Johann Cristoph Brotze was born on 12 September 1742, in Görlitz, a small town in Silesia, into the family of a salt weigher. He was educated at the Universities of Görlitz, Leipzig, and Wittenberg, where he studied Religious Studies and Linguistics, and obtained a Doctor of Philosophy degree at Wittenberg. Brotze lived most of his life, 46 years in fact, in Riga, working as an educator and local history researcher. Brotze’s life’s work was a collection of cultural history texts and manuscripts – 3,130 pages - containing hundreds of drawings and texts about people, towns, castles, buildings, and landscapes of Latvia and Estonia. The title of the German-language work is Sammlung verschiedener Liefländischer Monumente, Prospecte, Münzen, Wappen, etc. (Collection of various Livonian monuments, objects, coins, coats of arms, etc) and it is held in the Latvian Academic Library in Riga. Brotze enthusiastically collected all the historical and contemporary information he could get his hands on, sketching with photographic precision and annotating all the material available to him. For his magnum opus, Brotze collaborated with a wide range of local historians, pastors, literati, and intellectuals. One of his most important assistants in Estonia was the pastor Eduard Philipp Körber (1770-1850), who contributed more than 80 drawings to the collection, including a view from the north of the ruins of Viljandi’s old fortress gate. Johann Cristoph Brotze died in Riga, in August 1823.

According to August Wilhelm Hupel (1737-1819), after the great fire of 1765, there were only 46 wooden buildings and two stone houses left in Viljandi in 1774. By order of the Governor-General, the new houses had to be built with stone roofs, and the thatched and wooden roofs also had to be replaced with stone. This requirement changed the general appearance of the town, as can be seen in the painting View of Viljandi (1800), which features St. John’s Church and the surrounding buildings and gardens. The manor house on the left was situated outside the town borders. At that time, the town had a population of 600–700 (Vallikivi, 2020).

Johann Christoph Brotze (1742-1823)
View near Viljandi 1800, Watercolor, paper.
Latvian Academic Library

KEYWORDS: lived in Riga for 46 years, enthusiastic local history researcher, collected a lot of valuable historical information about Estonia.