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Adeste fideles

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Adeste fideles

"Adeste Fideles" is a Christmas carol which for some time has been attributed to John Francis Wade in the English-speaking world.[1] However, many other probable authors exist and the oldest manuscripts of this hymn have been found in a royal library in Portugal, with a date prior to Wade's collection.

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[2] is widespread in most English speaking countries.


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.[3] 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.

The earliest existing manuscript shows both words and tune. John Francis 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).


Adeste Fideles
File:HWW Oh Come All Ye Faithful.ogg

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

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

Cantet nunc 'Io', chorus angelorum;
Cantet nunc aula cælestium,
Gloria! Soli Deo Gloria!
Venite adoremus (3x)

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

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, (3x)
Christ the Lord.

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

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

There are additional Latin verses in various sources. For example:

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

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

Other versions:

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


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. 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.[3]

King John IV

The most commonly named Portuguese author is King Lent amongst church choirs.

Jacobite connection

The hymn has been interpreted as a Jacobite birth ode to Bonnie Prince Charlie.[4] Professor Bennett Zon, head of music at Durham University, claims, on very slim evidence, that the carol is actually a birth ode to Bonnie Prince Charlie, the secret political code being decipherable by the "faithful"—supposedly the Jacobites, with Bethlehem a common Jacobite cipher for England and Regem Angelorum a pun on Angelorum (Angels) and Anglorum (English).[4] 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.[5]


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 in King's College, Cambridge, after the last lesson from Chapter 1 of the Gospel of John.

Numerous versions have been recorded by artists from around the world

The Portuguese hymn

The hymn was known for a while as the Portuguese Hymn after the Duke of Leeds in 1795 heard the hymn being sung at the Portuguese embassy in London and assumed that it had originated from Portugal.[1] The translation that he heard differs greatly from the Oakeley-Brooke translation.

A different account of the story—which is more believed to be true—is that King John IV of Portugal wrote this hymn to accompany his daughter Catherine to England, where she married King Charles II. Wherever she went she and her embassy, were announced and accompanied with this hymn, which became widely known in England as the Portuguese Hymn, because it actually represented Portugal (in the form of the Princess).


  • Musica Sacra em Minas Gerais no século XVIII, ISSN nº 1676-7748 – n25 1998, Professor José Maria Neves

External links

  • Template:Sister-inline
  • Text, translations and settings of Adeste Fideles in the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)
  • Free sheet music of O Come, All ye Faithful for SATB from
  • Adeste, Fideles – two 19th-century arrangements
  • Original Latin and English translation
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