The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Puer natus in Bethlehem

For Christmas or Epiphany

Words and Music: A 14th Century Latin Hymn.
Numerous versions and translations exist. See below for links.

See: Theodoric Petri, ed., Piae Cantiones Ecclesiasticæ Et Scholasticae Et Scholasticae Vetervm Episcoporum. (Gyphisuualdiæ: Augustinum Ferberum, 1582).

Source: Rev. George R. Woodward, ed., Piæ Cantiones: A Collection of Church & School Song, Chiefly Ancient Swedish, originally published in A.D. 1582 by Theodoric Petri of Hyland. (London: Plainsong & Medieval Music Society's Chiswick Press, 1910), pp. 16-17. See: Christmas Songs in Woodward's Piæ Cantiones (1910)

See the listing of Christmas carols in Piae Cantiones, with links.
A scanned copy of the 1910 book is available at the IMSLP, Piæ Cantiones, and a partial copy of  the 1582 volume.

Music: "Puer Natus in Bethlehem"
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF

Meter: 8, 8

1. Puer natus in Bethlehem,
Unde gaudet Jerusalem, Alleluia.

2. Assumsit carem hominis
Verbum Patris altissimi, Alleluia.

3. Per Gabrielis nuncium
Virgo concepit filium, Alleluia.

4. De matre natus virgine
Sine virili semine, Alleluia.

5. Sine serpentis vulnere
De nostro venit sanguine, Alleluia.

6. In carne nobis similis,
Peccato sed dissimilis, Alleluia.

7. Tanquam sponsus de thalamo
Processit matris vtero, Alleluia.

8. Hic iacet in præsepio
Qui regnat sine termino, Allelia.

9. Cognouit bos & asinus
Quòd per eras Dominus, Alleluia.

10. Et angelus pastoribus
Reuelat quis sit Dominus, Alleluia.

11. Magi de longè veniunt,
Aurum, thus, myrrham offerunt, Alleluia.

12. Intrantes domum inuicem
Natum salutant hominem, Alleluia.

13. In hoc natali gaudio
Benedicamus Domino, Alleluia.

14. Laudetur sancta Trinitas,
Deo dicamus gratias, Alleluia.

Sheet Music from Woodward, Piæ Cantiones (London: Plainsong & Medieval Music Society's Chiswick Press, 1910), pp. 16-17.

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Theodoric Petri, ed., Piæ Cantiones Ecclesiasticae et Scholasticae Veterum Episcoporum. (Gyphisuualdiæ: Augustinum Ferberum, 1582)

Music and Text for Puer Natus & Ein kind geborn from Das Paderborner Gesangbuch, 1609

Das Paderborner Gesangbuch von 1609 contains 10 versions of Puer Natus in Bethlehem, with music for each one. There are seven texts in Latin and German, one text in German only, and two texts in Latin only. Two of the Latin texts are included in Wackernagel, leaving eight new texts in this edition. All versions also include the German translation, "Ein Kind geborn zu Bethlehem."

Music and Text for Puer Natus & Ein kind geborn from Das Paderborner Gesangbuch, 1628

The 1628 edition of Das Paderborner Gesangbuch has 10 texts and 3 tunes. Five of the texts are new.  All versions also include the German translation, "Ein Kind geborn zu Bethlehem."

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Most of the new texts in both editions are only one or two verses,
which leads me to the question of whether or not fuller versions
of these texts are to be found in contemporary song collections. Ed.

Puer Natus in Alte und Newe Geistliche Catholische (Zinck, 1630),  pp. 42-56.

7 Songs and 6 Texts.


Sheet music to "Puer Natus" & "Ein Kind" from Valentin Babst, ed., Geistliche Leider und Psalmen (Leipzig, 1545), #LVII, p. 182.

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Lyrics and Sheet Music from Max Herold, Vesperale Oder Die Nachmittage. I. (Gutersloch: Bertelsmann, 1885), pp. 199 (music), pp. 202-203 (Latin and German lyrics, 10 verses). Virtually identical to the versions in Bapst and Leisentrit.

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Sheet Music and Text from J. H. Hopkins, ed., Great Hymns of the Church Compiled by the Late Right Reverend John Freeman Young (New York: James Pott & Company, 1887), # 57, p. 89. Latin & English.

"Original Melody. Harmony altered from Dr. Layriz"

This is one of many carols found in the 1582 Finnish Collection, Piae Cantiones.

Sheet Music from Rev. Charles Lewis Hutchins, Carols Old and Carols New
(Boston: Parish Choir, 1916), Carol 463.

Sheet Music from Charles L. Hutchins, Carols Old and Carols New (Boston: Parish Choir, 1916), Carol 710.
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF

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Sheet Music from Sunday-School Book for the Use of Evangelical Lutheran Congregations. The General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. (Philadelphia: Lutheran Book Store, 1883), #70, pp. 119-120.

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Sheet Music from "Puer Natus" from Wittenberger Gesangbuch from O. Hardwig, ed., The Wartburg Hymnal (Chicago: Wartburg Publishing House, 1918), #89

Sheet Music by L. M. Lindeman from O. Hardwig, ed., The Wartburg Hymnal (Chicago: Wartburg Publishing House, 1918), #90

Sheet Music from George Ratcliffe Woodward, ed., The Cowley Carol Book for Christmas, Easter, and Ascensiontide, First Series (London: A. R. Mowbray & Co., Ltd, 1902, Revised and Expanded Edition 1929), Carol #1.
Tune 1:
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF
Tune 2: MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF

Sheet Music from Edgar Pettman, ed., The Westminster Carol Book (London: Houghton & Co., 1899), Carol No. 21, p. 28.

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Sheet Music from Edgar Pettman, ed., Modern Christmas Carols (London: Weekes & Co., 1892), #34:

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Sheet Music from Richard Runciman Terry, Two Hundred Folk Carols (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Limited, 1933), Carol #149, pp. 24-25.

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Sheet Music from Rev. Richard R. Chope, Carols For Use In Church (London: William Clowes & Sons, Complete Edition, 1894), Carol #73

Sheet music to Puer Natus in Bethlehem from Guido Maria Dreves, ed., Analecta Hymnica Medii Aevi: Cantiones Bohemicae. Vol 1. (Leipzig, 1886), XVI & XVII pp. 195-196.

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Sheet Music to Puer Natus in Bethlehem from J. B. S., and R. P., eds., Messis Copiosa; Dat is, Overvloedige Oogst, Der  Geestelyke Gezangen. (Te Amsteldam: T. Crajeschot, 1761), p. 48, 49, 52.
Puer natus from Messis Copiosa

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An updated arrangement by Mats Lillhannus is available at his website, Piae Cantiones: Puer Natus in Bethlehem (in PDF).



Editor's Notes.

Like many other popular songs from the Middle Ages, there are many Latin versions of this venerable carol, and a remarkable body of translations into many languages including German and English (and the interesting phenomenon of an English translation of a German translation of a Latin version).

While there are a large number of songs represented here, I suspect that there are many more that are yet to be discovered.

There seems to be a common practice of referring to someone's songbook as, for example, "Burg's Gesangbook" or "Leisentrit's Gesangbook" or "Bapst's Gesangbook." However, that is almost never the true name of the songbook in question, making it very difficult to locate the resource in question. Using the same three example's:

Whenever you see a full name and full title, it's likely that the original text had merely the last name together with "Gesangbuch" and the year of publication.

On this page, there are the notes from Rev. George R. Woodward and Rev. John Julian. In both cases, I've expanded their text with full names and titles, scans of pages from important works, and the occasional "Editor's Note." In addition to the notes by Rev. Woodward and Rev. Julian, I would recommend the doctoral thesis by Eileen Hadidian, written in fulfillment of the requirements for obtaining her Doctor of Musical Arts degree. She has generously permitted a copy to be placed on this website, A Study and Critical Commentary of Piæ Cantiones, A Sixteenth-Century Song Collection (June, 1978).  

Finally, I would recommend an excellent outline of the people involved in the history of Puer natus in an article on the Bach Cantatas website:

Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works
Ein Kind geborn zu Bethlehem (Puer natus in Bethlehem)

It includes a good deal of sheet music, including the setting of Puer natus published in 1542, using the versified 1439 text of Heinrich von Laufenberg, purported to be the first to translate the Latin hymn into German.



Notes from Rev. George R. Woodward, ed., Piæ Cantiones. A Collection of Church & School Song, chiefly Ancient Swedish, originally Published in A. D. 1582 by Theodoric Petri of Nyland. (London: Printed at the Chiswick Press for the Plainsong & Medieval Music Society, 1910), Carol #12, pp. 16-17, Notes pp. 223-228.

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See: The Christmas Songs in Woodward's Piæ Cantiones (1910)

Woodward's Note for XII. Puer Natus In Bethlehem.

A Christmas-tide Benedicamus Domino, of Bohemian origin. Like In dulci iubilo, long ascribed, but erroneously so, to Peter Faulfisch of Dresden, C. 1412.

Three distichs of this carol, viz., those beginning Puer natus in bethleem, Assumpsit carnem hominis, and Cognouit bos et asinus are contained in an Antiphoner Manuscript, from the Bobbio Monastery, Codex Taurinen, F 1 4, of the end of the thirteenth century (Dreves, 'Analecta Hymnica,' XX, No. 111, p. 99; see Puer natus-The Antiphoner MS). Dreves had already discovered Puer natus in bethleem in five different manuscripts, all of them at Prag (see 'Analecta Hymnica,' I, No. 178, p. 163), the first of these being a Processionale once belonging to the Benedictine Nuns of the Convent of St. George on the Hradschin; see Puer natus-Processionale. This is known as the Prager Hsch., XIII, H. 3. C., circa 1320.

The second of these five manuscripts is the Hussite 'Kantional von Jistebnicz,' circa 1420. Puer natus in Bethlehem is also found in a manuscript of the fourteenth century at Munchen (Wackernagel, I, No. 309); see Puer natus - The Munchner Codex. And it occurs as a prose in the printed Hereford Breviary of 1505 (published by the Henry Bradshaw Society, Vol. XXVI, 1903, p. 197, Part I, Puer Natus-Hereford Breviary).

In the Prag manuscripts it consists of these nine or ten couplets:

(1) Puer natus in bethleem;
(2) Assumpsit carnem hominis;
(3) Per Gabrielem nuncium;
(4) Tanquam sponsus de thalamo;
(5) Ponitur in presepio;
(6) Cognouit bos et asinus;
(7) Reges de Saba veniunt;
(8) Intrantes domum inuicem;
(9) Trino uni sempiterno | benedicamus domino;
(10) Sit benedicta trinitas | deo dicamus gracias; or Ei semper angelicas | deo dicamus gracias.

This hymn, of a very beautiful simplicity, and absorbing easily and naturally so much theology in its poetry, and in many ways containing so much in a brief compass” (R. C. Trench, Sacred Latin Poetry, 1849, p. 93, see Trench's Puer natus) may be seen in various forms in Wackernagel, I, Nos. 309-316, see Wackernagel's Puer Natus; also in Daniel, I, No. 480, p. 334, Daniel's Puer Natus. For further information see John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, pp. 940-941 (notes below).

Piæ Cantiones includes most of the later additional couplets given in Wackernagel. Its chief variations from older readings may be attributed to the influence of Hermann Bonn, the Lutheran, who, as Lossius informs us in his 'Psalmodia' (1561), p. 27b, 'corrected' this Benedicarnus; the notes and sheet music from Lossius are below.

In Stanza II, Piæ Cantiones reads Assumsit carnem hominis | verbum patris altissimus. This mars the rime: the Prag MSS. read Assumpsit carnem filius | dei patris altissimus; the Hereford Breviary has Asumpsit ccarnem filij dei patris altissimi.

In Stanza III the older books read Per Gabrielem nuncium.

In Stanza VII, Hereford reads progrediens ex vtero.

In Stanza VIII, Piæ Cantiones reads Hic iacet in præsepio, but the Prag MSS. prefer Ponitur in presepio, or Imponitur presepio; while Hereford has Se ponit in presepio | regnabit sine termino.

In Stanza XI, Piæ Cantiones has altered Reges de Saba veniunt (Hereford venient and offerent) into Magi de longè veniunt; and in

Stanza XII, Nouum salutant principem, as in the Prag manuscripts, and salutant nouum hominem has been changed into natum salutant hominem.

In Piæ Cantiones the last two verses differ from the older authorities. Hereford conflicts in all of nine stanzas, the last of which is Trino deo sempiterno | benedicamus domino. Klemming, II, p. 17, reprints the Piæ Cantiones version.

Before the penultimate Strophè the Mainz Hymner (1631) inserts 'Gloria tibi domine | qui natus es de virgine.'

On Stanza IX (Cognouit bos et asinus) the learned H. A. Daniel has a valuable note with his version of Puer Natus in Bethlehem. As his 'Thesaurus Hymnologicus' is now out of print and rare, here is the passage.

'Notum est fere in omnibus imaginibus, quæ Nativitatem domini repræsntant, bouis asinique figuras exhiberi nec quidquam poetis pictoribufsque certius est, quam hæc animalia in illo diuersorio adfsuisse. . . . In einem crippffii lit ein kind | do slot ein esel and ein rind. … Do stund ein esel und esel und ein rind | und dientend im getrate. Orta est hæc narratio ex locl Habacuci, c. III. a. LXXX, έν μέσω δύο ζώων γνωσθήση, vetusta versione latine: in medio duorum anhimalium innotesceris. Bouem vero et asinum finxerunt sibi ex locl Is. I, 3. 'Cognouit bos possessorem suum et asinus praesepe domini sui.' Hanc prophetiam nocte Natiuitatis domini impletam esse credebant. Pelb. Pomoer. Serm Hym. XVI: bruta animalia testata sunt miraculo deitatem Christi, quai cum mater sancta puerum natum Christum in praesepio locasset bos et asinus ad præsepium illud legati miraculose Deuim cognoscentes flexis genibus ipsum adorauerunt et a faeno illo abstinuerunt. Sed nihil hi vetusti ad Zach. Wererum hæc de animalibus narrantem: … Seine gottliche Mutter wickelte ihn in Windeln und legte ihn in eine Krippe, zwischen zwei unschuldigen Thieren, einem Ochsen und einem Esel, welche so glücklich waren den Herrn zu sehen. Endlich von des Oechseleins und Eseleins Hauch erwärmt schlug das Kindelein die Augen auf und weinte. Daniel, I, No. cccclxxx, p. 335.

This Carol occurs in a fourteenth-fifteenth century paper manuscript in the British Museum [Add. MS. 5666]. The latter is described by Mr. A. Hughes-Hughes as 'A small collection of Carols, etc., probably written for two or three voices, though in one or two cases only one part is given. Said by T. Martin, of Palgrave, to be in the hand of John Brackley, friar minor of Norwich, tutor to William Paston, Justice of the Common Pleas [1378-1444]. Brackley was still living in 1461. At the end are some memoranda by John Whyte, tempp. Richard II and Henry IV.'

On f. 8b is written Puer natus in betlehem. The Text consists of the following seven distichs, beginning respectively:

(i) Puer natus;

(ii) Asumpsit carnem;

(iii) Per Gabrielem;

(iv) Sicut sponsus;

(v) Cognouit bos;

(vi) Intrantes domum; and

(vii) Benedicamus dno.

The Tune (quite different from that in Piæ Cantiones) is apparently arranged for two voices, but it is unworthy of reproduction.

Editor's Note. This manuscript is available online at the British Library. I found the handwriting to be extremely difficult to read. Recent scholarship has cast doubts on the assertion that the manuscript was written by Friar John Brackley. The tune is not reproduced here because of strong copyright warnings posted by the British Library.

Wackernagel, II, Nos. 904-907, gives several German translations of this 'canticum vulgare,' this 'alt geistlich lied.' See Ein kindt ist geborn ze Bethlehem. They date from the fifteenth century and begin thus Ein Kint geparn czu bethlehem, sung at Christmas in the vernacular alternately with the Latin. Die künig von Saba kamen dar was repeated at the Epiphany.

Puer natus in Bethlehem appears in the 'Svenska Psalmeboken' of 1572 as Itt Barn àr fòdt j Bethlehem; and as Itt lijtet Barn àr fòdt nu in Rhezelius (1619), p. 30. For English translations see Julian, p. 940 (ii) (see notes below).

For various forms of the Piæ Cantiones melody, or rather melodies, to which Puer natus in Bethlehem was sung, see Meister, I, Nos. 30-31, pp. 193-198; Bäumker, I, Nos. 51 and 52; and Zahn, I, No. 192 a and b, p. 53.

Some melodies to which Puer natus in Bethlehem has been sung.

From Meister (1862), pp. 193-201.

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Karl Severin Meister, Das katholische deutsche Kirchenlied. Vol. 1. (Freiberg im Breisgan, 1862), pp. 193-201.


From Bäumker (1886), pp. 312-318

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Wilhelm Bäumker, et al., Das katholische deutsche Kirchenlied. Vol. 1. (Freiberg im Breisgan, 1886), pp. 312-318.


From Zahn, I (1889), p. 53.

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Johannes Zahn, Die Melodien der deutschen evangelischen Kirchenlieder. Erster Band (Vol. 1) (Gütersloh: Bertelsmann, 1889), #192a & b, p. 53. Two tunes, or forms of tunes. 192a, "Altere Form," is from Klug, 1843 (and also Babst and many others). 192b, "Neuere Form" is from Lossius, 1553 (and a good many others).

Editor's Note:

In addition to the three mentioned by Rev. Woodward, here are two additional sources with tunes to which Puer natus in Bethlehem has been sung. There are, of course, a number of other such resources.

An additional 6 Texts and 10 Tunes from Alte und Newe (Zinck, 1630), pp. 42-56.

Puer Natus in Alte und Newe (1630)

pp. 42-46

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pp. 47-51

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pp. 52-56

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Five additional tunes with texts from Alte Catholische Geistliche Kirchengeseng. (Köln: Arnold Quentell, 1599), pp. 34b-38a.

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The tune assigned by Piæ Cantiones to the tenor voice (in the Dorian mode) is undoubtedly the older of the two. That was the Plainsong, to which the second tune (entrusted by Piæ Cantiones to the Bass) in the Hypo-Dorian mode, was nevertheless in reality the Descant. By degrees the latter supplanted the old Plainsong and came to be treated as a distinct air in itself. In Lucas Lossius' 'Psalmodia' (1561 and 1569) the two melodies occur as tenor and descant: but in his 1579 edition there occurs a setting for four voices, the descant preserving its form, but the tenor already being altered for the worse.

Lossius, Psalmodia (1553) - Melodies as Tenor and Descant

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Lossius, Psalmodia (1579) - Altered to 4 voices

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In 'The Cowley Carol Book' (1902), No. 1, the two Piæ Cantiones tunes have been retained in their integrity, with the addition of two other parts (alto and bass).

Woodward, The Cowley Carol Book (Revised and Expanded Edition 1929), Carol #1.

Puer natus in Bethlehem has been repeatedly harmonized and arranged for vocal and instrumental purposes, and may be found in the following works and elsewhere:

(i) 'Obsequiale Eccles. Ratisbon.' (1570).

(ii) J. Leisentrit's 'Geistliche Lieder' (1573).

(iii) Nicolas Selneccer, 'Christliche Psalmen, etc.' (1587), p. 588.

(iv) Lucas Osiander, 'Fünsstzig Geistliche Lieder und Psalmen' (1586), No. 7, à 4.

(v) Lucas Lossius' 'Psalmodia,' vide supra.

(vi) Seth Calvisius (1556-1615), 'Harmonia cant. ecclesiasticarum' (1598), No. iiii. also in Barth. Gesius' 'Geistl. Deutsche Lieder' (1601), p. 17, à 4; and p. 18, à 5.

(vii) Gabriel Husduvius' 'Melodeyen G. B.' (Hamburg, 1604), No. lxxii, p. 294, harmonized by David Scheidemann.

(viii) Erhard Bodenschatz (1570-1636), 'Harm. Angelica Cant. Ecclesiasticarum' (1608), for which see Meister, I, pp. 196-7. [above]

(ix) Michael Prætorius (1572-1621),
'Mus. Sion.,' V (1607); (i) No. lxxxiv, à 4 (ii) No. lxxxv, à 5; (iii) No. lxxxvi, à 6.
'Mus. Sion.' (Jehnæ, 1607); (i) No. vi, for double quire; (ii) No. vii, à 8 (In Regal vel clavicymbalo vel altero organo et una voce).
'Mus. Sion.,' VI (1609); (i) No. xxxiv (Marck. Thur.); (ii) No. xxxv (Seestedt); (iii) No. xxxvi (Schw. Fran.), à 4, each.
'Polyhymnia Panegyrica' (Wolffenbüttel, 1618-1619), No. xii, an elaborate setting for capella vocalis and capella fidicinaria.

(x) Hieronymus Prætorius (1560-1629), 'Cantiones Variæ' (Hamburg, 1618), f. F. 3, No. xxvii, à 8.

(xi) Joh. Stobæus (1586-1646), quoted by Winterfeld, 11, p. 134.

(xii) Martin Zeuner (1616); see Winterfeld, II, p. 24.

(xiii) Joh. Hermann Schein (1586-1630), in his 'Cantional' (1627 and 1645); No. xi, p. 22. See Meister, I, p. 196.

(xiv) Joh. Crüger (1598-1662),
(i) in Tim. Kitzschen's 'Geistl. Kirchen-Melodien' (1649), for four voices, violins and horns, No. 49.
(ii) In his 'Praxis Pietatis Melica' (1656), No. 110 (melody and bass).

(xv) D. Buxtehude (c. 1637-1707); Organ works. See Breitkopf and Haertel, Band XIV (1903).

(xvi) Joh. Gottfried Walther (1684-1748), for Organ: Breitkopf, Bände XXVI-XXVII, No. 81, P. 200.

(xvii) Joh. Seb. Bach (1685-1750)
(i) in his 'Orgel Musik.' Breitkopf, Band VII, No. 39.
(ii) Cantata am Feste der heiligen drei Könige (Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen) for four voices with Flauti and Oboe di Caccia accompaniment.
(iii) 'Orgel-werke,' Band II, Orgelbüchlein, p. 6.
See also Bach's '371 Vierstimmige Choral-gesange,' No. 12; in 'The Cowley Carol Book' (1902),No. I.

(xviii) F. Layriz' 'Kern des deutschen Kirchengesangs' (1854), No. 308.

Another Melody for Puer natus in Bethlehem, older than those in Piæ Cantiones, quite distinct from them and in a different mode, is to be found in 'Analecta Hymnica,' I (Beilagen, Nos. xvi and xvii, pp. 195-6). No. xvi is taken from the Prag MS., circa 1320; and No. xvii gives the same tune as it appears about 100 years later, viz., in the 'Kantional von Jistebnicz,' circa 1420.

Sheet music to Puer Natus in Bethlehem from Guido Maria Dreves, ed., Analecta Hymnica Medii Aevi: Cantiones Bohemicae. Vol 1. (Leipzig, 1886), XVI & XVII, pp. 195-196.

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No. XVI is taken from the Prag MS
No. XVI is the tune found in the 'Kantional von Jistebnicz'

After another interval of a century and upwards, the same fine melody reappears slightly modified in Johann Spangenberg's 'Alte und neue geistliche Lieder und Lobgesänge' 1544, and in Lucas Lossius. Spangenberg's version is set to English words To us is born a little Child, and is harmonized for unison singing in 'The Cowley Carol Book' (1902), No. 23. This melody also is of Bohemian parentage.

Sheet Music of the slightly altered melody from J. Spangenberg's 'Gesangbuch,' 1544, from George Ratcliffe Woodward, The Cowley Carol Book for Christmas, Easter, and Ascensiontide, First Series (London: A. R. Mowbray & Co., Ltd., 1902, Revised And Enlarged Edition, 1929), Carol #23
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF

— George R. Woodward, Piæ Cantiones (1910)


Note From Dr. John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology. (1892, 1907), pp. 940-941:

Puer natus in Bethlehem. [Christmas.] A beautiful and simple Christmas carol on the adoration of the Child by the ox and ass, and the visit to Him by the Magi—so equally appropriate for the Epiphany. It became a great favourite in Germany, and is found in many varying forms. The oldest text known is given by Rev. G. M. Dreves, in Analecta Hymnica, Vol. 1, Cantiones Bohemicae, 1886, No. 178, from a Benedictine Processional of the beginning of the 14th century, formerly belonging to the monastery of St. Georg at Hradisch, near Olmütz, and now in the University Library at Prague. Here it has 9 stanzas viz.:—

i. Puer natus in Bethlehem;
ii. Assumpsit carnem filius;
iii. Per Gabrielem nuntium;
iv. Tanquam sponsus de thalamo;
v. Ponitur in praesepio;
vi. Cognovit bos et asinus;
vii. Reges de Saba veniunt;
viii. Intrantes domum invicem;
ix. Trino uni sempiterno. From the Cantional of Jistebnicz, c. 1420, he adds:
x. Sit benedicta Trinitas.

See: Puer natus-Processionale.

This text, in 10 stanzas is also found in the Hereford Breviary of 1505, where it is appointed for the Epiphany; see Puer natus in Hereford Breviary. Wackernagel, I., Nos. 309-318, gives 10 forms of varying length, see Wackernagel's Puer Natus.

The oldest version is from a Munich manuscript of the 15th century, Puer natus - The Munchner Codex. This has 6 stanzas, viz., 1, 5 (reading "Hic jacet"), 6, 7, 8 of the above text, and a 6th stanza, “Ergo nostra concio."

Editor's Note:
The six stanzas in question would be:

1. Puer natus in Bethlehem
Unde gaudet Ierusalem.

2. Hic iacet in praesepio
Qui regnat sine termino.

3. Cognovit bos et azinus
Quod puer erat dominus.

4. Reges de Saba veniunt,
Aurum, thus, mirran offerunt.

5. Intrantes domum invicem
novum salatant principem

6. Ergo nostra concio
benedicamus domino.

The text, which passed into the German Lutheran hymn-books and survives, e.g. in Johann Friedrich Burg's Allgemeines und vollständiges Evangelisches Gesang-Buch, Burg's Puer Natus, Breslau, 1746, No. 393 (each stanza being followed by a German translation, including the 2nd stanza, "Hic jacet in præsepio"), appeared in Valentin Babst's Geistliche Leider und Psalmen, Bapst's Puer Natus, Leipzig, 1545, and is Wackernagel’s No. 310, 1864 [below]. It has 10 stanzas, viz. 1, 5 (reading "Hic jacet"), 6, 7,10 (reading "Laudetur sancta"), and ...

Editor's Note:

Dr. Julian has the habit of listing the stanzas by number, i.e., "1, 5, 6, 7, 10 and .... " then a listing of the first few words from each subsequent stanza. I find this difficult to visualize, and have taken the liberty of substituting the actual stanzas referred to. In this case, the ten stanzas from Bapst were:

1. Puer natus in Bethlehem, in Bethlehem,
Unde gaudet Hierusalem, Hale, Haleluia.

2. Hic iacet in præsepio, præsepio,
Qui regnat sine termino, Hale, Haleluia.

3. Cognovit bos & asinus, asinus,
Quod puer erat dominus, Hale, Haleluia.

4. Reges de Saba veniunt, veniunt,
Aurum, Thus, Myrrham offerunt, Hale, Haleluia.

5. De matre natus virgine, virgine,
Sine virili semine, Hale, Haleluia.

6. Sine serpentis vulnere, vulnere,
De nostro venit sanguine, Hale, Haleluia.

7. In carne nobis similis, similis,
Peccato sed dissimilis, Hale, Haleluia.

8. Ut redderet nos homines, homines,
Deo & sibi similes, Hale, Haleluia.

9. In hoc natali gaudio, gaudio
Benedicamus domino, Hale, Haleluia.

10. Laudetur sancta trinitas, trinitas,
Deo dicamus gratias, Hale, Haleluia.

Valentin Babst, ed., Geistliche Leider und Psalmen (Leipzig, 1545), #LVII, pp. 181-184. Latin with German translations except for the 2nd Stanza.

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Johann Friedrich Burg, Allgemeines und vollständiges Evangelisches Gesang-Buch (Breslan, 1746, 1860), #393, pp. 227-228.

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Philipp Wackernagel, Das deutsche Kirchenlied, Vol. 1. (Leipzig: Druct und Berlag von B. G. Leubner, 1864), Version 2, #310, p. 198.  Wackernagel's Puer Natus.

These intercalated stanzas [5 through 9] seem to be of later origin (if not Post-Reformation), and to have been added to give the hymn a more theological ring. The Bapst text of 1545 is included in Daniel, I, No. 480; and also in Trench ed. 1864 with the stanza "Intrantes domum invicem" added.

Translated as:—

1. The Child Is Born In Bethlehem. By Elizabeth Charles, in her Voice of Christian Life in Song, 1858, p. 173, in 11 stanzas of 2 lines. When repeated in the People's Hymnal, 1867, it was slightly altered, and the refrain “Alleluia" was added to each stanza.
2. Infant Born In Bethlehem, Born to save Jerusalem. Anonymous in Mrs. Carey Brock's Children's Hymn Book, 1881.

Other translations are :—

1. A Babe in Bethlehem is born. W. J. Blew. 1852-55. See: A Babe In Bethlehem Is Born - Translator Unknown.

2. A Child Is Born In Bethlehem, Rejoice, rejoice, Jerusalem. J. W. Hewett. 1859. [John William Hewett, "Verses. By A Country Curate." (London: Joseph Masters, 1859), Pages 26-27.]

3. A Child Is Born In Bethlehem, And joyful is Jerusalem. R. F. Littledale, in Lyra Messianica, 1864, p. 69. [Rev. Orby Shipley, ed., Lyra Messianica: Hymns and Verses On The Life of Christ. (London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, and Green, 1864), pp. 69-70. ]

4. A Child Is Born in Bethlehem, Rejoice and sing, &c. P. Schaff, in his Christ in Song, N.Y. 1869. [Philip Schaff, ed., Christ In Song, Hymns of Immanuel Selected from All Ages, With Notes. (London: Samson Low, Son, and Marston, 1870), pp. 38-39.]

5. A Babe is Born in Bethlehem, An altered version of Schaff's lyrics from O. Hardwig, ed., The Wartburg Hymnal (Chicago: Wartburg Publishing House, 1918), #90.

6. A Child is Born in Bethlehem; Exult for joy, Jerusalem! H. M. Macgill. 1876. [Hamilton M. MacGill, Songs of the Christian Creed and Life (London: Pickering & Co., 1879), #35.]

7. A Boy is Born in Bethlehem, Joy bringing to Jerusalem. H. J. D. Ryder, in O. Shipley's Annus Sanctus. 1884. [Orby Shipley, Annus Sanctus: Hymns of the Church for the Ecclesiastical Year. Vol. 1. (London and New York: Burns and Oates, 1884), pp. 27-28.]

8. A Child Is Born In Bethlehem, And joy is in Jerusalem. P. S. Worsley, in his Poems, &. 1875. [Philip Stanhope Worsley, Poems and Translations. Second Edition, Enlarged. (Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood and Sons, 1875), pp. 203-204.]

Editor's Note: There are many more translations, some of which are listed below.

This hymn has been very frequently translated into German, the versions ranging from that by Heinrich of Laufenberg in 1439 down to recent times. The version in German Protestant hymnbooks is generally that in Valentin Babst's Geistliche Leider und Psalmen, 1545, which begins, "Ein Kind geborn zu Bethlehem," and is in 10 stanzas of Latin, with interlaced German versions of all save stanza 2, Bapst's Puer Natus (thence in Wackernagel, ii. No. 906, p. 701). In later books, e.g. Johann Friedrich Burg's Allgemeines und vollständiges Evangelisches Gesang-Buch, Burg's Puer Natus Breslau, 1746, translations of stanzas 2 and 10 are added, from the text of Valentin Schumann's Geistliche Lieder Auffs New Gebessert Und Gemehrt, Leipzig, 1539.

In the Roman Catholic hymnbooks it is found in a great variety of forms, but all, or almost all, beginning "Ein Kind geborn zu Bethlehem."

Editor's Note:

See Ein kindt ist geborn ze Bethlehem, three versions of German translations of Puer Natus in Bethlehem, all from August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben, ed., Geschichte des deutschen Kirchenliedes bis auf Luthers Zeit (Carl Rümpler, 1854), #190-192, pp. 340-342.

Wackernagel, Volume 2, has six examples of Ein kind geborn ze Bethlehem, #904-909, PP. 700-703. See pages below.

The translations from the German are
(1) "
A Child Is Born In Bethlehem, There's joy in [sic] all Jerusalem." By Dr. H. Harbaugh in the German Reformed Guardian, Dec. 1866, p. 310.

Editor's Note: This carol was found in the December, 1866, issue of The Guardian (not the German Reformed Guardian). It's correct title is "A Child Is Born In Bethlehem, There's joy through all Jerusalem." It began on p. 370, not p. 310.

(2) “A Child is born in Bethlehem, Therefore is glad Jerusalem." By Miss Huppus, as No. 304 in E. Paxton Hood's Children's Choir, 1870. The text used by Miss Huppus is that in the St. Gall Katholisches Gesang-Buch, 1863.

Editor's Note: The full title of Paxton's songbook is "The Children's Choir, and Little Service of Sacred Song." It was edited by the Rev. Paxton Hood. Neither the song nor the book can be found at this time. July 25, 2015.

Miss Huppus' source was quite probably Katholisches Gesangbuch mit einem Anhang von Gebeten zum Gebrauche bei dem öffentlichen Gottesdienste. (St. Gallen: Verlag A.J. Köppel 1863). It is not yet online, and the nearest library with a copy is 4,700 miles (including one ocean).

[Rev. James Mearns, M.A.]

— John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)


Editor's Note:

The version given by Bapst in 1545 included a pair of unique features as illustrated in the first verse:

Puer natus in Bethlehem, in Bethlehem,
Unde gaudet Hierusalem, Hale, Haleluia.

In 1573 Leisentrit carried Bapst version, slightly altered, and followed by Das Paderborner Gesangbuch 1609 & The Foreign and Colonial Quarterly Review (1843) :

Puer natus in Bethlehem, Bethlehem,
Unde gaudet Hierusalem, Alle, Alleluia.

Burg (1746) splits the difference:

Puer natus in Bethlehem, Bethlehem,
Unde gaudet Jerusalem. Halle-Halleluia!

Harbaugh (1866):

A Child is born in Bethlehem, in Bethlehem ;
There's joy through all Jerusalem ; Allelujah, allelujah, allelujah.

 Alte und Newe Geistliche Catholische (1630)

Puer natus in Bethlehem, in Bethlehem,
Unde gaudet Ierusalem, Alle, alle, alle, alleluia.

Bishop Young's collected version (Hopkins, 1887):

Puer natus in Bethlehem, Alleluia.
Unde gaudet Jerusalem. Alleluia.

Messis Copiosa #42, p. 48 (1761):

Puer natus in Bethlehem, Alleluia, Alleluia,
Unde gaudet Jerusalem, Alle, Alle, alleluia.

Das Paderborner Gesangbuch von 1609, #13-6

Puer natus in Bethlehem, O ho!
Vnde gaudet Jerusalem, O ho!
Alleluia, Alleluia.

Das Paderborner Gesangbuch von 1609, #13-3 & #20, Das Paderborner Gesangbuch, 1628, #23, and Wackernagel #316.

Puer natus in Bethlehem
Vnde gaudet Jerusalem.
Amor, Amor, Amor, Amor, Amor
Quam dulcis est amor.

And in several collections, text and music, with alterations:

Puer natus in Bethlehem,
unde gaudet Ierusalem.
Deus amor, o deus amor,
quam dulciter venis,
O deus amor.

Collections include Wackernagel #317, Das Paderborner Gesangbuch, 1628 #23, Messis Copiosa #43, Alte und Newe, pp. 52 & 53, et al.

The version given by Bapst was followed by several important volumes that contained variations on his theme:

A unique version of Leisentrit's version of Puer natus in Bethlehem was found by an editor of the Foreign and Colonial Quarterly Review in the context of an article concerning “The Old Hymns and Lays” up to the time of Luther. In discussing Latin hymns, the author chose one " ... in a rare variation, unknown to Wackernagel, of the famous hymn 'Puer natus in Bethlehem.' "

The author noted that the Latin and German translations of each of the six verses were sung alternately by the Priest and the People. The Priest sang the Latin verse and the People answered with the German translation. Thus:

1. Priest:
Puer natus in Bethlehem, Bethlehem ,
Unde gaudet Jerusalem, Alle, alleluia.

Ein Kind geboren zu Bethlehem, Bethlehem,
Des frewet sich Jerusalem, Alle, alleluia.

To see the full carol, please see: Puer natus - A Dialogue. Source: “Puer natus in Bethlehem,” pp. 81-83, from "The Old Hymns and Lays, Sacred and Profane, especially of Germany down to the Time of Luther," in The Foreign and Colonial Quarterly Review, Volume 1, Issue 1. (London: Whittaker and Co., 1843), pp. 57-100.

Sir John Bowring created a very close English version of this Dialogue in his collection Hymns (1825). Like Bapst, he repeats the last word in the first line, and also appends a single "Halleluia" at the end of the second line. Unlike some other versions, however, Bowring includes his translation of each verse immediately after that verse that is intended to be sung with the first two lines:

Puer natus in Bethlehem, Bethlehem,
Unde gaudet Jerusalem, Hallelujah.
A child is born in Bethlehem,
And joy has filled Jerusalem.
    See: A Child Is Born In Bethlehem.

Ultimately, Bapst's vision of this carol was sheared of the doubling of the last word of the first line, and the "Alleluia" at the end of the second line. That said, Bapst's 10-stanza text of 1545 was the inspiration for versions in numerous volumes, including the following:



Some versions of Puer Natus:

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Alphabetical Listing of all English-language translations on this site:


Editor's Notes:

A major element of this carol is the presence of the Ox and the Ass at the Manger. We see them in this verse:

Cognovit bos et asinus
Quod puer erat Dominus.

Rev. Richard Trent's notes to his version of Puer natus in Bethlehem is the source for much of the following observations concerning verses 3 and 4 above.

Two passages in the O. T. supplied the groundwork to that wide-spread legend which painters have so often made their own, and to which here the poet alludes, viz. that the ox and the ass recognized and worshipped that Lord whom the Jews ignored and rejected.

The first, Isaiah. 1:3, was seen a prophetic reference to the manger at Bethlehem

The ox knows its master,
the donkey its owner’s manger,
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand. (NIV)

The second authority this line translated from the Septuagint version of Habakkuk 3:2: "... thou shalt be known between the two living creatures..."

The full verse is:

"O Lord, I have heard thy report, and was afraid:
I considered thy works, and was amazed:
thou shalt be known between the two living creatures,
thou shalt be acknowledged when the years draw nigh;
thou shalt be manifested when the time is come;
when my soul is troubled, thou wilt in wrath remember mercy."

    Habakkuk 3:2.
Brenton Translation of the Septuagint. (Emphasis added).

Some commentators have applied these verses to the shepherds and the wise men who were likewise worshipers at the cradle of the new-born King. And some have extended the legend to the Jews and Gentiles.

Another verse refers directly to the wise men who came to worship the Baby:

Reges de Saba veniunt,
Aurum, tus, myrrham offerunt.

In Matthew 2:1 we see "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi [traditionally: wise men] from the east [άνατολαί] came to Jerusalem." (NIV)

Again we have verses from the Old Testament that are believed to pre-sage their presence. In Isaiah 60:3 we see "Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn." (NIV)

And we also have Psalm 72:10, 15.

May the kings of Tarshish and of distant shores
bring tribute to him.
May the kings of Sheba and Seba
present him gifts. ...
Long may he live!
May gold from Sheba be given him.
May people ever pray for him
and bless him all day long. (NIV)

In the verse we see "Reges de Saba" where "Saba" is the Biblical name of "Sheba," an ancient kingdom in southwestern Arabia noted for its extensive trade, especially in spices and gems. Source: Saba at, accessed July 25, 2015.

A setting by David Drexler is available at the Choral Public Domain Library (CPDL): Puer Natus In Bethlehem. The composer notes:

A simple setting of the Christmas text meant to evoke a mood of calm and mystery. The melody used is the 14th century German Benedictine processional, not the better-known descant from the Piae Cantiones.

He also noted that the verses have been moved around in his arrangement.

A similar hymn translated by Percy Dearmer from 16th Century German begins:

A Boy was born in Bethlehem,
Rejoice for that, Jerusalem!

The translation can be found in the Oxford Book of Carols, and is copyright 1928.

A carol by Catherine Baird has this first verse:

A boy was born in Bethlehem
With tiny hands and downy head;
The shepherds came to worship him
Asleep within a manger bed.

Despite the first verse, this carol has no relationship with Puer Natus in Bethlehem. See: A Boy Was Born in Bethlehem-Baird.

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