Louis I, Count of Sayn-Wittgenstein

Louis I, Count of Sayn-Wittgenstein, nicknamed "the Elder", formally "Louis I of Sayn, Count at Wittgenstein" (7 December 1532 at Wittgenstein Castle, near Bad Laasphe – 2 July 1605, while travelling near Altenkirchen) ruled the County of Wittgenstein, on the upper reaches of the rivers Lahn and Eder, from 1558 until his death. He converted his county to Calvinism and was an influential politician in the service to the Electoral Palatinate.

Louis I
Count of Sayn-Wittgenstein
Ludwig d I Wittgenstein.jpg
Born7 December 1532
Wittgenstein Castle, near Bad Laasphe
Died2 July 1605(1605-07-02) (aged 72)
On the road near Altenkirchen
Noble familyHouse of Sayn-Wittgenstein
Spouse(s)Anna of Solms-Braunfels
Elisabeth of Solms-Laubach
FatherWilliam I, Count of Sayn-Wittgenstein
MotherJohannetta of Isenburg-Neumagen

Early lifeEdit

He was born as the sixth child and fourth son of William I, Count of Sayn-Wittgenstein (24 August 1488 – 18 April 1570) and his wife, Countess Johannetta of Isenburg-Neumagen (born 1500).


He received his first schooling at Wittgenstein Castle from the vicar of Weidenhausen. In 1543, Louis and his brothers went to Cologne to receive further education. He learned Greek and Latin, as well as English, French, Italian, and some Spanish. From 1545, Louis and two of his brothers studied at the Universities of Leuven, Paris and Orléans. Between 1553 and 1556, he made a Grand Tour, visiting Padua, Malta, Savoy, France and England. he briefly served Pope Pius IV as treasurer. When he returned to Wittgenstein Castle in 1556, Louis found that his father had issued a moderate Lutheran Church Order (Lutheran). He studied the new faith and converted to Lutheranism.

His elderly father William I (died 18 April 1570) had appointed Louis' elder brother William II as Regent in 1551. In 1558, William II died in Brussels and Louis I took up the regency.

Count Louis was raised in a humanist fashion. He frequently corresponded with his contemporaries, especially with other Calvinists. He travelled to the Netherlands and visited the grave of Erasmus. He began an intensive correspondence with various scholars of his time. As a result of this correspondence, he increasingly turned to the Reformed doctrine. In 1568, he travelled to Zurich, where he met numerous leading Reformed, with whom he also started an intense correspondence.

Between 1574 and 1577, he served as Lord High Stewart at the Reformed court of Elector Palatine Frederick III in Heidelberg. During this period, he carried out numerous political tasks. In Heidelberg, he also came into close contact with Reformed theologicians and scholars. After the Palatinate reverted to Lutheranism under Elector Louis VI, his service in Heidelberg ended.

Louis returned to his county and brought the reformer Caspar Olevian with him. Reformed church orders had been issued in 1563 and 1565; in 1578, the conversion to the Reformed faith was made official and altars and religious imagery were banned.

Louis of Wittgenstein was a very close friend of his neighbour, Count John VI of Nassauburg, who was also reformed, and was almost the same age. In 1584, the two counts jointly founded Herborn Academy. From 1592 to 1594, he again served as Lord High Steward in the Electoral Palatinate, after the Palatinate had again converted to Calvinism.

Louise and his first wife Anna moved their residence from the ancestral Wittgenstein Castle on a hilltop overlooking Bad Laasphe to a former hunting lodge near Berleburg. Here he began keeping a diary.

Parts of his extensive diaries have preserved in the Princely Archive in Berleburg. Some excerpts were printed in the 19th Century. His diaries are an important source of information about the intellectual and political history of his time. His extensive correspondence has not yet been fully evaluated by historians.

Family and childrenEdit

On 14 August 1559, at Dillenburg Castle, he married Countess Anna of Solms-Braunfels (1538–1565), daughter of Philipp I, Count of Solms-Braunfels (1494-1581) and his wife, Countess Anna of Tecklenburg (1500-1554). Anna died in 1565. Children of his first marriage were:

In 1567, Louis remarried, to Countess Elisabeth of Solms-Laubach (6 March 1549 – 1599), daughter of Frederick Magnus I, Count of Solms-Laubach and his wife, Countess Agnes von Wied (d. 1588), widow of Count Kaspar von Mansfeld-Hinterort (d. 1542). Children from his second marriage were:


  • Ulf Lückel and Andreas Kroh: Das fürstliche Haus zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Hohenstein, in the series Deutsche Fürstenhäuser issue. 11, Werl, 2004, p. 5-6.
  • Ludwig der Aeltere, Graf von Sayn zu Wittgenstein, in Erzählung, Brief und Verordnung, sein Selbstbiograph. Aus handschriftlichen Tagebüchern und Urkunden dargestellt von Fr. Wilh. Winckel, evangel. Oberpfarrer in Berleburg, Berleburg, 1855, Online
  • Johannes Burkardt. "SAYN-WITTGENSTEIN, Ludwig der Ältere". Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL) (in German). Vol. XIX. Bautz. cols. 1190–1196.
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Cuno (1898), "Sayn-Wittgenstein, Ludwig der Aeltere, der Fromme, Graf zu", Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB) (in German), vol. 43, Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, pp. 624–626
  • Ludwig I. Graf v.Sayn-Wittgenstein in: Genealogy database by Herbert Stoyan [retrieved 3 October 2014].