The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Quem Pastores laudavere

For Christmas

Words: The Latin carols of Quem pastores laudavere and Nunc Angelorum gloria.

Music: Michæl Prætorius (1571 – 1621)

Source: Michæl Praetorius, Puericinium (Wolfenbüttel, 1621)

1. Quem pastores laudavere,
Quibus Angeli dixere
Absit vobis iam timere.
Natus est Rex gloriæ.

Nunc Angelorum gloria hominibus
resplenduit in mundo.
Novi partus gaudia
virgo mater produxit,
et sol verus in tenebris illuxit.
Christus natus hodie ex virgine,
sine virili semine est natus rex.

2. Ad quem Magi ambulabant,
Aurum, thus, myrrham portabant,
Immolabant hæc sincere
Leoni victoriæ.

Culpæ sic datur hodie remissio;
lætatur homo reus.
Lux de cœlo claruit,
pace iam reparata
et genitrix permansit illibata.
Christus natus hodie ex virgine,
sine virili semine est natus rex.

3. Exultemus cum Maria
In cœlesti Hierarchia;
Natum premant voce pia,
Dulci cum melodia.

Magnum est nomen Domini Immanuel
quod est nobiscum Deus;
redemptori Domino,
redempti iubilemus:
hic est dies et annus iubilætus;
pueri concinite et psallite,
Voce pia dicite et plaudite.

4. Christo Regi Deo nato,
Per Mariam nobis dato,
Merito resonat vere
Laus, honor et gloria.

Pastores palam dicite in Bethlehem
quem genuit Maria:
Laus honor et gloria,
sit Deo in excelsis,
hominibus pax bonæ voluntatis,
Sion lauda Dominum cum plausibus,
salvatorem hominum in sæcula.


This very popular arrangement by Michael Praetorius is often sung by a single boy soprano alternating with a massed chorus. There are a number of variations on this arrangement. For example, four boys will be used, one at each corner of a church, each singing a single line of each of the four verses of Quem pastores laudavere, with the massed choirs singing the four verses of Nunc Angelorum gloria as a chorus (as above). In other cases, the boys may be placed in the loft above the congregation.

In some arrangements, only the first verse of Nunc Angelorum is used after each verse of Quem Pastores. Praetorius prepared a separate arrangement of Quem Pastores laudavere in its liturgical use, which is found in Volume 5 of his nine-volume Musæ Sioniæ (1605–10). I am still seeking a copy of this volume (volumes 1 through 4 have been scanned, and are available at several sites). The Catholic and Lutheran churches use Quem Pastores as a processional during the Christmas-tide.

Entries for these works in CPDL:

At IMSLP: Michael Pretorius.

A side-by-side printing of Latin and literal English can be seen at "Saturday Chorale" website, "Praetorius: Quem Pastores Laudavere - Westminster Cathedral Choir" (Dec. 7, 2011). There is also a video on this web page of the performance of this carol by The Parley of Instruments, Westminster Cathedral Choir, David Hill (conductor). A PDF of the liner notes is also available.

Sheet music of Michael Praetorius, “Quem Pastores laudavere,” Puericiniu, from Friedrich Blume, ed., Gesamtausgabe der musikalischen Werke: Puericiniu, Band 19 von Gesamtausgabe der musikalischen Werke, Michael Praetorius (Möseler, 1621), pp. 17—22.

Praetorius-Quem_Pastores-17.jpg (145395 bytes) Praetorius-Quem_Pastores-18.jpg (98515 bytes) Praetorius-Quem_Pastores-19.jpg (188851 bytes) Praetorius-Quem_Pastores-20.jpg (135627 bytes) Praetorius-Quem_Pastores-21.jpg (130300 bytes) Praetorius-Quem_Pastores-22.jpg (129041 bytes)

Praetorius' version includes four verses of "Quem Pastores laudavere" and four verses of "Nunc Angelorum gloria" as the chorus.

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