BREITINGER, brai'tin-ger, JOHANN JAKOB: Swiss theologian; b. at Zurich Apr. 19, 1575; d. there Apr. 1, 1645. Not until his seventeenth year did his spiritual gifts begin to manifest themselves, but from 1593 to 1598 he studied at Reformed seminaries in Germany and Holland, and in 1597 became a member of the clergy of his native city. His prominence during the pestilence of 1611 proved him worthy of the appointment of deacon to the church of St. Peter. Two years later he was made pastor of the Grossmünster, thus becoming the most important clergyman in Zurich, and in 1614 he was appointed school-rector. His importance was not due, however, to his religious or theological originality, but rather to his political intelligence and practical skill in organization and execution, combining shrewd circumspection and patience with a versatile initiative. His sermons, though not deep, were characterized by warmth of feeling, clearness, pithiness, and charm. The most important of his works are his synodical addresses, in which he sought to exalt the position of the clergy. These sermons, delivered at the semiannual sessions of the synod and collected by him in the latter years of his life, are models of pastoral wisdom, and received practical application in Breitinger's own activity. The status of the preachers was revolutionized on the basis of two of his speeches before the council in 1628, and he secured the general adoption of music in the churches, which Zurich had lacked altogether until 1598. He likewise enriched the liturgy with sections which are still in use, as with the prayer for the dead and the morning prayer after the sermon of 1638. Breitinger also successfully urged the need of religious instruction of the young, as is shown by repeated ordinances of 1613, 1628, 1637-1638, and 1643. He was, likewise, the ultimate author of the custom by which the Swiss Confederations celebrate the days of thanksgiving, repentance, and prayer at the same time, and it was he who introduced the rule of making a public announcement of marriage. In 1634 he introduced into the churches of Zurich and eastern Switzerland the use of parochial registers, which were to be returned every three years to the head of the clergy and thus served as a sort of census-report. Four years later he instituted parochial visitations, and finally established the ecclesiastical archives of Zurich.
Breitinger was deeply interested in education, and was also active is the establishment of scholarships for poor students. He was no less enthusiastic in his patronage of charity, and prepared statistics of the poor as early as 1621, while in 1623, at the request of the mayor, he published Gutachten der Bettler und Armen halber. Three years later, on the basis of further studies, Breitinger made noteworthy proposals for houses of correction for neglected youth, and was also active in the improvement of prisons and hospitals. Ever watchful over the morals of the people, he opposed lack of refinement and excess, and sought to obviate the evil influences of the war in the neighboring kingdom, in addition to restricting lavish expenditure in clothing (1616, 1628), and in weddings and funerals (1621, 1628, 1640), as well as the drinking of toasts (1632), and occasionally even the stage and the cultivation of art. A watchful opponent of the hopes and propaganda of Catholicism and Anabaptism, he refrained from excessive hostility, contenting himself with remaining a constant protector of the Reformed. His personal preeminence and his interest in his church frequently involved him in political problems, and during the Thirty Years' War he was the leader of a Swedish party in Zurich. The fortification of the city was due, strictly speaking, to him, and had he had his way, Switzerland would have been involved in the struggle.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: The chief work is by J. C. Mörikofer, J. J. Breitinger und Zürich, Leipsic, 1874. Consult also G. R. Zimmermann, Die Zürcher Kirche, pp. 143-184, Zurich, 1877-78.
Calvin College. Last modified on 05/10/04. Contact the CCEL.