Historical Background

In the beginning of the 18th century, the Danish King Frederick IV (1671–1730) initiated a Protestant Mission station in his Danish East-Indian trading colony. On his behalf Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg (1682-1719) and Heinrich Plütschau (1677-1752), two pupils of August Hermann Francke’s, the founder of the Francke Foundations in Halle, were sent to Tranquebar (today Tharangambadi) on the South-Eastern Coast of India.

After a long and adventurous journey they entered the Indian shore on the 9th of July in 1706. In close consultancy with their former teacher A.H. Francke, they started their work in Tranquebar, with due respect and heartfelt interest for the local people, always keen on a joint dialogue. As it was taught in Halle, they learnt not only Portuguese as the European lingua franca, but also Tamil, the language spoken by the local people.

Thus, they continued the Bible-printing tradition of Halle and translated parts of the Bible inscribing them on palm leave manuscripts. Attentively they converged to their new area of living and wrote letters of report to Halle, as did the consecutive missionaries. In return, they could rely on a stable and regular care from Germany.

Financial and moral support was also granted from influential contacts of A.H. Francke’s in London. From 1710 on, the missionary reports and letters were regularly published in the so called “Hallesche Berichte”, the first Protestant Newsletter. Thus the Mission spread widely through Europe.

Leipzig Mission Archive
Leipzig Mission Archive

Project Development

Indian and German partners join hands to realise the project. The idea to transform the 300 year old living house of Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg, the first DHT missionary into a memorial space was commenced by the ambassador for overseas affairs of the Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church (TELC). It knocked at open doors at the director’s office of the Francke Foundations in Halle, in 2006.

Searching for further partners and official stakeholders, the Francke Foundations contacted the Evangelical-Lutheran Mission in Lower Saxony (ELM). ELM initiated the employment of a German professional in Tharangambadi over the period of 3 to 6 years, through the realms of German development aid and Brot für die Welt.

The restoration of the Ziegenbalg House was executed in 2016 by the Indian National Trust of Art and Cultural Heritage, INTACH, Pondicherry. This qualified undertaking was funded by the Cultural Preservation Fund of the German Federal Foreign Office and the United Evangelical Lutheran Churches of Germany.