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O come, all ye faithful (Adeste Fideles)


Music: Unknown (Probably J.F. Wade 18th century)

Words: Translated by F. Oakeley and W.T. Brooke.


      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,
    O come, let us adore Him,
    O come, let us adore Him,
       Christ the Lord.

      God of God,
      Light of Light,
Lo, He abhors not the Virgin's womb;
      Son of the Father,
      begotten, not created;

      See how the shepherds,
      summoned to His cradle,
Leaving their flocks, draw nigh in lowly fear;
      We too will thither
      bend our joyful footsteps;

      Lo! star led chieftains,
      Magi, Christ adoring,
Offer Him incense, gold, and myrrh;
      We to the Christ Child
      bring our hearts' oblations.

      Child, for us sinners
      poor and in the manger,
We would embrace Thee, with love and awe;
      Who would not love Thee,
      loving us so dearly?

      Sing, choirs of angels,
      sing in exultation;
sing, all ye citizens of heaven above!
      Glory to God,
      in the highest;

      Yea, Lord, we greet Thee,
      born this happy morning;
Jesus, to Thee be all glory given;
      Word of the Father,
      now in flesh appearing.


O come all ye faithful - (Adeste Fideles) Wade

Created 15-Sep-08 Revised 20-Apr-09

O come, all ye faithful

Adeste Fideles is the name of a hymn tune probably written by John Francis Wade in 1743 and the first line of the Latin text for which the tune was written. The text itself has unclear beginnings, and may have been written in the 13th century, though it has been concluded that Wade was probably the author. The original four verses of the hymn were extended to a total of eight, and these have been translated into many languages many times, though the English O Come All Ye Faithful is particularly widespread.


Before the emergence of John Francis Wade as the probable composer, the tune had been purported to be written by several musicians; from John Reading and his son, to Handel including a Portuguese musician, Marcos Antonio da Fonseca who wasn't born until after the tune was first published. 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. It was published in the 1760 edition of Evening Offices of the Church. John Francis Wade included it in his own publication of Cantus Diversi (1751). It also appeared in Samuel Webbe's An Essay on the Church Plain Chant (1782).


The original text was at one time attributed to various groups and individuals, including claims that it was written by the 13th century saint St. Bonaventura or King John IV of Portugal. Though it was more commonly believed that the text was written by an order of monks, the Cistercian, German, Portuguese and Spanish orders have, at various times been given credit. It is also possible that the tune was written by one of Wade's contemporary Roman Catholic Jacobites, though it does seem likely that Wade himself wrote the words and then the tune to fit.

The original text consisted of four Latin verses, and it was with these that the hymn was originally published, however The Abbé  Etienne Jean Francois Borderies wrote an additional three verses in the early 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 by William Thomas Brooke of the remainder, which was first published in Murray's Hymnal in 1852.


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 day or midnight Mass.

In the United Kingdom it is most 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 6 (verse 3 in the original) and a reharmonised organ accompaniment in verse 7 (verse 4 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.

In popular culture

The tune has been adapted many times and the entire hymn is very popular, for example:

  • Victor Hely-Hutchinson included this carol in the first and last movements of his Carol Symphony.
  • Franz Liszt wrote a transcription as the fourth movement of his Weihnachtsbaum cycle (S186).
  • The French organist-composer Alexandre Guilmant included it in his Offertoire sur deux Noels for organ
  • This song was reportedly the favourite Christmas hymn of U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
  • Further information: Christmas at the White House (album by Burl Ives)
  • The chant "Why Are We Waiting?", which is frequently performed spontaneously at public gatherings to express frustration at delays, is also sung to the same tune.
  • Portuguese American singer/songwriter Jorge Ferreira and his 2 daughters Alison and Elizabeth Marie recorded "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" on Jorge's Christmas album Canta Natal (1994). Jorge Ferreira only performed on background vocals.
  • American pop/rock band Hanson recorded a part of "O Come All Ye Faithful" on their album Snowed In (1997).
  • In Swedish, two lyrics versions exists "O kommen, I trogne" and "Dagen är kommen". Swedish pop singer Carola Häggkvist covered "Dagen är kommen" on her 1999 Christmas album "Jul i Betlehem".
  • American Symphonic rock band Trans-Siberian Orchestra, known as fond of Christmas themes, has covered it twice: in Christmas Eve and Other Stories and in The Lost Christmas Eve albums, both times in instrumental.
  • English Folk rock band Blackmore's Night recorded the song for Winter Carols album in 2006
  • American country music singer Toby Keith covered the song as "O Come All Ye Faithful" on his 2007 Christmas album A Classic Christmas.
  • Irish singer Enya recorded the song for her Sounds of the Season album project.
  • A variation on the popular "O Come Let Us Adore Him" translation of "Adeste Fidelis" appears in "Gesu Bambino," an Italian Christmas carol composed by Pietro Yon in 1917 and translated to English by Frederick H. Martens.
  • A new arrangement for choir and full orchestra was also composed by Antonio Zingale in 2004.

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 incorrectly assumed that it had originated from Portugal. The translation that he heard differs greatly from the Oakeley-Brooke translation and is printed below in part.

Hither, ye faithful, haste with songs of triumph,
To Bethlehem haste, the Lord of life to meet:
To you this day is born a Prince and Saviour;

O come and let us worship,
O come and let us worship,
O come and let us worship at his feet.

O Jesus, for such wondrous condescension,
Our praises and reverence are an offering meet,
Now is the Word made flesh and dwells among us.

Shout his almighty name, ye choirs of angels,
And let the celestial courts his praise repeat;
Unto our God be glory in the highest,

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Metasyntactic variable".

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