Behind the Christmas Hymn: O Come All Ye Faithful

O Come All Ye FaithfulO Come All Ye Faithful was originally written in Latin. No one is sure who the original text was written by. Many people have been given the credit, but most likely an order of monks wrote the text. The original text consisted of four Latin verses, which were translated and used in the hymn we now know today.

The composer of the tune was originally unknown but research shows that the carol was written in 1744. Seven hand written manuscripts have been found bearing the signature of the English layman John Wade. The widely held believe is now that Mr. Wade wrote the hymn. The carol first appeared in Wade’s collection “Cantus Diversi” which was published in 1751 in England.

The Anglican minister, Rev. Frederick Oakeley, translated the text into English a hundred years later. The song was originally translated “O Faithful, Approach Ye” but was not a hit with audiences of the day. Several years later Rev. Oakeley tried again with the words “O Come All Ye Faithful” and the song became very popular.

The Spanish song, Adeste Fideles, was taken from the first part of the original Latin text which means “be present or near, ye Come Adore Himfaithful.”

The Jacobite army of Scotland in the mid-18th Century, interpreted the song as a birth ode to Bonnie Prince Charlie. The song originally appeared in old English Roman Catholic liturgical books near the prayers of the exiled Old Pretender {Bonnie Prince Charlie’s father}. The pages were decorated with Jacobite imagery. These facts most likely led to this legend.

Another story states that King John IV of Portugal wrote the hymn for his daughter, Catherine, as she traveled to England to marry King Charles II. She was announced and accompanied by this hymn everywhere she went. In England the song became widely known as the Portuguese Hymn.

Whatever the truth, O Come All Ye Faithful, is still a well loved Christmas Classic.

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