The Story of Volbrecht Nagel

July 24, 2010 at 1:57 pm (Nagel Roots) (, )

By his son, Karl Heinrich Nagel

This account of Volbrecht Nagel was found in an exercise book belonging to Karl Heinrich Nagel and was probably written in the early 1980s when Karl was in his 70s, was ill and his memory was failing. It has been written up by Karl’s daughter, Pauline Munns. February 2007

Volbrecht Nagel

Volbrecht Nagel was born to Heinrich Peter Nagel and Elisabeth May Nagel on the 3rd November 1867 in the village of Stammheim, Hessen, Germany. He was baptised on November 17th in the Lutheran church and Volbrecht Nagel II was his godfather. He appears to have lost his parents at a young age and to have been taken over by a Mr and Mrs Bindewald, who educated him. He was brought up according to the Lutheran Church. He appears to have been ordained as a Pastor at the early age of 20 and to have been sent as a Lutheran missionary to Cannanore, Malaba (now Kerala State). He served the Lutheran Church until about 1892 when he left them owing to doctrinal differences. He had no money at the time and began to walk barefoot, trusting the Lord to lead him to the place where he could start a work for Him.

Volbrecht Nagel

Harriet Sabina Mitchell Nagel

Eventually he came to a place called Kunnamkulum, in Cochin State, where he met a small group of Christians, who called themselves Brethren, and worshipped God in a simple manner without a pastor. He believed that this was where the Lord would have him work for the time being. It was while he was here, building up the church, that he met and married Harriet Mitchell, on 1st April 1896, who gave him his first two sons, Samuel Frederick (1.1.1898) and Theodore Ernst (10.3.1899).

When he saw that the believers were well established and capable of carrying on by themselves, he moved with his wife and two sons, to a place called PARUR, also in Cochin State, and began a work for the Lord there. Here his third son, Gotlob Volbrecht was born on 8.8.1900 and his first daughter Olive Margaret on 31.12.1901. About this time my mother decided that she should take a nurse’s training so that she may be more qualified to work as a missionary’s wife, so she went to Madras and qualified in a short midwifery course, and returned to the family at Parur.

Considering that the believers were well established in the faith, my father moved, with his family, to British Cochin. Here his fourth son, Karl Heinrich was born on 17.11 1905. Two [other]children were also born, Wilfried Adolf and Elsa Hope but they died as infants and were buried in Hosur Road cemetery, Bangalore.

The Volbrecht Nagel Family
With Harriet’s sister, Josephine Mitchell

Seeing that the work was well established at British Cochin, my father decided to move, with his family to Trichur in Cochin State. The time had now come for the education of his children, and as there were no English schools in Trichur, he made arrangements for the four older children to go to Bangalore for their education. I was sent to school in Bangalore in January 1914. During these years my father developed the work at Trichur. Besides the assembly work, he opened a girls’ orphanage, which still flourishes.

As my brother Samuel and Theodore’s futures had now to be considered, my father took them to London, presumably about March 1914, to apprentice them there as engineers. That was the last his three younger children saw of him. On his way to London he called at Stammheim with my brothers for a few days. After seeing that they were settled in London, he went to the Bible School at Berlin, intending to visit his relatives once more before returning to India. Unfortunately for him, World War 1 broke out, and, being a German, he was not allowed to return to India. The problem now arose of joining the German army, which was compulsory, a thing he said he would never do, being a Christian. He prayed about the matter and asked the Lord to open the way for him to cross over into Switzerland, which was neutral. He made the attempt one night, and the Lord undertook by making the frontier guards very sleepy, so that they carelessly examined his passport and allowed him through.

Volbrecht Nagel

When the war ceased in November 1918 my father sought permission to return to India but was refused. He therefore went back to the Bible School. (The Bible School had moved [from Berlin] to Wiedenest. He obtained a position on the staff until about February 1921 when he had a stroke of apoplexy. They cabled to my mother in India and she left immediately. Ironically the English government gave him permission to return to India just then but it was too late. My mother nursed him until he passed away on May 21st, 1921. He was buried in the cemetery adjoining the Bible School. My brothers Samuel and Theodore went from England to attend his funeral. Mr and Mrs Bindewald,who brought him up also attended because, they said, he was the means of their salvation. A Mr. Kocher, a missionary from India, also attended as he was in charge of a girls’ orphanage at Irinjalakuda, very close to Trichur, during my father’s time there. After the funeral my mother visited his relatives at Stammheim and stayed with them for a short while before returning to India.

Ted, Harriet, and Sam @ Volbrecht’s funeral



  1. Dick Adams said,

    To see his hymns and translations, go to

  2. George Koshy said,

    I had written his biography in malayalam


      Mr.George koshy
      Sir,where i will get your biography of v.nagel

      • Jeff Godly said,

        Hello uncle GK, we are right now in Germany and wanted to go see the place where V Nagel was born. Any leads/addresses on any historic places/birth house in Stammheim, Hessen related to V Nagel ?

  3. Jaison Jacob said,

    we really owe you and family..thank you so much.


    The song “samayamaam radhathil njaan swargayaathra cheyyunnu”written in malayalam by voibrecht nagel is the most popular one in kerala(south india).the song was adopted by vayalar Ramavarma and G.Devarajan and added in the super hit malayalam film “Aranaazhika neram”.The song is very often used all over kerala in funeral cerimonies especially at the time of travel to cemetery.

  5. Reni Daniel said,

    I am so delighted to read this. May Nagel’s family be blesed for ever for his services to Kerala’s Christians. His song “samayamaam radhathil njaan swargayaathra cheyyunnu”written in malayalam has been translated to more than 17 languages. O V USHA has written about this song in her book ‘Preeyapetta Paattukal’ and the article was republished by Mathrubhoomi books.

  6. Roshni Shaji said,

    Its my new experience…i could know about the author of”Samayamaam redhathil…..”. His lifestyle and vision is an inspiration…to our people…I thank God .I like to know about the situation made him to write the song…

    • Alice Mathew said,

      7.mj mathew said,
      it was heartening to read about v nagel. i enjoy singing songs written by him. often wondered how could a german national write malayalam so well. i greatly appreciate the work and commitment of these brethren who were driven by god’s love to do such sacrificial missioary work. i would be so glad to meet any of his family members if they ever visit india. god bless you.

  7. Shery said,

    It is so amazing writing very heart touching and meaningful song in Malayalam by a German Native.I thank God for Rev. v Nagel’s work in KERALA and very sure The Good Lord is so faithful to bless his generations abundantly.

    Unfortunately, today only I came to know about the song “Yeshuvilen thozhane kande, enikkellam ayavane” written hy him.

  8. Benny Samuel said,

    By translating ”Blessed Assuarence……malankara got a wonderful song.Suerly God will give his reward.benny

    • George said,

      The coming weekend, 20th June, we are going to have the 2015 London St James Mar Thoma Church musical evening, the theme will be ” Songs of V Nagel”. ( )

  9. Eldo said,

    Dear Madam,

    I am in search about some hidden histories.Kindly help me.

    Mr.Edwin hunter noayal came to India for Missionary work Kerala and started a fund for helping evangelists and with in few years he had many bitter experiences which was written in the history.

    The land for Church in ‘Kunnamkulam'(Kerala) and Land for Orphanage in Trissur (Kerala) was bought by Mr.Nagal.These lands are in heart of the city and price billions of dollars.Do you have any Idea about that.

    The land in Kunnamkulam is under court case as the elders and church members sold out many area.The same case happend in Trissur orphanage as many aquired the land as themeselves.

    If you know any detail please contact me.
    The brethren in Kerala almost forget Mr.Nagal but the few are still interested.If you have any idea about bitter experiences he faced ,please email me to

    • sam said,

      Dear Brother Mr Eldho,
      As per my knowledge about Kunnamkulam church property sale,its done by the help of Steward association ,defnitely some church members also helped them.But now steward association also a party in that case now.

  10. Joseph said,

    Hi, Can we share this post with all due credit and links to this original article on our blog – . V. Nagel’s songs are still sung in the Mar Thoma Church and we would like to share this post with our readers. Our blog is to make Church Members remember their history and the people who have contributed to it. Do let us know, Thank you.

    • Julie said,

      Of course you can! So glad you like it! 🙂

      • Joseph said,

        Thank you so much. We have shared it on our pages for our readers. It was truly a page out of history.

  11. 21 May, 1921: V. Nagel, author of “Samayamaam radhaththil” passes away. | Nalloor Library said,

  12. Anto Kalathiparambil Sebastian said,

    Dear Sister
    Greetings in Jesus name☺️

    I’m Anto K Sebastian. I hail from Cannanore (now Kannur) and now lives in Würzburg, Germany.
    I’m so glad to have found this piece about our Nagel Sahib (We Keralites fondly recall him so). I live would like to visit his graveyard and if possible would love to get in touch with the present generation Nagels. I feel we owe Nagel Sahib so much for his vision and his willingness to be used by God.
    As I write this, I’m also listening to one of his famous Malayalam song “Snehathin Idayanam”.
    Hence, would you kindly write to me the details? May God reward you.

    Warm Regards
    Anto K Sebastian

  13. Joyraj said,

    Nagal, he is Grace to preaching gospel at South West of India.reconstruction of church lead to real concious about Christ,repent,holiness,word of him clear sense to people which would reached in hearts of thousands.some methods brought into society.prayer,preach,songs,work,allover love and cooperation.much more discipline got after 100 years we can say many save our lives from darkness and disorders.we touched by God his grace to poor people encourage to moove in god’s was nagal’s donation to india.

  14. Varughese Abraham said,

    Varughese Abraham
    Nagal Sahib and His Anglo Indian Wife Harriet Sabina Michell sacrificed their life and did so much for this country. Educating people in a strange land, saving orphan girls, Nursing the poor and so many. Along with Nagal, so many missionaries from England and Germany came and developed the education, developed most of the Indian languages, started printing, schools, hospitals and wrote dictionaries in several languages (including Rev. Samuel Kellog of Long Island, New York who developed the Hindi language from several dialects and wrote the famous Kellog Hindi Vyakaran) but it is so sad that their works are totally forgotten. How can we be so ungrateful?

  15. schneid9 said,

    A very valuable article! There’s a mistake in Nagel’s date of death, however: He died on 12 May, not 21 May. See the following sources:

    · Echoes of Service 50 (1921), p. 144
    · Varghese Mathai: “The Malabar Mandate: A Life of Volbrecht Nagel”
    · Johannes Warns’ diary (forthcoming; Warns was head of Wiedenest Bible School, where Nagel died)

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