Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Story Behind Fairest Lord Jesus

I have to say, I'm a little surprised at how old this hymn is. For some reason, I thought it was rather new, perhaps late 19th century or even early 20th century, but some traditions say it's as old as the 12th century, sung when Crusaders made their way to the Holy Land. Originally, some believe, it was sung to a Gregorian chant. None of that can be substantiated.

Others attribute the hymn to around 1620, when the followers of the reformer John Hus were driven from Bohemia in a bloody purge. They settled in Silesia, now part of Poland. This is said to have been a Bohemian folk song.

The first known appearance of the hymn was in the Roman Catholic Munster Gesangbuch of 1677. Hoffman Fallersleben heard a group of Silesians singing this hymn, wrote down what they sang, and published it in his Schlesische Volkslieder in 1842. This is the version of the hymn we know.

The hymn appeared in English in Richard Storrs Willis' Church Chorals and Choir Studies in 1850.
A notation about this hymn in that collection stated that it was, "sung by the German knights on the way to Jerusalem." That may well be where the Crusader legend began. Willis was also the composer of It Came upon a Midnight Clear.


  1. I pray that churches will get back to singing HYMNs that are so rich in truth. Singing contemporary music is good but we should never discard these hymns. Fairest Lord Jesus is one of my favorite hymns from childhood. I would sit at the piano and try to teach myself to play. I always thought I would grow up and play piano for Sunday School. So many churches changed. They dumped their choirs for a few worship leaders (following Jim Bakker's PTL singers). Big Mistake! Bring back the choirs and the hymns. Thank You Lord.

  2. I love this song! When I was a little girl I was exposed to three different churches. My Mom's family was Baptist. My Dad's family was Pentecostal. My Mom and Dad worked on Sunday and my Grandma would walk us to church. My younger brother did not want to walk and my Grandma had to carry him on her shoulders. After a while this was too much for her, so they put us in a church that was across the street from our house. The name of the church was St. John Lutheran church Missouri Synod. The pastor and his wife's name was Laurant. They would play the song Fairest Lord Jesus nearly every Sunday. I came to love that song. Even today altho I am called by some a Bapticostal which is a Baptist who is baptized and filled with the Holy Ghost, I still love that song.