Background to Angelus Silesius

Silesius was born in Breslau (Wrocław), Silesia as son of Polish noble and German mother. His givenname was Johann Scheffler, but he is generally known by the pseudonym Angelus Silesius (meaning Silesian messenger), under which he published his poems and which marks the country of his birth, Silesia. His father moved from Kraków in 1618 and became a citizen of Breslau. Johann was brought up a Lutheran and educated as scientist and physician. He was at first physician to Silvius Nimrod, Duke of Württemberg-Oels, where he came into contact with Abraham von Franckenberg, who was later to influence him greatly and whose library he would inherit on Franckenberg’s death in 1652. With the imperial Habsburg rulers pushing for re-Catholicisation, Silesius joined the Roman Catholic Church in 1652. Two years later Silesius received from Emperor Ferdinand III the status of imperial-royal (kaiserlich-königlich) court physician. In 1661 he took orders as a priest, and became coadjutor to the Prince-bishop of Breslau. He died at St. Matthias monastery in Breslau. He was known to use his unexplained considerable inheritance for the welfare of orphans. He is said to have been known by the nickname “Silas” in his day and to have contributed to a considerable body of Protestant hymns.

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