Evangelical parish descriptions in 19th/20th century Bavaria

Preliminary remarks

In 1832, the Munich-based Supreme Consistory of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Bavaria subjected the general reports that had been common until then to a critical review. In the process, it was decided to divide their contents into two forms of reporting in future: changing events in a year were to be described in a shorter annual report from then on, while the parish’s overarching circumstances were to be recorded in a comprehensive parish description. These were then produced by the respective parish priest, occasionally also by the parish administrator. Today, the parish descriptions are kept in the Landeskirchliches Archiv der Evangelisch-Lutherischen Kirche in Bayern (regional ecclesiastical archive of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Bavaria, LAELKB) in Nuremberg. Most of the archive material is handwritten and bound, but some parish descriptions were typed at the beginning of the 20th century.

The parish descriptions provide serial 19th and early 20th century sources, which are comparable in content and structure despite some differences and which can be used for church, local, cultural and everyday history research as well as local historiography.

When they originated

Descriptions of parishes were already produced in the period before 1833. However, the parish descriptions were given a standardised scheme throughout Bavaria with the synodal resolution of 1832. These were preceded in some places by historical overviews and critical collections of existing source material, some of which are appended to the parish descriptions. The first parish descriptions were revised ten years later according to the specification, so the first volume covers the period between 1833 and 1843. Parish descriptions were not produced again until 1864, then as independent works, and therefore usually referred to by contemporaries as the “2nd volume”. The most recent parish descriptions (3rd volume) start from 1912, most of which were completed by 1918. However, some specimens were only completed during the course of the 1920s or even the 1930s.

Structure and content

To begin with, all parish descriptions have in common that they start with a historical overview of the origin of the parish and the church buildings such as the church, pastor’s house and school buildings. This historical section was preceded by a list of the archival and literary sources used. In addition to these detailed accounts, the most important events of the past for the parish or village community were reproduced in concise chronological order. Alongside the history of the parish, its contemporary perimeter (parish boundaries) as well as the structural condition of the church properties were to be described. All parish descriptions name previous clergy, cantors, organists and teachers with short biographies. The parish’s financial situation was also listed with its income and expenditure as well as land and property holdings. In the 19th century in particular, additional inventories were added in the appendix listing the parish’s movable property. These include, for example, liturgical equipment and paraments, but also the holdings of parish libraries. Since the organisation and administration of the parish with the corresponding bodies and their respective tasks were described in all periods, the individual institutions’ administrative structures and areas of responsibility can be traced today.

Although the 19th-century parish descriptions are identical in their structure, this changed from 1912 onwards. Now a separate chapter was devoted to the "ritual and non-ritual forms of congregational life", in which the main, secondary and children’s services, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper as well as confirmation and funerals were described.

Again, all volumes conclude with a chapter on the community’s religiousness and morality. While in the 19th century the focus was mainly on the inner and outer hindrances to piety and suggestions were to be made for their improvement, from 1912 onwards these aspects were only mentioned in a final assessment of the spiritual state of the congregation by the clergyman. From 1912 onwards, the community members’ social life, economic situation as well as marriage and family life were to be described.

NOTE: When digitising the parish descriptions, blank pages were not digitised regardless of their pagination! Therefore, there may be jumps in the page count within the objects.

The part collections of "Evangelical parish descriptions in 19th/20th century Bavaria" available on bavarikon:

>> This collection is part of the holdings of the Institut für Fränkische Landesgeschichte (IFLG) (Institute for Franconian Regional History), the Landeskirchliches Archiv der Evangelisch-Lutherischen Kirche in Bayern (regional ecclesiastical archive of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Bavaria, LAELKB),the Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirchengemeinde Marlesreuth (Evangelical-Lutheran Parish of Marlesreuth), the Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirchengemeinde Walsdorf (Evangelical-Lutheran Parish of Walsdorf) and the Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirchengemeinden Töpen - Isaar - Münchenreuth (Evangelical-Protestant Lutheran Parish of Töpen – Isar – Münchenreuth).