Johann Joseph Görres

Portrait of Joseph von Görres

Johann Joseph Görres was a German writer, philosopher, theologian, historian and catholic journalist. He was born on 25th January 1776, in Koblenz, Germany and died on 29th January 1848 in Munich, Germany aged 72.

Major Works

“Die Desutschen Volksbucher” (The German Chapbooks) (1807)
“Mythengeschichte der Asiatischen Welt” (History of the Myths of the Asiatic World) (1810)
“Das Heldenbuch von Iran” (The Book of Heroes of Iran) (1820)
“Christliche Mystik” (1842)

Biography Timeline

Johann Joseph Görres was born on 25th January 1776, in Koblenz, Germany. His father was fairly financially comfortable and could afford to send his son to a Jesuit College.

1797: After the Treaty of Campo Formio is signed it is hoped that the Rhineland provinces would be constituted into an independent republic but that is not to be.

1799: Görres was always sympathetic to French Revolution and publishes a republican journal called “Das Rote Blatt” (The Red Page), later renamed Rübezahl) which strongly condemns the administration of the Rhenish provinces by France. He is one of several delegates sent by the Rhine and Moselle provinces to Paris in the autumn to protest against the conduct of the French general Leval in the Rhine area but they get no satisfaction and he becomes disillusioned with politics. On his return he publishes the tract “Resultate Meiner Sendung nach Paris, in which he shows his disappointment. 

1801: He marries Catherine de Lasaulx and teaches natural science at a secondary school in Koblenz.

1805: His son Guido is born.

1806: He moves to Heidelberg where he becomes a lecturer at the University. He meets Romantic writers such as Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano. Together they produce “Zeitung für Einsiedler” (Journal for Hermits) and he helps produce Arnim’s later version “Tröst Einsamkeit” (Consolation Solitude).

1807: He publishes “Die Deutschen Volksbucher” (The Books of the German People) which is a collection of medieval stories that becomes significant to the Romantic movement.

1808: He returns to Koblenz and resumes life as a secondary school teacher.

1810: After studying Persian he publishes “Mythengeschichte der Asiatischen Welt” (Mythical Stories of the Asiatic World).

1814: The national struggle against Napoleon Bonaparte leads him to set up the newspaper Rheinische Merkur”. It becomes an influential journal and even Napoleon himself calls it “a fifth power”. He campaigns for a united Germany under an emperor having abandoned his earlier views on republicanism.

1815: He criticises the second peace of Paris saying that Alsace and Lorraine should be demanded back from France.

1816: After the fall of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo the Rheinische Merkur turns against the reactionary politics of the German states. He ignores the censorship rulings by the Prussian government and the newspaper is eventually shut down and he is removed from his post as a teacher. He returns to Heidelberg.

1817: He returns to Koblenz and founds a charity for the relief of its impoverished citizens.

1818: He publishes “Adresse der Stadt und Landschaft Koblenz und ihre Uebergabe beim Fürsten Hardenberg” (Address of the city and landscape of Koblenz and its handover to Prince Hardenberg).

1819: He publishes the controversial pamphlet “Deutschland und die Revolution” (Germany and the Revolution). In it he argues for freedom of speech and because it becomes very popular it is suppressed by the Prussian government and he is forced to flee, first to Frnafurt and then to Strasbourg where he lives in poverty.

1820: He publishes “Das Heldenbuch von Iran” (The Book of Heroes of Iran), a translation of part of Ferdows’s epic poem “Shahnama” (The Book of Kings).

1821: He publishes “Europa und die Revolution” (Europe and the Revolution) which becomes very popular in Germany and describes the moral and political corruption of France in the eighteenth century as the major cause of the revolution of 1789.

1822: He publishes “In Sachen der Rheinprovinzen und in Eigener Angelegenheit” (In the matter of the Rhine Province and of my own). In his pamphlet “Die Heilige Allianz und die Völker auf dem Congresse von Verona” (The Holy Alliance and the Peoples Represented at the Congress of Verona) he states that the princes met together merely to crush the liberties of the population and that the people must look elsewhere for help.

1824: He formally returns to the Roman Catholic Church. 

1826: King Ludwig of Bavaria summons him to Munich.

1827: He becomes professor of history at the University of Munich where he becomes the centre of a circle of liberal Roman Catholic scholars. He is visited there by Clemens Brentano.

1837: He upholds the power of the church in his publication “Athanasius” which goes through several editions and becomes very controversial.

1839: In January he receives the “Civil Order of Merit” from King Ludwig.

1842: He completes the monumental “Christliche Mystik” (Christian Mysticism) begun in 1836 and published in four volumes. It includes biographies of the saints and an exposition of Roman Catholic mysticism.

Johann Joseph Görres died on 29th January 1848 in Munich, Germany. He was buried in the Alter Sudfreidhof (Old Southern cemetery) in the city.