Moravian Historical Society:
Your Place for History

Established in 1857, the Moravian Historical Society is the third oldest historical society in Pennsylvania. The museum offers permanent and changing exhibitions, as well as a gift shop. We are open daily from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. or by appointment (except major holidays).

The handsome three-and-a-half story Whitefield House that was begun by in 1740 is today home to the Moravian Historical Society. Over the centuries, the building has served the Moravian community in several capacities. It was the first place of worship in Nazareth, it was a boarding school for Moravian girls, a nursery for the children of missionaries, and an early home to the Moravian Theological Seminary. Until the 1990s it served as apartments for retired ministers and missionaries on furlough.

Today the museum provides outstanding educational opportunities for those interested in history, religion, art, and music. Many of the items on exhibit are one of a kind or extremely rare. Among these treasures are original paintings by John Valentine Haidt; early American textiles, pottery, and household objects; fine examples of early gunmaking in America; historic musical instruments, and other objects relevant to early American history and to Moravian history.

Mission

Moravian Historical Society Whitefield House
Moravian Historical Society cabin

The Moravian Historical Society museum and historic site preserves, interprets, and celebrates the rich culture of the Moravians.

Vision

The Moravian Historical Society is recognized broadly for its significant collection and historically important 18th century site. Intellectually vibrant, we commit to sharing stories of the Moravians and their remarkable contributions to history that continue to shape our culture.

Who are the Moravians

Moravians trace their roots to Jan Hus (1369-1415) and his followers, who formed the Unity of the Brethren or Unitas Fratrum in modern-day Czechoslovakia in 1457. The Unitas Fratrum had been driven underground during the lifetime of its most famous minister, Bishop Jan Amos Comenius (1592-1670), later known as the “Father of Modern Education.” 

 

In 1722 Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700-1760) allowed a group of Protestant refugees from Moravia to establish a village named Herrnhut on his estate in modern-day eastern Germany. Because the first settlers of Herrnhut had come from Moravia, this religious community at Herrnhut became known as the Moravians. 

 

The Moravians at Herrnhut established additional communities elsewhere in Germany, in Britain, in the Netherlands, in Scandinavia, in the Baltic states, in Switzerland. Moravians also spread the gospel globally to enslaved Africans in the Caribbean, the Inuit population in Greenland, and the American Indians in Georgia. The Georgia settlement, begun in Savannah in 1735, was short-lived and was disbanded by 1740. The remaining Moravians moved north to Pennsylvania. 

 

The English evangelist George Whitefield first invited Moravians to the Lehigh Valley in 1740. Whitefield hoped to establish a school on his large property named Nazareth. Moravians began work on this building, but theological differences forced the Moravians to abandon this project. In need of a place to settle, Moravians purchased 500 acres of land from the prominent Pennsylvanian William Allen.

Count Zinzendorf visited the fledgling settlement in December 1741 and named the community “Bethlehem.” During Zinzendorf’s visit, the Moravians also purchased the Nazareth tract from Whitefield.

Today there are more than one million members of the Moravian Church in the world. 

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