Gotthard Friedrich Stender

Gotthard Friedrich Stender (Latvian: Gothards Frīdrihs Stenders or Ģederts Fridriks Štenders; 1714–1796), also called Old Stender (Vecais Stenders), was a Baltic German Lutheran parson who played an outstanding role in Latvia's history of culture. He was the first Latvian grammarian and lexicographer, founder of the Latvian secular literature in the 18th century. In the spirit of Enlightenment, he wrote the first Latvian-German and German-Latvian dictionaries, wrote the first encyclopedia “A Book of High Wisdom on the World and Nature [lv]” (1774), and wrote the first illustrated Latvian alphabet book (1787).

Gotthard Friedrich Stender
Gothards Frīdrihs Stenders
Gotthard Friedrich Stender.jpg
Gotthard Friedrich Stender, 1753
Born(1714-08-27)27 August 1714
Lassen pastorat, Oberhauptmannschaft Selburg, Duchy of Courland and Semigallia
(Now Laši [lv], Eglaine Parish, Ilūkste Municipality,  Latvia)
Died17 May 1796(1796-05-17) (aged 81)
NationalityBaltic German
EducationUniversity of Jena
University of Halle
Known forLatvian grammarian
Children5, including Alexander Johann Stender [lv; ru]
RelativesGeorg Stender (brother; ?–1789)


Stender memorial near his birthplace at Laši in Eglaine Parish

Gotthard Friedrich Stender was born in Laši [lv] in the family of the Lutheran parson Hermann Konrad Stender. His grandfather was also a parson in the Selonia region of Duchy of Courland. He got his first education from his father, but later studied in Subate German school where one of his main interests was Latin. From 1736 until 1739, Stender studied theology, rhetoric and ancient languages in universities of Jena and Halle.[1] Upon returning to Courland he worked as a private tutor in Lielbērstele, a teacher in Jelgava and from 1744 a Lutheran parson in Linde-Birzgale and later Žeimelis parish.[2]

In 1759, together with his family, Stender relocated to Königslutter in Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg, where he worked as a rector for a local school, but a few months later after a conflict with a local clergyman,[3] they moved to Copenhagen, where he worked as a geography teacher at a cadet school. There, using an innovative approach he made a globe for King of Denmark Frederik V.[1] Stender also became interested in ideas of Freemasonry and became a member of a lodge.

In 1765, Stender returned to Duchy of Courland and Semigallia. For the rest of his life, he served as a parson in the Sēlpils and Sunākste parishes. Gotthard Friedrich Stender died in his home in Sunākste, 17 May 1796.[2] His son Alexander Johann Stender [lv; ru], grandson Johann Christian Stender [lv] and great-grandson Karl Gottlob Stender [lv] were all Lutheran parsons as well.


Stender's "New Teaching of ABC and Reading" (Jauna ABC un Lassischanas Mahziba) at the National Library of Latvia

Stender produced didactic tales and idyllic poems meant to educate and uplift the Latvian peasants who were oppressed by serfdom. He wrote secular poetry ranging from philosophical odes to the grandeur of nature to unpretentious, folksy songs, which widely influenced the literary taste of the nation, and won extreme popularity. His works, although written in a simple language and style, meant for the barely educated 18th century Latvians, promoted education in Latvian schools throughout the whole 19th century. His Latvian grammar book and a dictionary was used not only by Latvians and Baltic Germans, but also by foreign linguists from all over Europe. Stender, along with Johann Gottfried Herder, was the first author who analysed dainas, riddles, proverbs and sayings.


In 2014, on the 300th anniversary of Gotthard Friedrich Stender's birthday, the Bank of Latvia released a euro silver commemorative coin dedicated to Stender.[4]


  1. ^ a b Welscher, Alexander (16 November 2021). "German traces in Latvia: Gotthard Friedrich Stender – Enlightenment man, linguist, inventor". Public Broadcasting of Latvia. Retrieved 16 December 2021.
  2. ^ a b Grudule, Māra (2020). "Gotthard Friedrich Stender as a Latvian and a European scholar" (PDF). Latvian Academy of Sciences Yearbook 2020 (PDF). Zinātne. pp. 67–71. ISBN 978-9934-549-94-6.
  3. ^ Grudule, Māra (2004). "German Parsons in Latvia in the River of Time: Literary Heritage" (PDF). Senoji Lietuvos literatūra: 60–68. ISBN 9955-475-85-4.
  4. ^ "Bank of Latvia issues collector coin dedicated to Old Stenders". The Baltic Course. 3 September 2015. Retrieved 7 November 2019.

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