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Christiane Mariane von Ziegler (Librettist)

Born: June 28, 1695 - Leipzig, Germany
Died: May 1, 1760 - Frankfurt, Germany


Christiane Mariane von Ziegler, née Romanus, was born on June 28, 1695 in Leipzig and died on May 1, 1760 in Frankfurt an der Oder. She was the author of both sacred and secular poetry and is known primarily for having supplied the libretti for 9 sacred cantatas composed by Johann Sebastian Bach from April 22 to May 27, 1725. Three years later, in 1728, her texts for these cantatas appeared in a collection of poetry entitled: Versuch in gebundener Schreib=Art (see details below).

A Biographical Summary

Christiane Mariane Romanus was born into an influential patrician family, the members of which held positions in law and politics (lawyer, judge, mayor) in Leipzig. Her father, Franz Conrad Romanus, was instrumental in offering as a mayor of Leipzig to the young Georg Philipp Telemann (the latter’s residence in Leipzig was from 1701 to the end of 1704) a commission to compose cantatas on a bi-monthly basis for performance in St. Thomas Church and before Telemann left Leipzig, Romanus presented Telemann to the City Council as the designated candidate to succeed Johann Kuhnau as Thomaskantor. In 1706, however, when she was only 11 years old, her father, still a burgomaster (mayor) of Leipzig and as the prince elector’s appeals court councilor got involved in a politically-based decision which put him into a fortress prison for the next 40 years until his death without ever having his case tried officially to reach a legal decision. This event, obviously, left a formative stamp on her personality despite the fact that it, remarkably, did not damage the reputation of the Romanus family. In 1711, at the age of 16, she married Heinrich Levin von Könitz who died shortly afterward. Four years later, in 1715, at the age of 20, she married Captain Georg Friedrich von Ziegler, but he also died after a short marriage as did her two children, one from each marriage, after a few years. Twice widowed and having lost both children, she returned to her parents’ house in Leipzig, where at the age of 27 she assumed the male-guardianship for the entire Romanus household. It was during this time, from 1722 until 1741, that Christiane Mariane von Ziegler, as she was then known, became a respectable society lady and her house (the Romanus House) served as the salon where many artists and intellectuals could meet in a more relaxed setting to discuss their musical and literary interests. On the one hand, she would promote artists, poets and writers, and on the other hand, the latter would come into casual contact with recognized representatives of the university who also attended these social events. All of her literary output stems from this period.

A Contemporary Description of “Frau Hauptmann von Ziegler”

There is a written report by one of “Frau von Ziegler’s” contemporaries, Christian Gabriel Fischer from circa 1730. [from an article by Albert Predeek, “Ein vergessener Freund Gottscheds” in Beiträge zu deutschen Bildungsgeschichte. Festschrift zur Zweihunderjahrfeier der Deutschen Gesellschaft in Leipzig 1727-1927 (Leipzig, 1927), pp. 121-123.] It contains the following description:

“We were invited to Mrs. von Ziegler’s house….She is a daughter of Romanus, a Leipzig Mayor and lives with her mother in the famous Romanus House….She is still a young widow, but will probably have difficulties marrying again because of many different circumstances. Among other things, her conduct is almost more than you would expect of a woman (“Überweiblich” = “overly feminine”? “unfeminine”?) and her spirit (“Geist” = “esprit”) is much too lively (“chipper”) and clever/alert to be able to subjugate herself to normal type of understanding (“Verstand” =”reasoning powers, common sense, intelligence”) that men have. The shape of her body is not ugly, but her bone structure is rather prominent. Her face is rather commonplace. She has a smooth/level forehead, beautiful eyes, appears healthy with a slightly tan skin color, about 36 years old, speaks freely, but sensibly and properly, in her relations with others she tends to be more on the friendly side, amusing and humorous rather than solemn or grave. She takes part in everything; she plays all sorts of different instruments and sings to her own accompaniment, she can shoot rifles, pistols and crossbows in competition with others. She speaks French and is particularly adept in her German writing style and in poetry, in which areas she had received good instruction while still young from her tutor, Mr. Corvinus. However, now she no longer needs anyone to guide her as is evident from her published works and other examples which I have witnessed….Madame von Ziegler is so generous/magnanimous that she overlooks all unfounded rumors about her and encourages unreservedly other members of her sex to improve their minds (“Verstand” = “understanding”) by reading good books and engaging in respectable and proper conversation with others. Following her example, there are already, as I have heard, other women here in Leipzig and in Saxony who are following her example as they try to emulate her good conduct. Distinguished individuals from the higher class of society enjoy Madame von Ziegler’s company so much that she is never missing from any of their social gatherings where she becomes the ‘life of the party’. Her upbringing is as unusual as the manner in which she presents herself. I consider her to be a credit (“Ehre” =”honor”) to our nation.”

More Biographical Data

Christiane Mariane von Ziegler played numerous instruments including keyboard instruments, lute, and transverse flute and could sing to her own accompaniment. One of the young literary figures who came to Leipzig from Königsberg in 1724, Johann Christoph Gottsched, soon became a regular guest at von Ziegler’s house and may have even boarded there temporarily until he found a permanent residence elsewhere in the city. As the editor of a moralistic weekly entitled “Die Vernünftigen Tadlerinnen” (“The Sensible/Reasonable Female Critics”), Gottsched focused upon a reading audience consisting mainly of women and furthered the cause of higher education for women. Also, he decisively influenced von Ziegler's literary activities. Thus, in 1728 and 1729, she had published all of the 3 parts of her collection of sacred and secular poetry. In the first part is a series of 9 cantatas which Johann Sebastian Bach set to music (BWV 103, BWV 108, BWV 87, BWV 128, BWV 183, BWV 74, BWV 68, BWV 175, BWV 176). These cantata texts follow the cantata form established by Erdmann Neumeister with the change from recitative to aria usually framed by a citation from the Bible (“dictum”) and a chorale verse. Because she felt that her cantata libretti were rather lengthy, she suggested, as practical advice for their use in a church service, that they could be split in the middle into two parts with one part being performed before the sermon and the other after it, or one part could be performed on the specified Sunday/Holid one year and the other part on the same liturgical Sunday/Holiday a year later. These were texts, as she insisted, that were intended for use during the “Lutheran-orthodox” church services. Since we do not have von Ziegler’s original texts from 1725, those which Bach used for composing, we are forced to rely upon her published texts which appeared 3 years later. Did she make any changes to her originals? Did she add any lines between early in 1725 and the publication of the same poetry in 1728? In the following year, 1729, she published the second and third parts of this collection of poetry. Including the cantata texts from 1725, she now expanded them to present an entire yearly cycle of cantata texts which she hoped would also be set to music by Bach, but this never happened. Is it possible that Bach’s first acquaintance with Christian Friedrich Henrici (Picander) had something to do with this (their first collaboration was on a secular cantata first performed on February 23, 1725 (BWV 249a)?

In 1730, von Ziegler became an official member (the first and only female member) of Gottsched’s German Literary Society and one year later, in 1731, she published as proof of her literary abilities her Moralische und vermischte Sendschreiben…. She was named “Poeta laureata” (“poet laureate”) crowned by the emperor (“kaiserlich gekrönt”) in 1733. In 1732 and 1734 she received the poetry prize from the German Literary Society. Her last published work appeared in 1739.

The Final Years

In 1741, von Ziegler married Professor Balthasar von Steinwehr and moved with him to Frankfurt an der Oder where she died in 1760 in the middle of the Seven Years’ War only two months after Anna Magdalena Bach’s death. During this last period of her life, her literary activities had ceased entirely.

Published Works:

Versuch in gebundener Schreib=Art, Leipzig, 1728. [contains the texts for Cantatas BWV 103, BWV 108, BWV 87, BWV 128, BWV 183, BWV 74, BWV 68, BWV 175, BWV 176]

In Gebundener Schreib=Art: Anderer und letzter Theil,
Leipzig, 1729. [contains the rest of the yearly cantata cycle which Bach never set to music]

Moralische und vermischte Sendschreiben: An einige Ihrer vertrauten und guten Freunde gestellet,
Leipzig, 1731.

Deutsche Gesellschaft zur Verbesserung und Veredelung der Muttersprache: Schriften, welche in der Deutschen Gesellschaft zu
Leipzig die Preise der Poesie und Beredsamkeit erhalten haben. Bd. 1, Leipzig, 1732: Der sächsischen Unterthanen getreue Wünsche und frohe Hoffnung bey dem glücklichen Antritte des großen Stuffenjahres Sr. Königl. Maj. In Pohlen und Churfürstl. Durchl. Zu Sachsen, in einem Gedichte vorgestellet: Wodurch im Jahr 1732 ... den Preis der Poesie davon getragen Christiana Mariana von Ziegler Leipzig, 1732

Deutsche Gesellschaft…. Bd. 1,
Leipzig, 1734:
Die Zufriedenheit eines Landes, das nach einem schweren Kriege durch den Frieden wieder erfreuet wird.
Leipzig, 1734

Sammlung der Schriften und Gedichte welche auf die Poetische Krönung der Hochwohlgebohrnen Frauen, FRAUEN Christianen Marianen von Ziegler gebohrnen Romanus, verfertiget worden.
Leipzig, 1734.

Der Mad. Seudery Scharfsinnige Unterredungen, von Dingen, Die zu einer wohlanst
ändigen Auffhrung gehören, bersetzet von Christiana Mariana von Ziegler, gebohrnen Romanus, Leipzig, 1735.

Christianen Marianen von Ziegler, gebohrenen Romanus Vermischete Schriften in gebundener und ungebundener Rede, Göttingen, 1739.


Oxford Composer Companion - J.S. Bach, edited by Malcolm Boyd (1999)
Booklet accompanied the series “J.S. Bach: Sacred Cantatas - Harnoncourt/Leonhardt’ (Teldec), Author: Lothar Hoffmann-Erbrecht (1979)
Die Welt der Bach Kantaten ed. Christoph Wolff/Ton Koopman, Metzler/B
ärenreiter, 1999, vol. 3, from the article: „Texte und Textdichter“ by Hans-Joachim Schulze, pp. 116-119.
Christian Geltinger’s biographical sketch found at
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (May 2003); Jörg Hansen - Bachhaus Eisenach (Picture, May 2006); Thomas Braatz (April 2007)

Texts of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works

BWV 68, BWV 74, BWV 85 (?), BWV 87, BWV 88 (?), BWV 103, BWV 108, BWV 128, BWV 175, BWV 176, BWV 183

Links to other Sites

ZIEGLER, Christiane Mariane von, geb. Romanus (BBKL) [German]




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