Pastor David Sigismund Bohnstedt

by Thomas Allen Bohnstedt, California USA
     (the text of this page is my intellectual property. Please do not copy and repost without my written permission)


Pastor David Sigismund Bohnstedt. This is the oldest image or portrait of any Bohnstedt currently known of.


The Preacher From Halberstadt

In 1685, Sigismund Bonstedt, a son of Bartholomäus Bonstedt, and his wife Catharina produced their fourth child; David Sigismund Bohnstedt, born in Halberstadt. David was born into a Lutheran family; his father and brother were both Lutheran preachers, as well as an uncle and a cousin. Having decided to devote his life to the Lutheran church, David entered the ministry, serving as a deacon and a preacher from 1710 to 1714 in Halberstadt.

1-4.  Four of several published works, in Latin, authored by Pastor David Sigismund Bohnstedt

For many years I speculated on which church David might have preached in when he was posted in Halberstadt. There are several churches in Halberstadt, three of them very prominent. However, the church where David preached may not be standing at all anymore.  One unverified entry on the Worldwide Web implied that David preached at the St. Paul and Peter Church in Halberstadt.  The church was almost completely destroyed during an Allied bombing raid on April 8, 1945.  What was left of the church was demolished in 1969.

St. Petri und Pauli Kirche (St. Peter and Paul Church) in Halberstadt after a restoration in 1908.  The church was destroyed on April 8, 1945 during an Allied bombing raid, leaving little but the outer walls.  The remainder of the church was demolished in 1969.


The Call To Essen

In 1714 David had been noticed by the city council of Essen, Germany, when David had given a sermon in Bochum, near Halberstadt. The council decided to make David the successor of Georg Matthias Weiler, then the Pastor of the Lutheran congregation in Essen for about six years.

In 1972 a German religious journal, the Kirchenkreise Essen published an article about David, titled Durch Zufall seines Todes nicht disqualifiziert; D.S. Bohnstedt, Pastor in Essen 1714-21; 1725-56. The article had this to say about the matter of David's recruitment to Essen:

Bohnstedt initially hesitated to accept the call of the town council. The historian of the Lutheran parish in Essen, Pfarrer [pastor] Waechtler, wrote in 1863 about the reasons for Bohnstedt's hesitation. "He had a premonition about the difficulties that stood before him, so for a long time he resisted taking the position". Then the historian made a comment about the air which, considering that the year was 1714, is astounding. "He, Bohnstedt, felt that the air in the region, which was heavy with coal and sulphur fumes, would be damaging to his lungs and would make it difficult for him to fully serve the parish as he would like to do, and as he felt was necessary".

1. The earliest illustration of the Marktkirche (Market Church) in Essen.  The photograph dates from 1895.
2. Marktkirche in Essen, in the years priot to World War II. It appears that sometime between these two photos the statue of Alfred Krupp was relocated, perhaps to make way for trolley tracks and more structures.

A certain Mr. Krupp, who was the city secretary for Essen, finally succeeded in removing all of David's doubts and he accepted the position. The article in Durch Zufall states here that Krupp was an ancestor of the Krupp family, the industrial clan in Essen famed for arms manufacture. Wolfgang Bohnstedt states that he was Georg Friedrich Krupp. Georg was the brother of Arnold Krupp who was the great-grandfather of Friedrich Krupp, who founded the steel works in 1811. However, a genealogical table in "The Arms of Krupp" by William Manchester reveals a Georg Dietrich Krupp. This may have been the same Krupp, but if he was, the inconsistency between the names Friedrich and Dietrich remain unexplained. Perhaps Wolfgang simply recorded the name wrong.

1. Bomb damage in Essen, World War II.  The first photograph appears to show Marktkirche somewhat intact, minus the steeple.
2. Essen endured multiple bombing raids, and by the end of the war, Marktkirche was beyond repairing.

In 1716, two years after David moved to Essen, he married Catharina Elisabeth von Steinen. David was quite zealous about his religious beliefs, and developed a reputation and tendency for stirring up trouble. The same year that he married Catharina David got into a conflict with a man named Geylinghaus. The Durch Zufall newspaper article stated that:

... the new preacher (Bohnstedt) visited the home of a copper worker, a Mr. Geylinghaus, and got into an argument with him. He chastised Geylinghaus because he was allowing all of his children to grow up Catholic. After this incident the female Catholic Official (FCO), Bernardina Sophia, repeatedly complained to the city council about his attacks on the Catholic religion. Bohnstedt was not intimidated, and actually published a pamphlet against mixed [mixed religious] marriages. The FCO took this occasion to force the town council to conduct an investigation of the incident.

Click to Enlarge
1. Marktkirche was completely rebuilt after WWII from the ground up, in the style of the original, but with significant differences.
2. Statue of Alfred Krupp, outside the Marktkirche today.  The Krupps were originally from Essen, and the region near it, and it was an ancestor of the Krupp family, the city secretary of Essen, who convinced David to come to Essen to pastor the church there.
The Disciplinary Revolution; Calvinism and the Rise of the State in Early Modern Europe, 2003, by Philip S. Gorski

David continued as Pastor of Essen until 1721. From 1721 to 1725 he served as the pastor of the Kleve congregation. One year after beginning his service in Kleve, David was trying to expand the teaching staff there. According to the source notes in The Disciplinary Revolution; Calvinism and the Rise of the State in Early Modern Europe

David Sigismund Bohnstedt, a Pietist sympathizer from Cleve [Kleve] complained in a letter to Franke that "it is costly to hire a candidate from Halle, and we want to have three full-time teachers here" (Jan 8, 1722)

Click to EnlargeClick to Enlarge
1-2. Coat-of-Arms of Pastor David S. Bohnstedt. The first image is from a German heraldry registry book called "Wappenbilder". The second is a Coat-of-Arms at the bottom of Pastor David's portrait. The elements are clearly the same, and are religious in nature: the chalice on the shield has three flowers in it, representing the Holy Trinity, and the eagles wings are symbolic of St. John the Evangelist.
3. Contemporary representation of the Coat-of-Arms of Pastor David S. Bohnstedt.

In 1726 he took back his position as pastor of Essen and the next year David was again embroiled in a religious conflict. According to Durch Zufall Princess Franziska Christina of Essen threatened to charge high fines for marriages performed by Lutheran Pastors. One can only conclude from this that a large percentage of the government officials in the region were Roman Catholic, and were in a position to enforce the fines. Franziska forbade the Lutheran choirs to sing at funerals, and placed a 100 gold piece penalty on mothers who did not have their children baptized Catholic. The results were attacks against and mistreatment of people who did not obey these requirements. The Durch Zufall article stated that funeral processions had to wade through fighting in the city streets to reach the church door.

In this hostile atmosphere a newborn child of the Wortberg family was forcibly baptized by a Jesuit, who violently forced his way into the room where the child was and baptized it in an adjacent room. Since no one witnessed the baptism, and the Jesuit priest did not even tell the mother the name he had given the child, David decided to baptize the child into the Lutheran Church according to the family's wishes. This occurred in 1727 in the Saint Gertrudiskirche (St. Gertrude's Church) which was nearly destroyed during the Second World War, but was later rebuilt and renamed the Marktkirche (Market Church).

David authored numerous theological articles and continued to pastor the Essen congregation until 1765 when he died at the age of 71 years.


Book References:
- Gorski, Philip S. The Disciplinary Revolution: Calvinism and the Rise of the State in Early Modern Europe. University Of Chicago Press. 2003 (ISBN 0226304841)


See Also:
1-3 /
The Bohnstedts and the Protestant Reformation
1-5 / Heraldry and the Bohnstedt Coats-of-Arms; German Westfalen Bohnstedt Arms
1-6 / Descendants of David Sigismund Bohnstedts
1-41 /
Genealogy 1-5: Essen and Western Germany


Geography (Google Maps):
Deersheim, Germany
Essen, Germany
Egeln, Germany
Halberstadt, Germany
Halle, Germany
Kleve, Germany


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