O Come, All Ye Faithful

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O Come, All Ye Faithful
Nave and chancel arch screen of St Mary's Church, in Ilkeston, Derbyshire.jpg
A congregation in England sings the song during Christmas 2006
Native name Adeste Fideles
Genre Christmas
Language Latin
Composed 1744
Published 1751

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"O Come, All Ye Faithful" (originally written in Latin as Adeste Fideles) is a Christmas carol that has been attributed to various authors, including John Francis Wade (1711–1786), John Reading (1645–1692) and King John IV of Portugal (1604–1656), with the earliest manuscript of the hymn bearing his name, located in the library of the Ducal Palace of Vila Viçosa.[1][2][3]

The original four verses of the hymn were extended to a total of eight, and these have been translated into many languages. The English translation of "O Come, All Ye Faithful" by the English Catholic priest Frederick Oakeley, written in 1841, is widespread in most English speaking countries.[2][4] The present harmonisation is from the English Hymnal (1906).[2]

An original manuscript of the oldest known version, dating from 1751, is held by Stonyhurst College in Lancashire.[5]


Besides John Francis Wade, the tune has been purported to be written by several musicians, from John Reading and his son to Handel and even Gluck, including the Portuguese composers Marcos Portugal or the king John IV of Portugal himself. Thomas Arne, whom Wade knew, is another possible composer.[6] There are several similar musical themes written around that time, though it can be hard to determine whether these were written in imitation of the hymn, the hymn was based on them, or they are totally unconnected.

Wade included it in his own publication of Cantus Diversi (1751). It was published again in the 1760 edition of Evening Offices of the Church. It also appeared in Samuel Webbe's An Essay on the Church Plain Chant (1782).

Lyrics (English text following Frederick Oakeley)[edit]

Adeste fideles læti triumphantes,
Venite, venite in Bethlehem.
Natum videte
Regem angelorum:
Venite adoremus (3×)

Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine
Gestant puellæ viscera
Deum verum, genitum non factum.
Venite adoremus (3×)

Cantet nunc io, chorus angelorum;
Cantet nunc aula cælestium,
Gloria, gloria in excelsis Deo,
Venite adoremus (3×)

Ergo qui natus die hodierna.
Jesu, tibi sit gloria,
Patris æterni Verbum caro factum.
Venite adoremus (3×)

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant!
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him
Born the King of Angels:
O come, let us adore Him, (3×)
Christ the Lord.

God of God, light of light,
Lo, he abhors not the Virgin's womb;
True God, begotten, not created:
O come, let us adore Him, (3×)
Christ the Lord.

Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation,
Sing, all ye citizens of Heaven above!
Glory to God, glory in the highest:
O come, let us adore Him, (3×)
Christ the Lord.

Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be glory given!
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing!
O come, let us adore Him, (3×)
Christ the Lord.

There are additional Latin verses in various sources.[7] For example (with prose translations, not from Oakeley):

En grege relicto, humiles ad cunas,
Vocati pastores adproperant:
Et nos ovanti gradu festinemus,
Venite adoremus (3×)

Stella duce, Magi Christum adorantes,
Aurum, tus et myrrham dant munera.
Iesu infanti corda præbeamus
Venite adoremus (3×)

Æterni parentis splendorem æternum
Velatum sub carne videbimus
Deum infantem pannis involutum
Venite adoremus (3×)

Pro nobis egenum et fœno cubantem,
Piis foveamus amplexibus.
Sic nos amantem quis non redamaret?
Venite adoremus (3×)

Cantet nunc hymnos chorus angelorum
Cantet nunc aula cælestium,
Gloria in excelsis Deo!
Venite adoremus (3×)

Lo! The flock abandoned, the summoned shepherds
Hurry lowly to the cradle:
May we too make haste with exultant gait!
O come, let us adore Him, (3×)
Christ the Lord.

A star leading, the Magi, worshipping Christ,
give gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh.
May we proffer our hearts to the infant Christ!
O come, let us adore Him, (3×)
Christ the Lord.

We shall see the eternal splendour
Of the eternal father, veiled in flesh,
The infant God wrapped in cloths.
O come, let us adore Him, (3×)
Christ the Lord.

May we warm him, needy and lying on hay,
With our pious embraces:
Who does not love him who loves us thus?
O come, let us adore Him, (3×)
Christ the Lord.

Sing now choir of angels hymns!
Sing now halls of the heavenly!
Glory to God in the highest!
O come, let us adore Him, (3×)
Christ the Lord.


Adeste, fideles (earliest version)

The original text has been from time to time attributed to various groups and individuals, including St. Bonaventure in the 13th century or King John IV of Portugal in the 17th, though it was more commonly believed that the text was written by an order of monks, the Cistercian, German, Portuguese and Spanish orders having, at various times, been given credit.

The original text consisted of four Latin verses, and it was with these that the hymn was originally published. John Francis Wade had written the hymn in Latin in 1744, and was first published in 1751.[2][8] The Abbé Jean-François-Étienne Borderies (fr) wrote an additional three verses in the 18th century; these are normally printed as the third to fifth of seven verses, while another, anonymous, additional Latin verse is rarely printed. The text has been translated innumerable times, but the most used version today is the English "O Come, All Ye Faithful". This is a combination of one of Frederick Oakeley's translations of the original four verses and William Thomas Brooke's of the three additional ones, which was first published in Murray's Hymnal in 1852. Oakeley originally titled the song “Ye Faithful, approach ye” when it was sung at his Margaret Church in Marylebone before it was altered to its current form.[6]

King John IV[edit]

The most commonly named Portuguese author is King John IV of Portugal. "The Musician King" (1604–1656, came to the throne in 1640) was a patron of music and the arts and a considerably sophisticated writer on music; in addition, he was a composer, and during his reign he collected one of the largest musical libraries in the world (destroyed in the 1755 Lisbon earthquake). The first part of his musical work was published in 1649. He founded a Music School in Vila Viçosa that "exported" musicians to Spain and Italy and it was at his Vila Viçosa palace that the two 1640 manuscripts of the "Portuguese Hymn" were found. Those manuscripts predate Wade's eighteenth-century manuscript.[3] Among the King's writings is a Defense of Modern Music (Lisbon, 1649). In the same year (1649) he had a huge struggle to get instrumental music approved by the Vatican for use in the Catholic Church. His other famous composition is a setting of the Crux fidelis, a work that remains highly popular during Lent amongst church choirs.

Jacobite connection[edit]

The hymn has been interpreted as a Jacobite birth ode to Bonnie Prince Charlie.[9] Professor Bennett Zon, head of music at Durham University, has interpreted it this way, claiming that the secret political code was decipherable by the "faithful" (the Jacobites), with "Bethlehem" a common Jacobite cipher for England and Regem Angelorum a pun on Angelorum (Angels) and Anglorum (English).[9] Wade had fled to France after the Jacobite rising of 1745 was crushed. From the 1740s to 1770s the earliest forms of the carol commonly appeared in English Roman Catholic liturgical books close to prayers for the exiled Old Pretender. In the books by Wade it was often decorated with Jacobite floral imagery, as were other liturgical texts with coded Jacobite meanings.[10]


In performance verses are often omitted, either because the hymn is too long in its entirety or because the words are unsuitable for the day on which they are sung. For example the eighth anonymous verse is only sung on Epiphany, if at all; while the last verse of the original is normally reserved for Christmas Midnight Mass, Mass at Dawn or Mass during the Day.

In the United Kingdom and United States it is often sung today in an arrangement by Sir David Willcocks, which was originally published in 1961 by Oxford University Press in the first book in the Carols for Choirs series. This arrangement makes use of the basic harmonisation from The English Hymnal but adds a soprano descant in verse six (verse three in the original) with its reharmonised organ accompaniment, and a last verse harmonisation in verse seven (verse four in the original), which is sung in unison.

This carol has served as the second-last hymn sung at the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, after the last lesson from Chapter 1 of the Gospel of John.

Recordings, film music and other arrangements[edit]

Numerous versions have been recorded by artists of various genres from all around the world:

Portuguese hymn[edit]

The hymn was known as the Portuguese Hymn after the Duke of Leeds in 1795 heard it sung at the Portuguese embassy in London.[14] However, the translation that he heard differs greatly from the Oakeley-Brooke translation, and was over forty years after John Francis Wade had published the hymn in 1751.[2][8]

The Sacred Harp hymn tune "Portuguese Hymn" in 9 11 11 meter with 7 7 10 refrain ("Hither Ye Faithful, Haste with Songs of Triumph")[15] is slightly different from the usual tune.


  1. ^ Stephan, John (1947). "Adeste Fideles: A Study On Its Origin And Development". Buckfast Abbey. Archived from the original on 13 October 2007. Retrieved 1 October 2007.
  2. ^ a b c d e LindaJo H. McKim (1993). "The Presbyterian Hymnal Companion". p. 47. Westminster John Knox Press,
  3. ^ a b Neves, José Maria (1998). Música Sacra em Minas Gerais no século XVIII, ISSN nº 1676-7748 – nº 25.
  4. ^ "Frederick Oakeley 1802–1880".
  5. ^ "The One Show films at Stonyhurst". Stonyhurst. 19 November 2014. Retrieved 16 December 2015.
  6. ^ a b Spurr, Sean. "O Come All Ye Faithful". Retrieved 4 December 2012.
  7. ^ The Hymns and Carols of Christmas, Source for other five verses.
  8. ^ a b Don Michael Randel (2003). "The Harvard Dictionary of Music". p. 14. Harvard University Press,
  9. ^ a b "Carol is 'ode to Bonnie Prince'". BBC. 18 December 2008. Retrieved 18 December 2007.
  10. ^ "News & Events : News". 'O Come All Ye Faithful' – Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Christmas Carol. Durham University. 19 December 2008. Archived from the original on 25 December 2008. Retrieved 21 December 2008.
  11. ^ Ryan Glab (23 December 2015). "Best movie series: sequels, trilogies, and sagas, oh my!". Ryanglab. Archived from the original on 27 December 2015. Retrieved 26 December 2015.
  12. ^ Jim Slotek (16 November 2015). "Twisted Sister's Dee Snider set to wow audiences with 'Rock 'n' Roll Christmas Tale'". Toronto Sun. Retrieved 26 December 2015.
  13. ^ Kris Vire (2 November 2014). "Dee Snider on his Rock & Roll Christmas Tale". Timeout. Retrieved 26 December 2015.
  14. ^ Crump, William D., The Christmas Encyclopedia, 3rd ed, 2013
  15. ^ The Sacred Harp, 1860, p. 223: Scores at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)

External links[edit]