Jan Amos Comenius: Did You Know?

Comenius’ map of Moravia remained a standard for over 100 years and went through at least 20 editions.

1620, the same year as the Pilgrims left England on the Mayflower, the Battle of White Mountain took place near Prague. This Bohemian Revolt was crushed by Emporer Ferdinand and the Protestants cause was defeated.

When Comenius led his exiled band from their homeland to Poland in January, 1628, they stopped at the border and Comenius led them in prayer that God would preserve a “hidden seed” of his Bretheren, a prayer fulfilled in May of 1722 when Count Zinzendorf gave Moravian Brethren refuge in his estate in Herrnhut. (see Christian History, Vol. I, No. 1)

At the end of his life, Comenius was the last surviving bishop of the Unity of the Brethren Church. So he consecrated his son-in-law Peter Jablonsky and one other thereby providing for episcopal succession.

Comenius wrote 154 books in his lifetime.

The noted allegory by Comenius, The Labyrinth of the World has often been compared to Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. The Labyrinth was written in 1623, while Comenius was in hiding, and this was five years before John Bunyan was born.

As the exiles crossed the mountains into Poland they lifted up their voices in song to God. One of the verses: 
Naught have we taken with us, 
All to destruction is hurled, 
We have only our Kralitz Bibles 
And our Labyrinth of the World.

The American Puritan Cotton Mather in his Magnalia Christi Americana said that Comenius was invited to become the first president of Harvard College.

Comenius was one of the first to promote continuing education with his insistence that education should extend from the cradle to the grave.

Comenius wrote the first picture book for children Orbis Pictus Sensualium.

Comenius spent much of his life urging European leaders to bring an end to the Thirty Years War.

Comenius placed strong credence in the prophecies of three men, including his old schoolmate, Nicolas Drabik, that the Brethren would be restored to their homeland. He gathered the prophecies in a 1100 page work title Light in Darkness. The prophesies were never fulfilled and Comenius’ grasping at them has been regarded as a tragic scar on his noteworthy career.

Having been kindly received by both England and Holland, Comenius in his old age was outraged that these two “Christian” nations would go to war with each other over commercial interests. He personally went to the peace conference at Breda in May of 1667, three years before he died, to plead for peace. For the occasion he wrote The Angel of Peace.

The British Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell offered Comenius and the Moravian exiles land in Ireland which they did not accept as they expected to return to their homeland. Cromwell also organized a collection to aid the exiles.

Comenius died November 4, 1670 in Amsterdam. He lived in exile for 42 of his 78 years. There is now a Comenius museum in Naarden, Holland, the place of his burial.

The philosopher Leibnitz wrote: “The day will come, Comenius, when the good shall praise thee, thy hopes accomplished and thy prayer fulfilled.”

By the Editors

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #13 in 1987]

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