mecum’.


Source: CCEL Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (May 2003)

Texts of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works

BWV 73, BWV 79, BWV 165, BWV 186a,

Chorale Texts used in Bach’s Vocal Works





Nun laßt uns Gott dem Herren



Von Gott will ich nicht lassen



Chorale Melodies used in Bach’s Vocal Works

Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ (once thought to be the composer)




Links to other Sites

Louis Helmboldt (CCEL)


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