The Moravian community of Salem NC, founded in the mid 18th century, believed in austere living and strict religious observance. But it shouldn’t be surprising that a group this stodgy would produce flowery and exuberant earthenware. It was all part of their world view.
Then again, as with adherents to any doctrine, Moravian potters were not always above reproach. Rudolf Christ was the most talented and successful apprentice of Salem’s first master potter Gottfried Aust. Rudolf also proved to be one of Aust’s more “arrogant and rebellious” charges. He was a “stupid ass, like other children in the Community.” And as with unsupervised children anywhere at any time, Rudolf was given to vague but ominous “evil doings.”
The Moravian Lovefeast perhaps added fuel to the fire. Lovefeast was (still is) a popular Moravian institution. Goodwill and congeniality combined to break down social barriers and celebrate fellowship. Its roots trace back to the beginnings of Christianity. But congeniality and lack of social barriers are a potent combination. The early church dropped Lovefeast in favor of stability.
The Moravians brought Lovefeast back in the mid 1770’s. A large coffee urn by Rudolf Christ bears an inscription on its bottom referencing one such event. This Lovefeast would be Rudolf’s last. He retired from pottery making two months later.
Today we celebrate Lovefeast.
That you can tell by the good turnout.
When this urn is full of coffee
How few are missed.
And when it’s full, then I’m right there.
And when it’s empty, then we’ll sing Hallelujah.
March 12, 1821.
The rebellious, unconventional Rudolf loved a good party, replete with large crowds and stimulating refreshments. It sounds like he went out with a bang. Woodstock move over!
The Moravian Potters in North Carolina. John Bivins. University of North Carolina Press/Chapel Hill. 1972.
The Art of the Potter. Diana and J. Garrison Stradling. Main Street-Universe Books/New York. 1977.
Ceramics in America. Robert Hunter, Ed. University Press of New England/Lebanon, NH. 2009.