Points Of Style: The Moravian Star

Points of stellar style. The “Moravian Star” with its geometric form is a focal point wherever it is placed. Typically donning the tops of Christmas trees and illuminating or decorating interiors and exteriors throughout the world for nearly 200 years, the “Moravian Star” has timeless appeal.

In German a Moravian star is termed a “Hernhuter Stern”. The Moravian star is said to have originated in 1830 at the Moravian boy’s school in Niesky, Germany. Thought to be an example of a geometry lesson by an instructor, the points of interest of this star began a historical journey. The project in which the students used paper and glue to make a “star shaped polyhedron by attaching tall pyramids to a multifaceted geometrical solid” went beyond a challenging math lesson. What yielded beautiful star shapes became lanterns for Christmas decorations (In German, Christmas is termed “Weihnacht”). Indeed, what would begin as a pastime for children eventually became an occupation for the entire Moravian congregation. The star become an Advent symbol for the Moravian Church, a Protestant denomination founded during the 15th century in Moravia (Originally Morava). The religious heritage of this denomination is said to have begun in 1457 in Kunvald, Bohemia, an autonomous region of the Holy Roman Empire. In addition to its importance of this star to the Moravian Church, the eventual representation of the Moravian star as the “Star of Bethlehem” would even further popularize this pointed star. After its conception, the star became an important aspect in Moravian communities within Germany, the West Indies, Greenland, Suriname, Central America, South and East Africa, parts of India and Scandinavia and in the United States. Specifically for the United States, within North Carolina’s Moravian founded Winston-Salem, dating back to 1776, and Pennsylvania & upstate New York in the 1800’s.

The Moravian Boy’s School In Niesky, Germany (1830’s)

Of interest, around 1880, Peter Verbeek, a bookstore owner and an alumnus of the Moravian boy’s school in Niesky, Germany, began making the stars and made their instructions available for sale through his bookstore. Around 1900 Verbeek’s son, Harry Verbeek, would eventually found the Hernhut Star Factory, which was the main source of stars until World War I, producing the star lanterns out of tin and glass as well as kits to be assembled out of paper punched with holes. Who knew? Although the factory was heavily damaged at the end of the war, the Star Factory resumed producing these stars of meaning and style. After briefly overtaken by the communist government in the 1950’s, the factory was returned to the Moravian Church owned company, Abraham Durniger Company, which has continued to make the stars today. The increase in international travel and the introduction of mail order is said to have brought further recognition of the Moravian stars in other parts of the world. Quite a history with a single star.

1959 (Harry Lineback):  The Art Of The Moravian Star
The Art Of The Moravian Star (1959, Harry Lineback)

And of its geometric design? Although there are many forms of Moravian stars, the most common is the 26 point form. Composed of 18 square and 8 triangular cone shaped points, the shape is technically known as a “Great Stellated Rhombicuboctahedron”. These forms were first identified by Johannes Kepler in 1619 and again by Louis Poinsot in 1809, only a few decades before the geometry/art project at the Niesky boys school. Each face of the geometric solid in the center serves as the base for the “Stellations” or starburst points. No matter how many points a star has, a Moravian star has a regular shape, based on “polyhedrons”. These pointed stars can be found with 20, 26, 32, 50, 64 and 110 points. The variety is due to the divisions of the bases of the points, whether an octagonal or square “face”. Amazing style in a scope of points, indeed.

Of course, there is a distinction with the Moravian Star from other infamous stars. In fact, some stars made from simple paper decorations or other materials are often incorrectly called “Moravian Stars”, but are known as “German Stars”, “Swedish Stars” ,“Bethlehem Stars”, or “Froebel Stars”, named after Friedrich Frobel, the German Educator who invented them. Distinctive in their own right, they too, earn a place in “Points Of Style”…

"German Star", "Froebel Star", "Swedish Star" & "Bethlehem Star"
“German Star”, “Froebel Star”, “Swedish Star” & “Bethlehem Star”
The Moravian Star: 26 Points Of Luminous Style
The Decoration Of The Moravian Star
Points Of Seasonless Style With The Moravian Star
Points Of Seasonless Style With The Moravian Star

Considered an international object of design, the Moravian star gains a distinctive appreciation when incorporated into interiors and exteriors. Although a universal holiday decoration, these unique stars are no longer relegated to the Holidays and will shine brightly throughout the year, gracing your interior & exterior spaces with striking distinction. Providing depth and interest, they are often unexpected additions to a classic or contemporary decor. Points of style, indeed…



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