- Comenius, John Amos
- (Jan Amos Komensky)( 1592-1670 )educator and Moravian Church leaderJohn Comenius was born in 1592 in Nivnice, Moravia, in what is now the Czech Republic. He studied theology at Herborn and Heidelberg and became pastor of the Protestant church at Prerau. The Moravian Church, also known as the Unitas Fratrum or United Brethren, had been organized by the followers of John Hus after his martyrdom in 1414. In spite of persecution, it survived and in the 16th century aligned with the Reformation cause. By 1517, the Unitas Fratrum had some 200,000 members in more than 400 congregations. A new effort to suppress the church was launched in 1547, and many of the members fled to Poland.Comenius emerged as a leader early in the 17th century as the Thirty Years' War (1618-48) spread to Czech lands and persecution of Protestants began. After a Protestant defeat at White Mountain in 1620, Comenius and many of his co-religionists were expelled from Bohemia. He first moved to Lissa, Poland, but as Catholicism had reasserted itself in that country he was forced to keep on the move. Meanwhile, the Unitas Fratrum was being systematically suppressed in Bohemia.While serving as bishop of the Unitas Fratrum (the last to serve until the group reorganized in Germany in the next century), Comenius became known throughout Europe for his advocacy of various progressive educational ideas. He pioneered the use of pictures in textbooks and promoted what today would be seen as a more holistic concept of education. He believed that education was a lifelong process that began in childhood and continued into one's last years. He called for the formal education of women. Comenius developed a system termed Pansophism, which integrated theology, philosophy, and education, in the belief that learning, spiritual progress, and emotional growth occurred together. His union of spiritual enlightenment with education was termed the via lucis or way of light.He responded to calls from England, Transylvania (1650-54), and Sweden, where he was asked to restructure the school system. There is some evidence that he was offered the presidency of Harvard University, then just beginning in Massachusetts, but declined to move too far from the center of the struggling Unitas Fratrum.The Unitas Fratrum survived as a small, largely underground movement. Comenius died in Amsterdam in 1670. The church passed through a period without a bishop, but Comenius's grandson Daniel Jablonsky later received episcopal orders which he would pass along to the revived Unitas Fratrum early in the 18th century.Comenius wrote more than 150 books, including Pansophiae Prodromus, the most important statement of his educational views, and the pictorial Orbis Sensualium Pictus (The Visible World In Pictures, 1658).Further reading:■ Eduard Benes, et al., The Teacher of Nations: Addresses and Essays in Commemoration of the Visit to England of the Great Czech Educationalist Jan Amos Komensky Comenius 1641-1941. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1942)■ Johann Amos Comenius, Selections, intro. by Jean Piaget. In commemoration of the third centenary of the publication of Opera didactica omnia, 1657-1957. (Paris: UNESCO, 1957)■ S. S. Laurie, John Amos Comenius: Bishop of the Moravians - His Life and Educational Works (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1893)■ Will S. Monroe, Comenius and the Beginnings of Educational Reform (New York: Scribner, 1900)■ Matthew Spinka, John Amos Comenius: That Incomparable Moravian (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1943).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.