1880 Jindera Lutheran Christening Font

Era: Cultural background: Collection: Theme:Folk Art Furniture Religion Settlement

Wooden Christening font and glass bowl insert. c.1880s
Wooden Christening font and glass bowl insert. c.1880s. Courtesy Jindera Museum

Jindera Museum, Jindera, Australia.

Object Name
Christening Font.

Object Description
Wooden Christening font, with tripod legs and glass bowl insert. Top has a round insert which contains the round glass bowl. The wood used is possibly river red gum and was possibly crafted by a German settler with woodworking skills c.1880s. The font is in good, original condition. Dimensions: Approx 500mm high, 300mm wide.

A baptismal font is used in the Christian church for the baptism of children and adults. It is used in the non-immersion method of baptisms o f sprinkling water on the subject’s head. The basic font has a pedestal about 1.5 metres tall, with a holder for a basin of water. The materials can vary from carved and sculpted marble to wood or metal.

From the very earliest years of settlement, the Lutheran church was the pivot of the German communities throughout South Australia, Victoria and the Riverina. While the majority of the German community were Lutherans there were German settlers who were Catholic, Methodist and Anglican.

During the journey from South Australia to the Riverina in 1868 services were conducted morning, afternoon and in the evening. On their arrival in the Walla Walla district, services were held initially in homes. The first Lutheran church in Walla Walla was built in 1872 by the community. It was constructed of slabs of timber and clay, with a roof of straw. Windows, doors, floor boards and timber for the seats was purchased. Other Lutheran churches were built at Gerogery in 1870 and Bethel in 1871.

Baptism was considered an important event. The baby wore a gown of the best and softest material and hand crocheted lace in the most intricate patterns. Three God-parents attended the service and spoke on behalf of the child, and friends and neighbours attended the ‘Christening Dinner’ as well.

After the sermon the ceremony of baptism was performed. As a girl was to be received into the Church it was necessary for two godmothers to present themselves, and only one godfather. Had the sex been different the proportions would have been reversed. One godmother held the baby throughout the ceremony. All three had to subscribe to a confession of faith, and many times and oft did the ‘ja’ resound. But one was led to inquire where were the mother and father? In the congregation. They were merely passive onlookers. It is not supposed for one moment that a German parent will disregard his or her natural responsibility. In default, however, the duties of godparents are sheeted home. Sydney Morning Herald 28 August 1909.

Baptismal Font, Magdeburg Germany
Baptismal Font, Magdeburg Germany. Courtesy Jindera Museum

The baptismal font has historical significance as evidence of the role of religion in the lives of German settlers in the Riverina.

The font has aesthetic significance, for its design principles and connection to traditional German woodworking skills. The baptismal font is significant for its associations with the settlement of the Jindera/ Walla Walla district of the Riverina by German families and was probably made by a German settler familiar with traditional German woodworking skills. Following the purchase of land in the district, clearing of timber was undertaken for agricultural purposes and for the establishment of homes and communities.

The baptismal font has tangible significance for its associations with the strong Christian faith inherent in the German communities of the Riverina, particularly among the Lutheran Germans.

The baptismal font remains as a key object in the interpretation of the history and culture of the Australian German community in the late nineteenth century.

Written by Annette Brown
Museum of the Riverina
March 2006

Edited by Stephen Thompson
Migration Heritage Centre NSW
August 2011 – updated 2011

Crown copyright 2011©

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