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Benjamin Schmolck (Hymn-Writer)

Born: December 21, 1672 - Brauchitzchdorf (near Liegnitz), Silesia, Germany
Died: February 12, 1737 - Schweidnitz, Silesia, Germany

Benjamin Schmolck was the son of the minister Martin Schmolck (Schmolcke). For five years he studied at the Lauban Gymnasium. When he came home he delivered a sermon which so pleased his father that he at once determined to provide the means for his theological education. He came to the University of Leipzig, where pious and able teachers, especially P. Olearius and J.B. Carpzov, exerted great influence upon him (1693-1697). He began to write poems, including occasional songs for the wealthy, securing for him a considerable extra income.

Having passed the theological examinations, Benjamin Schmolck returned in 1694 to his home, where he was ordained and called as his father’s successor. In 1702 he was chosen deacon of Friedenkirche in Schweidnitz. The Catholics had seized all the churches in this district. The Lutherans were permitted only a “meeting-house” (without steeple or tower) erected outside the city limits. This meeting-house was the only Lutheran church for a district comprising about 36 villages. Here Schmolck labored during the remainder of his life. He was promoted to archdeacon, 1708, and to senior, 1712, pastor primarius and inspector, 1714. In 1716 the city of Schweidnitz was destroyed by fire, and many of those who were nearest to him died. He spent a comparatively quiet and carefree life until his 58th year. Then, on the third Sunday of Lent, while he was seated in his home, he was stricken with paralysis. His right side, arm, and leg were paralyzed. He recovered, however, sufficiently to continue his work for five years more in spite of great physical pain. On the Day of Humiliation and Prayer, 1735, he preached his last sermon. Another stroke cast him upon the sickbed, where he lay blind and speechless and was scarcely able to place his hand upon the heads of his people who came to him for blessing. He died on the anniversary of his wedding day, February 12, 1737.

Benjamin Schmolck was a beloved pastor, an able preacher, a man of tact and discretion. He was a prolific hymn writer. Most of his hymns and spiritual songs are found in different books published from 1704 to 1734. The first volume, entitled: Heilige Flammen der himmlisch-gesinnten Seele, appeared during Schmolck’s lifetime in 13 editions and made him famous throughout Germany. After his death his books were published in two volumes called: Sämmtliche Trost- und Geistreiche Schrifften, etc., in several editions. Schmolck was the most popular hymn writer of his time and has been called “the second Paul Gerhardt” and “the Silesian Rist.” His hymns are marked by deep religious fervor, and breathe the spirit of love and devotion to the Savior. But he did not attain to the poetic flights of Paul Gerhardt, neither does he approach his simple, concise, and noble diction, rich poetic imagery and power. But several of his hymns are marked by great warmth and intense feeling, in spite of the fact that many are of less value. He wrote too many hymns, particularly during his later years, and there seems to have been a conscious effort to produce high-sounding expressions. In all he composed about 900 hymns, aside from a great number of spiritual songs. The hymnologist, Bishop Skaar, says that Schmolck wrote a total of 1,183 hymns and spiritual songs. Several of his hymns have been translated into many languages. Forty. one have been translated into English and of these, sixteen have been taken up into various hymnals.

Bach Connection

Benjamin Schmolck wrote the texts of a complete cantata cycle. Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel set music to this cantata cycle for the church year 1731/32 and performed it in Gotha beginning on the 1st Sunday in Advent in 1731 covering all Sundays and Feast Days until the end of the church year in 1732. The original cantata booklet that has survived in Gotha reads:

Benjamin Schmolck’s Book of Names of Christ and [all] Christians Opened Up in a Yearly Cycle for the Purpose of Sacred Edification and Performed as Music in the Royal Court Chapel at Friedenstein from Advent 1731 until 1732. Published in Gotha by Johann Andreas Reyher, Court-Sanctioned Printer.

According to recent researches, J.S. Bach performed in Leipzig the entire B. Schmolck/G.H. Stölzel cycle which ran from the 1st Sunday after Trinity 1735 until Trinity Sunday 1736.

Benjamin Schmolk (aus Heinrich Kurz: Geschichte der deutschen Literatur, Bd. 2, 1856) [01]

Source: ELHHB Website [Dahle, Library of Christian Hymns; Handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal]; Wikipedia Website (March 2011); Article by Andreas Glöckner in Bach-Jahrbuch 2009
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (August 2003, July 2012)

Texts of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works

BWV 514
Texts of complete cantata cycle composed by
G.H. Stölzel and performed by J.S. Bach in Leipzig from 1st Sunday after Trinity 1735 to Trinity Sunday 1736. See: List of Stölzel's cantatas performed by Bach

Links to other Sites

Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary Handbook - Biographies and Sources (ELHHB)

Benjamin Schmolck (Wikipedia) [English]
Benjamin Schmolck (Wikipedia) [German


Ernie Gross: This Day in Religion (New York: Neal-Schuman, 1990)
Christian Friedrich David Erdmann: Schmolck, Benjamin. In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Band 32 (Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1891), S. 53-58
Karl Kobe: Benjamin Schmolck, der schlesische Liederdichter (Stuttgart, 1907)
Rudolf Nicolai: Benjamin Schmolck (Liegnitz, 1909)
Alwin Binder: Lyrikanalyse. Anleitung und Demonstration an Gedichten von Benjamin Schmolck (u. a.). (Frankfurt/M.. 1984)
Sigrid Fillies-Reuter: SCHMOLCK, Benjamin. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Band 9 (Herzberg 1995), Sp. 504–506

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