“Make this poor self grow less and less,
Be Thou my life and aim;
Oh, make me daily, through Thy grace,
More worthy of Thy name.”
― Johann Caspar Lavater 1741-1801
Son of Zürich physician Johann Heinrich Lavater, Johann entered the Academic Gymnasium in Zürich in 1758, and at the end of 1759 began his studies in its theological department. After completing his course, he was ordained in the spring of 1762, but did not undertake any regular pastoral work until April 1769, when he was appointed diaconus of the Orphanage church of Zürich, where he became pastor in 1775.
In July 1778 he was appointed diaconus of St. Peter’s Church, and in December 1786 pastor there. During the French revolutionary period, France put the Swiss cantons “under contribution,” and in April 1779 deported 10 of the principal citizens of Zürich. Lavater protested the action in print and from the pulpit. Consequently, while visiting Baden, near Zürich, he was seized by French dragoons, May 14, 1799, and was taken to Basel, but was allowed to return to Zürich, August 16, 1799.
When the French under Masséna entered Zürich on September 25, 1799, Lavater was shot by a French grenadier; he died of his wounds almost two months later.