Collection ID:

Collection context


Bonvin, Ludwig, 1850-1939
Rev. Ludwig Bonvin (1850-1939) was a Swiss-born Jesuit composer, musician, scholar and teacher. His talents were an important contribution to Canisius College, the Roman Catholic Church worldwide, and musical performances internationally and especially, in Buffalo, NY. His extensive scholarship in the areas of Gregorian chant, hymnology, and mixed-choral performance made him an international authority in both liturgical and secular music.
153 linear feet and 26 boxes
English French German


Scope and Content:

The Collection of Rev. Ludwig Bonvin, S.J. documents the multi-faceted career of this Swiss-born Jesuit composer who spent more than 30 years on the faculty of Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, USA. It highlights Bonvin’s career as composer, musician, scholar and teacher. As a composer, he created more 450 compositions, both liturgical and secular. The collection reflects his expert knowledge of Gregorian chant and the value of mixed choral music in church congregations. Among the collection are various printed materials, including published scores, articles, books, personal journals, promotional materials, performance programs, and press clippings. The collection also includes music and literary manuscripts, as well as music-related and personal correspondence; and photographs. The oldest item in the collection dates back to 1860. The majority of the materials date from the 1880 to 1939.

Biographical / Historical:

Rev. Ludwig Bonvin, S.J. was born February 17, 1850, in Siders, Switzerland. At age 12, Bonvin began classical studies at Sion College, Switzerland, and by 1870 he was a medical student at the University of Vienna where he met Franz List, Anton Rubinstein, Richard Strauss, and heard Felix Mendelssohen conduct Franz Schubert's Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D 759, commonly known as the Unfinished Symphony, for the first time. While in Vienna, his health failed and he returned to Switzerland to study Law.

During that time, he pursued his interest in music, performance and composition and also decided to enter the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) to study for the priesthood which led him to Exaten, Holland in1874. In the third year of his religious life, Bonvin was appointed organist and choirmaster. He was ordained as priest in Ditton Hall, England, August 30, 1885. While in England, he continued writing his compositions and was in charge of the community choir and children of the parish school.

In 1887, the Jesuits sent Bonvin to Buffalo, New York where his abilities as a native German speaker, and his fluency in English would help in the education of young German immigrants in a newly formed academic enterprise—Canisius College and its secondary school. He became a key figure in the musical life of the College as director of the choir. He also directed the school’s orchestra. In addition to teaching music, he taught French and was Director of Spirituality. He presided at Jesuit conferences on cases of moral theology from 1889 to 1912 and remained on the faculty of Canisius College until 1917.

From 1922 to 1929, Bonvin led the orchestra at the Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart, a Catholic all-girls secondary school, established by the German order of the Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity. After retiring from his teaching, he continued to compose and contribute to liturgical scholarship. In 1923, Ludwig Bonvin received an Honorary Doctorate from University of Wurtemburg for his contribution to liturgical music. Bonvin remained active as a priest at St. Michael’s, a diocesan parish run by the Jesuits until his death in 1939.

Bonvin’s influence was felt strongly in Buffalo where he collaborated on many pieces with trained classical musicians and conductors. His, Opus 12: In Gehobener Stimmung (Elevation) was greatly praised after it was performed by the Buffalo Symphony Orchestra, and was then widely distributed by the well-known music publishing house, Breitkopf & Haertel, Leipzig, Germany.

Bonvin also made extensive contributions to literature of music, specifically on the topics of Gregorian chant, hymnology and on mixed choruses (men and women singing in congregational choirs), which were published in the United States and Europe. In 1906 and 1914, he received special commendation from Pope Pius X for “his contributions to sacred music and endeavors towards the cultivation of the chants of the Church.”

Rev. Ludwig Bonvin died February 18, 1939 at the age of eighty-nine. As evidence of his influence, the Jesuit chronicles The Woodstock Letters, Vol. 53, 1924 note that on the 50th anniversary of Bonvin’s ordination as a Jesuit, Buffalo newspapers “gave unusual prominence to the celebration and the National Catholic News Service broadcasted the event throughout the US and Canada.” He was similarly celebrated on the 60th anniversary of his death and his obituary was published widely.



This collection is non-circulating. It is open to researchers without restriction by appointment.


Contact Archivist for information on reproducing materials from this collection, including photocopies, digital camera images, or digital scans, as well as copyright restrictions that may pertain to these materials.

Even though all reasonable and customary best-practices have been pursued, this collection may contain materials with confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which Canisius College assumes no responsibility.

Andrew L. Bouwhuis, S.J. Library
2001 Main Street
Buffalo, NY 14208, United States
Researchers are welcome by appointment only Monday-Friday 10-4 pm.
(716) 883-7000