John Amos Comenius


John Amos Comenius (Jan Amos Komenský; Ján Amos Komenský; Johann Amos Comenius; Jan Amos Komeński; Comenius Ámos János; latinized: Iohannes Amos Comenius) (March 28, 1592November 15, 1670) was a Czech teacher, scientist, educator, and writer. He was a Unity of the Brethren/Moravian Protestant bishop, a religious refugee, and one of the earliest champions of universal education, a concept eventually set forth in his book Didactica Magna. Comenius became known as the teacher of nations. He is often considered the father of modern education.

Life and work

The birthplace of Comenius is not known. There are three possible locations: Komňa, Nivnice, or Uherský Brod in Moravia (now part of the Czech Republic). His parents had fled from Hungary during the 16th Century and his original family name was Szeges according to his will found in 1968 by Milada Blekastad monographer of Comenius.

  • Komňa is a small village where his parents lived and where he takes his name from. (Czech: Komňa → Komenský; Comenius is a Latinised form).
  • Nivnice is a small village where he spent his childhood.
  • Uherský Brod is a town where to he moved during his childhood. There is a museum devoted to him there.

He attended the Latinschool in Přerov, Moravia, where he returned 1614-18 as a teacher of the school. He continued his studies in Herborn (1611-13) and Heidelberg (1613-14). Comenius was greatly influenced by the Irish Jesuit William Bathe as well as his teachers Johann Piscator, Heinrich Gutberleth, and particularly Heinrich Alsted. The Herborn school held the principle that every theory has to be functional in practical use, therefore has to be didactic, ie morally instructive. Comenius had a few wrinkles on his mentors' thoughts later published in Janua linguarum reserata (1631) which may have made him and the Moravian Church especial targets of the Counter Reformation. Alternately, the work may have resulted from the pogroms which drove him and his church out of its homeland into exile, but in any event, the work led him to widespread prominence and fame while suffering exile.

Comenius became a pastor at age 24 and led the Brethren into exile when the Protestants were persecuted under the Counter Reformation. He lived and worked in many different countries in Europe, including Sweden, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Transylvania, the Holy Roman Empire, England, the Netherlands, and Royal Hungary. Comenius took refuge in Leszno in Poland, where he led the gymnasium, then moved to Sweden to work with Queen Christina and the chancellor Axel Oxenstierna. From 1642-1648 he went to Elbing (Elbląg) in Polish Royal Prussia, then to England with the aid of Samuel Hartlib, who came originally from Elbing. In 1650 Zsuzsanna Lorántffy, widow of George I Rákóczi prince of Transylvania invited him to Sárospatak. Comenius remained there until 1654 as professor in the first Hungarian Protestant college; he wrote some of his most important works there. Comenius returned to Leszno. During the Northern Wars in 1655, he declared his support for the Protestant Swedish side, for which his house, his manuscripts, and the school's printing press were burned down by Polish partisans in 1656. From there he took refuge in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, where he died in 1670. For unclear reasons he was buried in Naarden, where his grave can be visited in the mausoleum devoted to him.

One of his daughters, Elisabeth, married Peter Figulus from Jablonné nad Orlicí. Their son, Daniel Ernst Jablonski, Comenius's grandson, later went to Berlin, where he became the highest official pastor at the court of King Frederick I of Prussia. There he became acquainted with Count Nicolaus Ludwig Zinzendorf. Zinzendorf was the among the first successors to Comenius as bishop in the renewed Moravian Brethren's Church.

Comenius, his life and teachings, have become better known since the fall of the Iron Curtain. His book, Labyrinth of the World and Paradise of the Heart, is actually a reflection on his life experiences. Other works include Janua Linguarum Reserata (a new Dutch translation by CFJ Antonides is available) and Orbis Sensualium Pictus (World in Pictures) (1657), probably the most renowned and most widely circulated of school textbooks, and the Protestant Hymn songbooks (Gesangbuch).

It has been claimed that Comenius was asked to be the first President of Harvard University. He also attempted to design a language in which false statements were inexpressible.


During the 19th century Czech National Revival, Comenius became idealised as a symbol of the Czech nation. This image persists to the present day.

In Sárospatak, Hungary, a teacher's college is named after him (the college now belongs to the University of Miskolc.)

March 28, the birthday of Comenius, is celebrated as Teachers' Day in Slovakia and in the Czech Republic.

The Comenius Medal, one of UNESCO’s most prestigious awards honouring outstanding achievements in the fields of education research and innovation, is named after him.

In 1892 Comenius Hall, the principal classroom and faculty office building on Moravian College's campus, was built. In 1892 the three-hundredth anniversary of Comenius was very widely celebrated by educators, and at that time the Comenian Society for the study and publication of his works was formed.

In 1919 the Comenius University was founded in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, (now in Slovakia). It was the first university with courses in the Slovak language.

" Comenius" a European Union school partnership program has been named after the teacher of nations.

The education department at Salem College has an annual Comenius Symposium dedicated in his honor; the subjects usually deal with modern issues in education.

Gate to Languages, a project of lifelong education, taking place in the Czech Republic from October 2005 to June 2007 and aimed at language education of teachers, was named after his book Janua linguarum reserata (Gate to Languages Unlocked).

A primary school in Skopje, Yugoslavia is named after Comenius (Jan Amos Komenski in Macedonian). The school was built by the Czechoslovakian government after the catastrophic earthquake in 1963 that levelled most of Skopje.

The Comenius Foundation is a non-governmental organisation in Poland, dedicated to the provision of equal opportunities to children under 10 years of age.

There is also a Comenius Foundation in the US, a non-profit charity that uses film and documentary production to further faith, learning, and love.

See also


  • Orbis Pictus
  • Gesangbuch
  • Linguae Bohemicae thesaurus, hoc est lexicon plenissimum, grammatica accurata, idiotismorum elegantiae et emphases adagiaque (Treasure of Language Bohemician), 1612-1656
  • Problemata miscellanea (Different Problems), 1612
  • Sylloge quaestionum controversarum 1613
  • Grammaticae facilioris praecepta 1614-1616
  • O andělích (About Angels), 1615
  • Theatrum universitatis rerum 1616-1627
  • Retuňk proti Antikristu a svodům jeho 1617
  • O starožitnostech Moravy (About moravian antiquities), 1618-1621
  • Spis o rodu Žerotínů (Script about House of Žerotín), 1618-1621
  • Mapa Moravy (Moraviae nova et post omnes priores accuratissima delineatio autore J. A. Comenio) (Map of Moravia), 1618-1627
  • Listové do nebe (Letters to heaven), 1619
  • Manuálník aneb jádro celé biblí svaté (Manual or core of the whole saint Bible), 1620-1623
  • Pŕemyšlování o dokonalosti kŕesťanské (Thinking about christian perfection), 1622
  • Nedobytedlný hrad jméno Hospodinovo (Unconqerable fortress (is) name of the God), 1622
  • Truchlivý, díl první 1623
  • O poezí české (About bohemian poetry), 1623-1626
  • Truchlivý, díl druhý 1624
  • O sirobě (About poor people), 1624
  • Pres boží (Press of God), 1624
  • Centrum securitatis 1625
  • Vidění a zjevení Kryštofa Kottera, souseda a jircháŕe sprotavského (Seeing and revelation of kryštof Kotter, neibourgh of mine and "jirchář" of sprotava), 1625
  • Pŕeklad někkterých žalmů (Translation of some tunes), 1626
  • Didaktika česká (Bohemian didactic), 1628-1630
  • Škola hrou (Schola Ludus, School by Play) 1630
  • Labyrint světa a ráj srdce (Labyrinth of the World and Paradise of the Heart) 1631
  • Brána jazyků otevřena (The Gate of Languages unlocked) 1631
  • Didactica magna (The Great Didactica), 1633-1638
  • Schola pansophica (Schhol of Pansophy), 1650-1651
  • Primitiae laborum scholasticorum 1650-1651
  • Opera didactica omnia (Writing on all learning), 1657
  • De bono unitatis et ordinis (On good unity and order), 1660
  • De rerum humanarum emendatione consultatio catholica ()
  • Spicilegium Didacticum 1680


  • Keatinge, The Great Didactic of Comenius (London, 1896)
  • Laurie, John Amos Comenius (1881; sixth edition, 1898)
  • Quick, Essays on Educational Reformers (London, 1890)
  • Müller, Comenius, ein Systematiker in der Pädagogik (Dresden, 1887)
  • Löscher, Comenius, der Pädagogik und Bischof (Leipzig, 1889)
  • Monroe, Comenius and the Beginning of Educational Reform (New York, 1900)


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