Florence Nightingale

Kaiserswerth Yesterday and Today

from the Kaiserswerth Museum

Kaiserswerth is a small town on the Rhine with an important history.

The basilica commemorates the Anglo-Saxon missionary, Saint Swithbert, who came to the little Rhine island around the year 700.

In the twelfth century, the emperor Friedrich Barbarossa built an impressive castle, of which unfortunately little has remained.

400 years ago the Jesuit priest Friedrich Spee von Langenfeld was born here. He is mainly known as a writer of choral hymns and an opponent of the witch trials of his time.

And this is also Kaiserswerth: the Diakoniewerk with its "Florence Nlghtingale" hospital, with two centers for the elderly, special Colleges for social and pedagogical education, schools of nursing and geriatric care; with pedagogic facilities for children, teenagers and adults, with an institute of continuing education, the so-called "Kaiserswerther-seminars;" with a personnel of fourteen hundred people in many professions and, last but not least, those women, whose work was the basis of all this: the deaconesses from the world's first "Mutterhaus" which was founded in 1836 in the center ot Kaiserswerth.

To this small town with its strong Roman Catholic tradition and only a small Protestant congregation came the young Protestant minister, Theodor Fliedner, in 1822.

"I was sick and you visited me" -- and "Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me" -- these Gospel texts were the impulse for Theodor Fliedner and his wife, Friederike, to confront the dire needs of their time.

Everywhere, the newly begun industrialization was leaving devastating traces: poverty and misery of the common man, the proletarian, neglect of the children, who were forced to work in factories like adults without a chance for a normal development let alone education.

The rate of crime grew. The conditions were appalling in the prisons and the hospitals, too.

Theodor and Friederike Fliedner decided to help for the sake of God and the people.

But their own parish was unable to raise the necessary funds.

So the young pastor started traveling to collect money, first in his own area and then in the wealthy Netherlands and England.

Everywhere he met Christians, who had already developed ideas for reform.

He integrated their experiences in an idea which was to make history: unmarried women would unite in a sisterhood, wear the traditional bonnet of the married women of the northern Rhine region, go through professional training and with this address the social problems of their time -- for a few years or even a lifetime.

The Deaconess Mutterhaus was founded in 1836 next to the Kaiserswerther Market. And soon the sick were being cared for here.

Deaconesses helped prisoners and women ex-convicts. They took care of children and assisted the sick and the poor in the community.

Friederike and Theodor Fliedner encouraged help and self-help. At the same time they made an important contribution to the emancipation of women.

The idea of the sisterhood -- unmarried women working within the support of a spiritual community -- spread throughout the world in a surprisingly short time.

In Germany and soon in other countries people asked Fliedner for advice and help in establishing other Motherhouses and nursing centers as far away as Cairo, Jerusalem, Istanbul and even America.

The Deacony gave a new image to nursing, social work and education within and outside the church parish.

In the Kaiserswerth-Museum impressive documents give evidence for this: pictures, texts and historic utensils used in the work in foreign countries.

Theodor Fliedner even managed to obtain an Egyptian mummy for instructional purpose.

Fliedner's most famous student was Florence Nightingale. In 1851 she passed her nursing exam in Kaiserswerth and became one of the most important pioneers in modern nursing.

Nursing developed into an esteemed women's profession and even today men are still clearly in the minority.

After Friederike's death Theodor Fliedner and his second wife, Caroline, expended the Deacony -- based on a faith which takes charity and mercy seriously.

When Theodor Fliedner died in 1864, he left a multifaceted institution of the women's Deacony, that met the needs of the new era using new methods.

The Florence Nightingale Hospital

In the course of more than a hundred and fifty years, the Deacony in Kaiserswerth and elsewhere has changed.

Nowadays the state takes significantly more responsibility for its citizens than in Prussian times.

But even in a country which has established an extensive social service network, the Deacony cannot and will not disengage itself from the responsibility for people in crises.

We are looking for answers to problems and challenges in the social, educational and nursing fields. We are asking for an orientation in Christian charity.

In Kaiserswerth there are four educational centers designed to meet the needs of our three priority areas: hospital care, social work and geriatric care.

Two of these are the schools of general and pediatric nursing, which provide a three year preparation for a profession which has to meet ever increasing challenges in the course of time.

The former nursing aides have now became medical experts, who regard the Kaiserswerther tradition as a special obligation.

The newest educational branch is the school of geriatric care in which personnel are trained and updated in the care of the elderly. Professional training in geriatric care with its special demands has become more and more important in recent years.

The educational centers for social educators train teachers, many of whom later work in church-funded Kindergartens.

The professional school was named after the first deaconess Gertrud Reichardt. Here students are prepared for social service professions and in two years earn the "Fachschul-degree."

One of the many opportunities for practical training is found in the Kindergarten and day care center of the Diakoniewerk.

Of course, play and handicrafts are in the foreground, but the encouragement of independence and responsibility is not neglected.

The Disselhoffgroup, the Fliedner-group and Janusz-Korczak- House: about 30 teenagers and children with difficult early experiences find a new home in these three groups and are then further assisted in their lives as young adults.

The young and the old living close to each other: more than 800 senior citizens live in the homes of the Diakoniewerk.

They live in "Salem House" on the outskirts of the nearby town of Ratingen, in the "Stammhaus" ("Original House") next to the Kaiserswerther Market, in flats for senior citizens and the retirement homes, the so-called "Feierabendhauser" around the Mutterhaus Church. These differing forms of living and care help older people to maintain their independence and dignity.

Today work with the elderly involves more than security and the mastery of daily living.

A variety of cultural events, concerti, lectures and exhibitions make it possible for them to consciously arrange their "leisure time" -- their retirement -- alone by themselves or with others.

The Sunday services are well attended. Pastoral care, Bible studies and discussion groups for the older residents are a welcome help with the cares and the burdens of old age.

It is good to know that if need be Florence Nighingale hospital is nearby. With its 11 specialties and more than 600 beds it serves as the specialty hospital for the northern part of Düsseldorf, including the exhibition center, the sports stadium and the airport.

More than 14,000 patients are treated here each year, more than a thousand babies see the light of day.

And in critical situations parents can be certain that everything that is possible will be done for their children.

The gynecology and pediatric clinics are specially prepared for difficult situations, including premature births.

Old entrance with the "Mutterhaus" visible in the distance

From the very beginning the combination of medical expertise and humanitarian care has been in the foreground in Kaiserswerth. The expectation has been maintained even during the last decades of rapid medical progress, be it in internal medicine, surgery or in the pulmonary clinic, from the first breath of life to the treatment of pain right up to the care of the dying.

Clinical pastoral care is an important part of the work of the church.

Many people want to talk and need consolation and help, especially in times of sickness.

The parish on the grounds of the Diakoniewerk provides training in clinical pastoral care for laymen and theologians from a wide geographic area.

The psychiatric work in Kaiserswerth can be traced back to the year 1852.

From then until now, the psychiatric clinic has proved successful as a department of the Florence Nightingale Hospital.

Social psychiatry and psychotherapy should be as near as possible to the community, as oriented as possible to the patient's place of residence.

Many mentally ill people don't need hospitalization. The outpatient clinic makes it possible for them to live at home and still have the help of daily therapeutic support.

Those who no longer need clinical care but still some ongoing support can find rehabilitation while living in a temporary home or in a psychiatric residence group,

Occupational therapy and job training, the management of a common household and the exchanges among group members support the stabilization of these generally young people.

Attention and an understanding of the limitations and possibilities of the individual are required on a daily basis. Reliable relationships form. The paths to carrying responsibility for oneself and living with others can be found.

The Diakoniewerk Kaiserswerth is a colorful mixture of diverse people and motivations: in the open and behind the scene, in the modern bookstore with a history that is almost as old as that of the Diakoniewerk itself, in the tradeshops and in the maintenance center with its laundry and central kitchen.

The volunteers from the church groups for the sick and the elderly -- the so-called "green ladies" -- supplement the work of the nurses and aides by doing errands, chatting at the bedside or simply being there for the patients.

Together with conscientious objectors, assistants and employees in the social services they help to give pastoral care a multisided image.

Care and help for the body and soul, and living and working together have been valid from the beginning until now, even though external conditions have significantly changed,

Continuing education and advanced training in the Kaiserswerther seminars encourage reflection of the current situation and its goals especially in medical and geriatric care.

The number of deaconesses has decreased almost everywhere other members of the staff have taken their place, but the impulses they gave continue to have effect.

Particularly in the "Diakonlsche Schwesternschaft," consciously a protestant nurses association which maintains close contact with the Kaiserswerther Mutterhaus.

A group of 16 deaconesses has formed a special circle. They try to convey the experience and the values of the traditional Deacony-movement to the younger generation. Young female school graduates who are not yet working live together for a year in a Christian community in the Mutterhaus.

They learn about the different fields of activity in the Diakoniewerk and share in the spiritual life of the sisterhood.

From the inside, rather than as onlookers, they experience the togetherness of different generations, professions and talents, also the life of the congregation, where they can give creative impulses to prayer meetings and services in the Mutterhaus-Church.

Here and in other places in the Diakoniewerk, patients, visitors and staff members can find rooms for meditation and spiritual community -- in the room of silence or in the hospital chapel, in short daily services and regular Sunday services in the church of the "Stammhaus" and the "Fliednerhall" in Salem House.

As in many churches of the entire region, the altar and chancel hangings in the houses of the Diakoniewerk -- which were designed, woven and embroidered in the Kaiserswerther paramentic workshop -- invite one to meditation and contemplation.

Their symbols follow the changing themes of the church year and attempt to be a visual counterpart to the organ.

One of the motives, which can also be seen in the stained glass window in the Mutterhaus refectory, comes from the story of Noah, the Old Testament account of life after the great flood.

The dove, which brings the olive branch to the Ark, has been the symbol of the Deacony in Kaiserswerth for more than 150 years, a sign of hope, a symbol of the challenge to help mankind.

Supported by friends and borne by hope and trust the ideal of charity and helping others will remain our task and duty in the future, too.

Visit Kaiserswerth's home page.

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