About this Famous Person
Franco-German theologian, organist, philosopher, and physician
Source : Hervé FULLENWARTH
Born in Kaysersberg, Schweitzer spent his childhood in the village of Gunsbach, Alsace, where his father, the local Lutheran-Evangelical pastor, taught him how to play music. Long disputed, the region of Alsace or Elsass was part of Germany from 1871 and during Schweitzer's youth: in treaties following World War I it was re-integrated into France. The tiny village is home to the Association Internationale Albert Schweitzer (AIAS). The medieval parish church of Gunsbach was of a special Protestant-Catholic kind found in various places in Germany even today. It was shared by the two congregations, which held their prayers in different areas of the same church at different times on Sundays. This compromise arose after the Protestant Reformation and the Thirty Years War. Schweitzer, the pastor's son, grew up in this exceptional environment of religious tolerance, and developed the belief that true Christianity should always work towards a unity of faith and purpose.
Schweitzer's home language was an Alsatian dialect of German and like most Alsatians even during German rule, he was familiar with French as well. At Mulhouse high school he got his "Abitur" (the certificate at the end of secondary education), in 1893. He studied organ there from 1885-1893 with Eugène Munch, organist of the Protestant Temple, who inspired Schweitzer with his profound enthusiasm for the music of German composer Richard Wagner. In 1893 he played for the French organist Charles-Marie Widor (at Saint-Sulpice, Paris), for whom Johann Sebastian Bach's organ-music contained a mystic sense of the eternal. Widor, deeply impressed, agreed to teach Schweitzer without fee, and a great and influential friendship was begun.
From 1893 he studied Protestant theology at the Kaiser Wilhelm Universität of Straßburg. There he also received instruction in piano and counterpoint from professor Gustav Jacobsthal, and associated closely with Ernest Munch (the brother of his former teacher), organist of St William church, who was also a passionate admirer of J.S. Bach's music. Schweitzer did his one year's obligitory military service in 1894. Schweitzer saw many operas of Richard Wagner at Straßburg (under Otto Lohse), and in 1896 he pulled together the funds to visit Bayreuth to see Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen and Parsifal, and was deeply affected. Soon afterwards he visited the new organ in the Liederhalle at Stuttgart, and, appalled by its lack of clarity, experienced another great realization. In 1898 he went back to Paris to write a Ph.D. dissertation on The Religious Philosophy of Kant at the Sorbonne, and to study in earnest with Widor. Here he often met with the elderly Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. He also studied piano at that time with Marie Jaëll. He completed his theology degree in 1899 and published his Ph.D. at the University of Tübingen in 1899.
- Category Physician