Wartburg, a little town in the Natal Midlands. It has its origin with the immigration of German settlers from the Natal Cotton Company and the Hermannsburg Mission Society. By religion they were all Lutherans from Northern Germany and the first congregation was that of New Hannover. As numbers grew it became convenient to form another congregation to reduce travel distances, this happened in 1881 and the congregation was initially called Noodberg Road and later Kirchdorf. The geo-position is: 29.434°S, 30.5811°E and 939m.
When visiting the town I took notice of the fact that there are two German Lutheran churches, and to add to it there is also a third Lutheran church, but that is an English Lutheran church. The origin of the two German congregation goes back to 1892 when there was dissension because the Hermannsburg Mission Society in Germany had come to an agreement with the Hannover Landeskirche and became part of it. Not everyone in the churches agreed with that and the ripples went as far as South Africa and split some of the congregations. This also happened in Wartburg. The two synods are FELSISA (Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa) and ELCSA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa). One day, when I have plenty of time I will write a separate page that explains all this.
But back to the beginning. The first church and school was built in 1881, this was Kirchdorf. When the split occurred the majority stayed with their church and school, but renamed it Wartburg.
And why was the place called Wartburg? That is because of Lutheran tradition. Wartburg is a castle near Eisenach in Germany where Martin Luther was held in protective custody in 1521/22. He was on his way back from the diet of Worms, remember the place where he uttered the famous words "....here I stand, I can go no further, so help me God". Sorry I am digressing. At the end of his trial a ban over him was announced. On the way back to Wittenberg he was hijacked on instructions from the Duke Friedrich der Weise to be taken secretly to the castle. He stayed there for a while until the dust had settled, in the meantime he spend his time translating the New Testament of the Bible into German. The castle thus stands as a symbol of the Lutheran reformation.
The Wartburg congregation arose out of the split in the Lutheran church in 1892. A minority of the members opted to stay faithful to the Hermannsburg Mission and being the minority had to go and find a new place of worship. The new congregation was officially formed on the 3 January, initially a barn was used to hold church services. A corrugated iron building was erected during 1893 at a place between the present church and the cemetery to serve as church and school.
The numbers were increasing and in 1905 the congregation felt strong enough to start the construction of a larger church. This church i a Gothic style was inaugurated on 27 June 1907. Since then very few changes were made and it has stood now for over 100 years. Some beautiful stained glass windows were installed in 1955.
At the time of my visit it was undergoing refurbishment. It is pleasing to see how these German churches in KZN are so well maintained, even the one's that are not in use.
The Kirchdorf church is just down the hill from the Wartburg church. The origin of the Kirchdorf congregation was mentioned above, In 1882 they built a church and school. The first minister was Gustav Stilau, who in 1892 left the Hermannsburg Mission and with him most of the members of the congregation. Being the majority they could stay in their premises.
With time the church became too small and it was extended in 1921. And once again that building became too small and a new church was build in 1952. Also in the Gothic style, very similar to the Wartburg church.
Of note is the foundation stone of the old church on display in the church yard.
Each of the two churches mentioned above have their own cemetery. On the left the cemetery near the Wartburg church. I didn't spent much time here, but one grave noted is in the middle of the picture. It is that of Egmont Karl Edmund Harms, geb 15.April 1859, gest 4.Dez.1916. He was the director of the Hermannsburg Mission, was born in Müden Germany and died in Empangeni. He was a nephew of Louis Harms, the founder of the Mission Society.
And on the right, the cemetery at the Kirchdorf church.
The school started with the first church in 1882. At that time the minister doubled up as a teacher. When it came to the split in the congregation there were suddenly two German schools and that stayed like this until sense prevailed and the two schools were combined in 1931.
It is now a government school with English as the medium of instruction.
When visiting the town I had limited time and had to restrict myself to the two German churches. I know there should be a railway station, not in use now. And there is also the well known hotel, 'Der Wartburger Hof'. Well, this has to wait for a next visit.
Ref 1.: Lutherans, Germans: Hermannsburgers, Natalia 22 (1992), H-J. Oschadleus (enter the title as a search term to find the article)
Ref 2.: W.H.C.Hellberg, Die Deutschen Siedlungen in Süd Afrika seit der Mitte des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, a dissertation to obtain a PhD in literature at the university of Stellenbosch, 1954. A scanned copy is available on the Internet, use author and title as the search term.