The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

"Adeste Fideles" in the "Notes and Queries"


This series of notes appeared in Notes and Queries, Fifth Series, Volume XI, pages 265, 298, 331, 372, 418 (1879). The shorthand reference to these appearances is: “(5th S. xi 265, 298, 331, 372, 418).”

Additional notes were added that were referenced in the texts.


Notes and Queries,” 2 Series, Volume VII, p. 173. (Feb. 26, 1859)

" Adeste Fideles" Who was the author of the above Christmas hymn, and of the tune to , 1859which it is now commonly sung in the Catholic churches of this country ? and why is it called the Portuguese Hymn ? ANON.

[This hymn is modern, of the latter part of the last century, and does not appear in the Roman Breviary ; nor is it found in Daniel's Thesaurus. It is believed to have been first used in this country in the chapel attached to the Portuguese embassy, and the tune has been ascribed to an organist, a Mr. Thorley ; but upon what foundation we cannot say. No doubt the hymn obtained the name of " The Portuguese Hymn " from its connexion with the chapel of the Portuguese embassy.]


Notes and Queries,” 4th Series, Volume I, p. 12 (Jan. 4, 1868)

"ADESTE FIDELES." The well-known "Portuguese hymn" tune used to be commonly considered of Roman Catholic and Continental origin, but of late years divers editors have attributed it to John Reading, about whom they are not agreed. In the Congregational Psalmist, by Allon and Gauntlett, we read:

"Reading, John, born in 1690, a pupil of Dr. Blow, organist of St. John's, Hackney, St. Dunstan's, &c., died in 1766. Author of the 'Portuguese hymn,' which was first sung in Lincoln Cathedral. The Duke of Leeds, then director of the Concerts of Ancient Music, heard it at the Portuguese Chapel about 1785. Supposing it to be peculiar to the Portuguese service, he introduced it into the Concerts of the Society, under the title of Portuguese hymn."

In the Christian Knowledge Hymnal we are told that

" The tune is by John Reading, organist of the Cathedral at Winchester 1675, who died 1692, and further, the Adeste Fideles was arranged by the late Vincent Novello for the Portuguese Chapel, of which he became organist in 1797, and hence it appears to have obtained the name of the Portuguese hymn."

These statements are sufficiently discrepant, and I cannot attribute much authority to either, as both the books contain numerous historical errors.

The question is, when was the tune first published, or where is the original to be found ?

During the examination of many hundred volumes of psalmody, I have not met with it before the end of the last century. If composed in the 17th century, where was it all the while? In the present state of the argument I have not ventured to name any composer in my Church of England Psalmody, but as I am now making a final revision of that work, I should be glad to be able to do so.


Yoxford Vicarage.


Notes and Queries,” 4th Series, Volume I, p. 186 (Feb. 22, 1868)

" ADESTE FIDELES " (4th S. i. 12) AND " HELMSLET."

Some years ago, when I was honorary organist at a chapel near London, I assisted a friend who was compiling a Psalmody. To ascertain the origin of "Portugal New," or " Adeste Fideles," I had an interview with that clever musician, the late Mr. John Whitaker, who then resided in a court leading out of Holborn – I think it was called "Dyers' Buildings." Mr. Whitaker showed me a MS. arrangement by himself, to which was pinned a note to this effect: "not Portuguese – so called because first introduced at the Portuguese Chapel, by the organist there." That is all I remember. If Mr. Whitaker named I the organist, or the date of the introduction, I cannot recollect. I think that he did both.

I beg to assure the REV. HENRY PARR that the Christian Knowledge Hymnal is full of historical blunders. As an instance, take "Helmsley," or the Advent Hymn, " Lo ! he comes." This is said to be by the Rev. Mr. Madan, who composed the music to " Before Jehovah's awful throne " [Denmark], and several other well-known florid tunes. But he had nothing to do with " Helmsley," which Mr. John Fawcett (formerly organist at Bolton-le-Moors), in one of his Psalmodies, says is an " ancient Gaelic air." At any rate it is set to Gaelic (modern) words ; but we first find it set to some rather profane Scotch words by Tom D'Urfey ! This was long before Madan's time.

Mr. Whitaker pointed this out to me, and played over the original tune, which varies considerably from "Helmsley." Mr. Whitaker said that the tune, as it now stands, was concocted by an organist at Helmsley, who called it after his place of abode. I am glad to find the tune in the Christian Knowledge Hymnal. I know no other so appropriate for " Lo ! he comes." I think it may have been brought to Helmsley by the Methodist 'missionaries. I may state, in conclusion, that I am quite certain Mr. Whitaker did not name the late Mr. Vincent Novello as being either the introducer or composer of "Portugal New." I knew Mr. Novello, and had he been named, it could not have passed from my memory. The subject was never broached by me to Mr. V. Novello, as it would have been had he been mentioned by Mr. Whitaker. I have certainly never connected Mr. Novello with "Adeste Fideles," except as the editor of a most exquisite arrangement of the music, and which ought to be in every organ-loft. If the tune is by some "John Reading," I agree with the REV. H. PARR that proof is desirable.




Notes and Queries,” 4th Series, Volume XI, p. 75 (Mar. 15, 1873)

THE "ADESTE, FIDELES." The following version of the Adeste, fideles, is extracted from the Paroissien Romain Complet, published at Tours in 1858 ; and, with the omission of the third verse, may also be found in a Paroissien de Paris of about the year 1862, that the writer has seen. It will be noticed that this Latin version differs in every verse, excepting the first, from the one known in this country, which has been translated into English, and is sung in so many churches to the tune called Portuguese. Who was the author of the original ?

"Adeste, fideles,
Lśti, triumphantes ;
Venite, venite in Bethlehem.
Natum videte
Regem Angelorum.
Venite, adoremus ; venite adoremus ;
Yenite, adoremus Dominum.

En, grege relicto,
Humiles ad cunas
Vocati pastores approperant ;
Et nos ovanti
Gradu festinemus :
Venite, adoremus, etc.

Stella duce, Magi
Christum adorantes,
Aurum, thus et myrrhum dant munera;
Jesu infanti
Corda prśbeamus
Venite, adoremus, etc.

Ćterni Parentis
Splendorem ćternum,
Velatum sub carne videbimus,
Deum infantem
Pannis involutum.
Venite, adoremus, etc.

Pro nobis egenum
Et fśno cubantem
Piis foveamus amplexibus.
Sic nos amantem
Quis non redamaret ?
Venite, adoremus, etc."

W. H. L.

[We can only repeat what we have already said (see 2nd S. vii. 173 ; 4th S. i. 12, 186), that " this hymn is modern, of the latter part of the last century, and does not appear in the Roman Breviary; nor is it found in Daniel's Thesaurus. It is believed to have been first used in this country in the chapel attached to the Portuguese embassy." The tune has been attributed to John Reading, who wrote Dulce Domum, and to Mr. Thorley.]


Notes and Queries,” 4th Series, Volume XI, p. 219 (Mar. 15, 1873)

THE "ADESTE, FIDELES. " (4th S. xi. 75.)

In a modern Latin Manual of Devotions, entitled Thesaurus Animce Christiana (Londini, apud C. Dolman, MDCCCLVII.), I find the Adeste, Fideles is printed with seven verses, embracing those with which we are familiar in England, together with all the verses excepting one of the version I met with in a French book, and sent you some weeks ago. The heading prefixed to it states it to be a sequence, for the Nativity of Our Lord, taken from the Gradual of the Cistercian monks. It runs as follows :

"Alia Sequenlia in Nativitate Domini.

(Ex Graduate Cisterciensi. )

Adeste, fideles ! lśti triumphantes,
Venite, venite in Bethlehem !
Natum videte, Regem Angelorum :
Venite adoremus, venite adoremus,
Venite adoremus Dominum.

Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine,
Gestant puellae viscera,
Deum verum, genitum non factum,
Venite adoremus, etc.

En, grege relicto, humiles ad cunas
Vocati Pastores adproperant :
Et nos ovanti gradu festinemus ;
Venite adoremus, etc.

Ćterni Parentis splendorem ćternum,
Velatum sub carne videbimus,
Deum infantem, pannis involutum,
Venite adoremus, etc.

Pro nobis egenum et foeno cubantem
Piis foveamus amplexibus :
Sic nos amantem, quis non redamaret ?
Venite adoremus, etc.

Cantet nunc hymnos chorus Angelorum,
Cantet nunc aula cślestium :
Gloria in excelsis Deo :
Venite adoremus, etc.

Ergo, qui natus die hodierno,
Jesu, tibi sit gloria
Patris ćterni Verbum caro factum :
Venite adoremus, venite adoremus,
Venite adoremus Dominum."

W. H. L.


Notes and Queries, 5th Series, Volume XI, p. 265. (April 5, 1879)


I am anxious to obtain information regarding the Latin words and music of this well-known hymn. With regard to the former, To what date should they be assigned, and what is their original form ? The Appendix to the Hymnal Noted (p. vi) says simply "15 or 16 century." I shall be glad to know anything further on this head. But I think it is not generally known that the words in French and German books are not the same as those of which a translation is now commonly found in Catholic and Anglican hymn books, the Latin of which is given in the Hymnal Noted. The first verse, indeed, is alike in all, but the others are different. In the Hymnal Noted the following are the first lines of the remaining verses :

2. " Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine."

3. " Cantet nunc lo chorus angelorum."

4. "Ergo qui natus die hodiernâ."

And these are the same in Catholic hymn books and in Novello's well-known arrangement. But in several French and German hymn books now before me I find :

2. " En grege relicto humiles ad cunas."

3. " Ćterni Parentis splendorem ćternum."

4. " Pro nobis egenum et fśno cubantem."

And this version was sung some years since by M. Gounod's choir at the Albert Hall. In the Manuel du Chantre or Recueil de Chants Ecclésiastiques (Paris, no date, but a recent book) the second verse begins, "En cantat ab alto chorus angelorum," and then follow the three above quoted ; but this may be peculiar to this work, which contains other hymns of similar construction, each beginning

" Adeste fideles, lćti triumphantes,"

for the ecclesiastical year, that for Easter continuing

" Inane sepulcrum conspicite."

I shall be glad to know whether the verses already quoted form part of one hymn, and how far back they or any of them may be traced.

With regard to the tune, which has long been known under the name of the "Portuguese Hymn," I am aware that it is said to have been composed by John Reading ; but the compilers of Hymns Ancient and Modern place a ? where the writer's name should be, while Larousse, in the Grand Dictionnaire, speaks of it as a plain chant melody. The name "Portuguese Hymn " was given to it about 1785 by the then Duke of Leeds, who, having heard it performed at the chapel of the Portuguese Embassy, imagined it to be peculiar to Portugal, and introduced it at the Ancient Concerts, of which he was a director, under the above title.


British Museum.

P.S. The above was written before the note, ante, p. 240, appeared, but the latter does not touch upon the points which I have raised.

[A very high authority tells us that the music with which "Adeste Fideles" is so familiarly associated is not older than the last century ; that it bears no resemblance in style or character to compositions of the sixteenth century. We doubt whether the tune has ever been adopted in any foreign collection. Has it ever been heard out of England ?]



Notes and Queries,” 5 Series, Volume XI, p. 240 (Mar. 22, 1879)

C. F. S. W. " Adeste Fideles." The circumstance which you mention is not adequate evidence of the Portuguese origin of this hymn, though interesting as throwing a possible light on its history. It is to be found in English as well as Latin, in ordinary Roman Missals, and in books of devotion such as the Crown of Jesus and Bishop Murphy's Key of Heaven. There also appear to be several versions in Anglican and other hymnals. Taking the Roman Catholic translations first, those in the Missal now before us (Dublin, James Duffy, 1862) and in the Key of Heaven (do., 1869) are identical, the first line being

" Ye faithful souls, rejoice and sing,”

while that in the Crown of Jesus begins

" Ye faithful, come rejoice and sing."

In 1866 a revised rendering, differing from A. and M., was prepared by Dr. Irons for Holy Trinity, Brompton. An Anglican version, different from that in the revised A. and M., is also to be found in a small collection of Hymns for Use in the Church of Holy Trinity, Hustpierpoint (Masters, 1861), where the first line runs

Ye faithful, approach ye, with joy and exultation."

Yet another rendering occurs in Hymns for the Use of the Churches (Bosworth & Harrison and H. J. Brooks, 1864), where it is given thus,

"Approach, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant";

and in the index, which had the benefit of the "extensive knowledge" of Mr. Sedgwick, of Sun Street, Bishopsgate, it is attributed to the "sixteenth century," the translation for this hymnal having been made by " C." in 1845.

Ed. Notes: “A & M” refers to Hymns Ancient and Modern.

This appears to be a response by the editor of Notes and Queries to a correspondent, “C.F.S.W.”, whose communication was not published. There is no entry in the Index to this volume that points to a published query, reply, or other note. Frequently there will be a reference to the previous correspondence pointing to the location, e.g., “5th S. XI 265” = Fifth Series, Volume XI, page 265. There is no communication in either Volume 9 or 10, 5th Series, relating to the subject of this post.



Notes and Queries,” 5th Series, Volume XI, p. 298 (April 12, 1879)

THE " ADESTE FIDELES " (5 th S. xi. 265.)

In answer to the editorial postscript to my note, I may perhaps be allowed to say that the tune is very generally met with in "foreign collections," e.g., it is to be found in Mohr's Cantiones Sacrce (1878), p. 89, and in the same author's Manual of Sacred Chant (same date), p. 378, and in Gomant's Eecueil de Chants Ecclesiastiques (no date), p. 277, as well as in other French and German books in my possession.


British Museum.

Adeste-Mohr-Cantiones_Sacrae-89.jpg (63486 bytes) Adeste-Mohr-Cantiones_Sacrae-90.jpg (73538 bytes)

Mohr's Cantiones Sacrce (1878), p. 89 & p. 90.


Notes and Queries,” 5th Series, Volume XI, p. 331-332 (April 26, 1879)

THE "ADESTE FIDELES" (5th S. xi. 265, 298.)

In reply to MR. JAMES BRITTEN'S inquiry relating to the " Adeste Fideles," I beg leave to say that I think there can be no doubt that the three verses, of which he quotes the first lines from "several French and German hymn books," and those other verses familiar to us in England at Christmas, are portions respectively of the same sequence, as indeed, I believe, I showed in the communications I made to you in 1873 (4th S. xi. 75, 219). Moreover, it is to be remembered that a sequence or prose usually contains many more verses than are to be found in hymns strictly so called. But I subjoin in their proper order all the verses that I have been able to discover, asking you at the same time to print in italics the verses I have underlined, and which are comparatively unknown amongst Englishmen :

Adeste, fideles,
Laeti, triumphantes,
Venite, venite in Bethlehem ;
Natum videte
Regem Angelorum ;
Venite, adoremus, venite, adoremus,
Venite, adoremus Dommum.

Deum de Deo,
Lumen de Lumine, ,
Gestant puellae viscera
Deum verum,
Genitum, non factum ;
Venite, adoremus, &c.

En, grege relicto,
Humiles ad cunas
Vocati pastures approperant ;
Ei nos ovanti
Gradufestinemus ;
Venite, adoremus, &c.

Stella duce, magi
Christum adorantet
Aurum, thus et myrrham dant munera ;
Jesu infanti
Corda prcebeamus ;
Venite, adoremus, &c.

jEterni Parentis
Splendorem ceternum
Velatum sub came videbimus,
Deum infantem
Pannis involulum ;
Venite, adoremus, &c.

Pro nolis egenum
Etfoeno cubantem
P.iis foveamus complexibus.
Sic nos amantem
Quis non redamaret f
Venite, adoremus, &c.

Cantet nunc hymnos*
Chorus Angelorum,
Cantet nunc aula coelestium ;
In excelsis Deo !
Venite, adoremua, &c.

Ergo, qui natus
Die hodierno,
Jesu, Tibi sit gloria ;
Patris aeterni
Verbum caro factum ;
Venite, adoremus, &c.

[Ed., See Adeste Fideles, Latin text]

It is remarkable that in France the verses Nos. 2, 7, and 8 never appear to be used, judging at least from their total absence in the paroissiens or manuals of devotion which have come under my notice, whereas these, together with verse No. 1, are the only four verses heard in this country in both Roman Catholic and Church of England churches. The fourth verse, referring to the Epiphany, I have only seen once printed. No portion whatever of the " Adeste Fideles " appears in the Roman Missal or in the Roman Breviary.

The English version in Hymns Ancient and Modern, revised edition, No. 59, [O Come, All Ye Faithful] was made by Canon Oakeley many years ago, when, as an Anglican clergyman, he was minister of Margaret Chapel, where now stands All Saints' Church, Margaret Street, London, only a few very slight verbal changes having been made, I believe, in his first translation [ Ye Faithful, Approach Ye].

W. H. L.

Footnote to verse 7:

* Another reading, and I suspect the oldest, is

" Cantet nunc Io."

This hymn will be found in extenso in almost all, perhaps in all, Roman Catholic service books. The second, third, and fourth stanzas commence respectively as given by MR. BRITTEN from the Hymnal Noted,

" Deum de Deo,"

" Cantet nunc lo,"

" Ergo qui natus."

The French and German versions are, I may say, unknown in England, at all events in churches and chapels.


Hampstead, N.W.

All the foreign editions of this tune which MR. BRITTEN has kindly adduced are considerably after 1800. The question is whether any foreign copy can be found before 1750. Upon that point I entertain the gravest doubts. This "Voi, che sapete" style of melody if I may use that term without imputing plagiarism, but only an accidental likeness of phrase is wholly unlike the music of the seventeenth or any earlier century.

Wm. Chappell.

Ed. The version in Hymns Ancient and Modern, revised edition, No. 59, begins “O come, all ye faithful, Joyful and triumphant.” On the website, it is this version: O Come, All Ye Faithful. That file should be edited to show that it was also published in HAM, #59, pp. 71-72.

Adeste-Monk-HAM-1877-no42.jpg (62974 bytes)

"Adeste Fideles," Hymns Ancient and Modern, #42 (1887)


Notes and Queries, 5th Series, Volume XI, p. 372 (May 10, 1879).

THE "ADESTE FIDELES" (5 th S. xi. 265, 298, 331.)

It may be of interest to place upon record in your pages the earliest English translation of the " Adeste Fideles " that was made for use in a Church of England congregation. This I believe to be the following version, which was sung at Margaret Chapel, London, during the ministry of the Rev. Frederick Oakeley, M.A., the author of it:

" Ye faithful, approach ye, Joyfully triumphing ;
Oh, come ye, oh, come ye, to Bethlehem :
Come and behold ye Born the King of angels :
     Oh, come, let us worship; oh, come, let us worship;
     Oh, come, let us worship Christ the Lord.

God of God, Light of Light,
Lo, He disdains not the Virgin's womb :
Very God, Begotten, not created :
Oh, come, let us worship, &c.

Sing, quires angelic, lo sing exulting :
Sing, all ye citizens of heaven above,
Glory to. God In the highest !
Oh, come, let us worship, &c.

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, Born 'this happy morning ;
Jesu, to Thee be glory giv'n ;
Word of the Father In our flesh appearing.
Oh, come, let us worship," &c.

[See: Ye Faithful, Approach Ye , Oakeley, 1841]

Since that period there have been various translations brought out, and the generality of modern hymn books have contained one or other of them, the most popular being that of Canon Oakeley, slightly altered verbally from the copy I have just quoted.

As for the tune "Portuguese," emanating in all probability from the old Portuguese Catholic Chapel, of which my impression is that Mr. Novello was at one time the organist, it was imported into English parish churches long before any translation of the hymn itself, and adapted to words selected from Tate and Brady's Metrical Psalms.

I may add that since I last wrote to you I have looked at several Latin editions of the hymn, and, with only a single exception, I noticed that the reading of the first line of the last verse but one is " Cantet nunc lo."

Allow me also to take this opportunity of correcting a misprint that has crept into my last communication (ante, p. 331). In the third line of the sixth verse it should have been printed "amplexibus," not "complexibus."

W. H. L.

I am much obliged to W. H. L. for his reference to his previous communications on this hymn, which had escaped my memory. But I am sure he will agree with me that the statement as to the hymn being a sequence " ex Graduali Cisterciensi," made in the Thesaurus Animć Christianć (1857), needs confirmation. Of course it may be correct, but further and more definite evidence is necessary before the question can be considered settled.

MR. WALFORD, if he will excuse me for saying so, simply repeats in substance what I said at p. 265, with the misleading statement that the hymn is found "in almost all, perhaps in all, Roman Catholic service books." It is the entire absence of the hymn from the breviary and missal which are what one usually understands as "service books " which is one of the remarkable circumstances connected with the hymn. He probably means in Catholic English prayer books, though it is not always found even in them.

I think it would be well worth while to trace the hymn (words and music) in the "paroissiens” of the different French dioceses, which often contain "proses" of comparatively local, but ancient, use. Such is the "filii et filić," which has become deservedly popular in England (Hymns A. and M., 130). I have none to refer to, but other readers of " N. & Q." may be more fortunate.


Alleluia-HAM-1877-n130.jpg (69473 bytes)

"Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia," from Hymns Ancient and Modern (1877), #130.
Tune: "O Filii et Fille."

In the Office Paroissial used in the diocese of Orleans (printed at Rennes, 1872), the hymn " Adeste Fideles " appears among the Saluts du S. Sacrement. It consists of four verses only, but the second is the one commencing " Deum de Deo," so that W. H. L. will see this verse is sung in at least one French diocese. The third begins, " Cantet nunc lo "; the fourth, "Ergo qui natus."


Montrose, N.B.


Notes and Queries,” 5th Series, Volume XI, p. 418 (May 24, 1879).

THE "ADESTE FIDELES" (5th S. xi. 265, 298, 331, 372, 418.)

The version of this hymn sung at Margaret Chapel, London, during Mr. Oakley's ministry, is certainly not the earliest English translation that was made for use in a Church of England congregation. I remember the following version said at the time to have been made by a lady being used in a church in Guernsey about the year 1820, certainly not later than in 1823 :

"Exulting, triumphing, come from every nation ;
Come hither to Bethlehem your offerings bring ;
Come and behold one born for your salvation,
O, come let us adore Him (ter), Christ our King !

Foretold by the prophets in the sacred pages,
A virgin, wonder ! brings forth a child ;
Hail, Son of God, expected through long ages,
O, come let us adore Him (ter). Saviour mild !

Then welcome the day which gave us such a treasure,
Redemption to mortals this day affords ;
Jesus is born, our joy shall know no measure,
O, come let us adore Him (ter), Lord of Lords !

Let praises by angels, by mankind be given,
Let praises unfeigned for such love ne'er end ;
Glory to God resound from earth to heaven,
O, come let us adore Him (ter), sinners' Friend !"

This translation cannot boast of being very literal, but it is rhythmical and devoid of the stiffness of most of the other versions, and I can only wonder that it never became popular.

E. McC.


And See:

James Britten, The "Adeste Fideles", in The Irish Monthly. Volume 11. (Dublin, McGlashan & Gill, 1883), pp. 111-114. Much of the above is summarized in this article.

Adeste Fideles - Notes On The Carol

Adeste Fideles: A Study On Its Origin and Development, Dom John Stephan, O.S.B., Publications,” Buckfast Abbey, South Devon, 1947

Adeste Fideles Translations

Rev. Hugh T. Henry, American Catholic Quarterly Review, Volume 39 and Volume 40 (1914-1915):

  1. The Text of the Adeste Fideles

  2. The Tune of the Adeste, Fideles

  3. Protestant Uses of the Adeste, Fideles

  4. Catholic Uses of the Adeste, Fideles.

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