FLIEDNER, THEODOR: German philanthropist, founder of the Kaiserswerth Deaconesses' Institute and the modern Protestant order of deaconesses (see DEACONESS, III., 2, a); b. at Epstein (7 m. n.e. of Wiesbaden), in Nassau, Jan. 21, 1800; d. at Kaiserswerth (on the Rhine, 6 m. n. n. w. of Düsseldorf) Oct. 4, 1864. He was the son of a clergyman and was himself a plain, unpretending German pastor, of great working power, indefatigable zeal, fervent piety, and rare talent of organization. He studied at Giessen, Göttingen, and Herborn and for a year was tutor in a family at Cologne and had begun to doubt his fitness for the ministry, when he received and accepted, in Nov., 1821, what he considered a providential call, from a small Protestant colony at Kaiserswerth, then a Roman Catholic town of 1,800 inhabitants. The failure of a silk manufactory, upon which the town depended largely for support, led him to undertake, in the spring of 1822, a collecting tour to keep his struggling congregation alive. By the end of a week he returned with 1,200 thalers. This was the beginning of much greater things. By experience and perseverance he became one of the greatest beggars in the service of Christ. In 1823 he made a tour of Holland and England, which not only resulted in a permanent endowment of his congregation, but suggested to him the idea of his benevolent institutions. "In both these Protestant countries," he relates, "I became acquainted with a multitude of charitable institutions for the benefit both of body and soul. I saw schools and other educational organizations, almhouses, orphanages, hospitals, prisons, and societies for the reformation of prisoners, Bible and missionary societies, etc.; and at the same time I observed that it was a living faith in Christ which had called almost every one of these institutions and societies into life, and still preserved them in activity. This evidence of the practical power and fertility of such a principle had a most powerful influence in strengthening my own faith."
Fliedner made two more journeys to Holland, England, and Scotland (1832 and 1853), in the interest no more of his congregation, but of his institutions. He also visited the United States in 1849 and assisted in founding the Deaconesses' Institute in Pittsburg with Dr. Passavant at its head (see DEACONESS, III. 2, d, § 1; PASSAVANT, WILLIAM ALFRED). Twice he traveled to the East,--in 1851 to aid Bishop Gobat in founding a house of deaconesses in Jerusalem, and again in 1857, when he was, however, too feeble to proceed farther than Jaffa. King Frederick William IV. of Prussia and Queen Elizabeth took the most cordial interest in his labors for the sick and poor, furnished him liberally with means, and founded in 1847 the Bethany hospital with deaconesses at Berlin after the model of Kaiserswerth. In the parsonage garden at Kaiserswerth there still stands the little summer-house, with one room of ten feet square, and an attic over it, which was the first refuge for released female prisoners and magdalen asylum, the humble cradle of all Fliedner's institutions. In 1849 Fliedner resigned his pastorate to devote all his time to his institutions. One of his last acts was to consecrate nineteen sisters, the largest number up to that time to go out from Kaiserswerth in a single year. At his death the number of deaconesses connected with Kaiserswerth and its daughter institutions exceeded 400 (see DEACONESS, III., 2). Fliedner's most important publications were several books descriptive of his travels and Das Buch der Märtyrer der evangelischen Kirche (4 vols., Kaiserswerth, 1852-60). He founded the Christlicher Volkskalender, which was widely popular.
(PHILIP SCHAFF†.) D. S. SCHAFF.