Conditor alme siderum

Hymn for Advent / adventshymne ca. 7de eeuw

More hymns | Vexilla regis | Ausonius and his Rose | Alain de Lille | Dulcis Jesu memoria | Mundi renovatio | Lux jucunda | Ambrosius | Veni Redemptor | Conditor alme | Prudentius | Adam St. Victor | a solis ortus | dies irae


For inclusion in the Roman Breviary a revision took place in 1632. The hymn became Creator alme siderum. Quite popular, both in roman-catholic and Lutheran circles. NB: this is not a superficial change: the content and afmosphere of the entire hymn has changed. See below some background and the 'appreciation' of G.W. McGrath who compared all hymn-changes.

Dick Wursten

TEXTS: Latin text - translation - vertaling  - version of J.M. Neale
MUSIC: Organ with plainchant (Jean Titelouze, Hymnes de l'Église pour toucher sur l'orgue' (1623))
CURIOSUM: Alexandre Guilmant published a complete mass on this hymn in l'Organiste Liturgiste (le 3e dimanche de l'Avent)

Ook te vinden in het Liedboek voor de kerken (1973), gezang 226 (rubriek Hemelvaart). More on Schulte Nordholt en zijn hymnenvertalingen (including other hymns)]

Conditor (bodleian, ca. 12th century)
hymne in manuscript (Duitsland/Germany, now in Oxford Bodleian).

Transcriptie van de originele hymne (vetgedrukt),met links twee vertalingen.
Rechts leest u de latere Latijnse bewerking eveneens met een vertaling.
To the right of the original hymn the 1632 make-over. I prefer the original. And I am not the only one. Read this evaluation from a dissertation (1939).
De revisie kun je opdreunen (volledig
jambisch). Het origineel vloeit en als je gewoon rustig leest (scansio) kan die perfect gezongen worden. En ze is véél levendiger.

De hymne roept Christus aan als schepper, wat ongebruikelijk in de 21ste eeuw, maar heel gewoon in de oude kerk. Men leze bijv. Johannes 1 en 1 Kolossenzen 1, 15-20.

Conditor alme siderum
Author unknown
(original: ca. 7th century)
Creator alme siderum
(total make-over of the original hymn)
17th century (1632, Pope Urban VIII)

Kind maker of the heavenly bodies,
eternal light for those who believe in you,
Christ, redeemer of everyone,
hear the prayers of those who beseech you,

Gij die der sterren schepper zijt,
met eeuwig licht uw kindren leidt,
o Christus, die de mensen redt,
hoor naar ons innig smeekgebed.

Cónditor alme siderum [1] ,
aetérna lux credéntium,
Christe, redémptor ómnium,
exáudi preces súpplicum.

Creator alme siderum,
aeterna lux credentium,
Iesu, Redemptor omnium,
intende votis supplicum.

Bright builder of the heavenly poles, **
eternal light of faithful souls,
Jesus, Redeemer of mankind,
our humble prayers vouchsafe to mind:

You, who grieving that the this world
was perishing in ruinous death,
healed the languishing world
providing a remedy to the guilty:

Gij ziet in uw erbarmen groot
de wereld zinken in de dood,
en komt te hulp nu zij verkwijnt
en geeft U zelf als medicijn.  

Qui cóndolens intéritu
mortis perire sáeculum,
salvásti mundum lánguidum,
donans reis remédium,

Qui daemonis ne fraudibus
periret orbis, impetu
amoris actus, languidi,
mundi medela factus es,

Who, lest the fraud of hell's black king
should all men to destruction bring,
didst, by an act of generous love,
the fainting world's physician prove.

when the world’s evening was drawing to its close,
you, like a bridegroom coming forth
from the wedding chamber
left the most noble enclosure of your virgin mother,

De wereld zinkt in avond neer,
Gij treedt als bruidegom, o Heer,
te voorschijn uit de schoot der Maagd,
de zuivere Moeder die U draagt.  

Vergénte mundi véspere,
uti sponsus de thálamo,
egréssus honestíssima
Virginis matris cláusula.

Commune qui mundi nefas
ut expiares, ad crucem
e Virginis sacrario
intacta prodis victima.

Thou, that Thou mightst our ransom pay
and wash the stains of sin away,
didst from a Virgin's womb proceed
and on the Cross a Victim bleed.

You, to whose power and strength
all things in heaven and earth bend their knee
and admit that they are subject
to your command,

Voor uw immense majesteit,
buigt alle knie zich wijd en zijd,
buigt aarde en hemel zich ter neer
en dient U op Uw wenken, Heer:

Cuius forti poténtiae
genu curvántur ómnia;
caeléstia, terréstria
nutu faténtur súbdita.

Cuius potestas gloriae,
Nomenque cum primum sonat,
et caelites et inferi
tremente curvantur genu.

Thy glorious power, Thy saving Name
no sooner any voice can frame,
but heaven and earth and hell agree
to honor them with trembling knee.

 the sun by faithfully observing the sunset,
the moon by retaining its pale light,
the shining splendour of the stars
by restricting itself to certain limits.

De zon zorgt voor haar ondergang,
de maan beheerst haar fase en stand,
het licht dat in de sterren straalt

erkent de grens door u bepaald.

Occásum sol custódiens, [4]
Luna pallórem rétinens,
Candor in ástris rélucens
Certos obsérvat límites.

We pray to you, holy one,
judge of the world to come,
protect us at this time
from the dart of the perfidious enemy.

O Rechter die het oordeel spreekt,
o heilige, ons harte smeekt
dat Gij ons voor de pijlen hoedt
waarmee de vijand rondom woedt.

Te déprecamur, hágie [5]
ventúre iudex sáeculi,
consérva nos in témpore
hostis a telo pérfidi.

Te, deprecamur ultimae
magnum diei Iudicem,
armis supernae gratiae
defende nos ab hostibus.

Thee, Christ, who at the latter day
shalt be our Judge, we humbly pray
such arms of heavenly grace to send
as may Thy Church from foes defend

Praise, honour, might and glory
to God the Father and the Son
together with the Holy Paraclete (Consoler)
forever, for all the ages.

U, koning Christus, onze Heer,
zij met de Vader lof en eer,
en met de Geest, die troost en leidt,
van eeuwigheid tot eeuwigheid.

Laus, honor, virtus, gloria
Deo Patri, et Filio
Sancto simul Paraclito,
in sempiterna saecula.

Virtus, honor, laus, gloria
Deo Patri cum Filio,
Sancto simul Paraclito,
in saeculorum saecula.

Be glory given and honor done
to God the Father and the Son
and to the Holy Ghost on high,
from age to age eternally.

tr. after Inge. B. Milfull
(Critical edition of the Durham hymnal)

J.W. Schulte Nordholt (Hymnen)
cursief Dick Wursten 

A cento from the Primer, 1685
and the Evening Office, 1710

[1] Siderum = all heavenly bodies
[2] Refers to Psalm 19: 5-7 (The sun rises as a groom awakening on his wedding day), via Canticum canticorum: Christ = the sun/groom, Cf. hymn: Veni Redemptor (st. 4): Procedat e thalamo suo / Pudoris aula regia 
[3] Refers to Pauls' Epistle to the Philippians 2:10
[4] This stanza is often omitted. However it fits quite nicely: explication (ontvouwing) of how all heavenly bodies in the way they shine (or not) obey their Creator. line 4: Some mss: observans or observant.
[5] ‘Hagie’ : from the Greek: Hagios = Saint/Heilige. Cf. ‘Kyrie eleison'.

[*] The changes were made when the hymn was 'revised' in 1632 ... to comply to the taste of the 17th century church-elite, who experienced the Medieval Latin as 'barbarous' and 'defective' in metre/style. Result: Of the original quatrains only one line remains unchanged. And indeed: There are many metrical irregularities. HOWEVER:
"Even if we are prepared to admit the occasional substitution of a trochee for an iambus we can scan the old text as it stands accentually. Granted this accentual scheme, then there is nothing in the hymn to cause difficulty but the nutu in v.l6 and hagie in v. 17. The hymn which the revisers substituted is, poetically speaking, quite inferior to the original. almost from the substitution of the commonplace Creator for the vivid Conditor in the first line to the last stanza where our anonymous seventh century poet prays:
Te deprecamur, agie,
Venture iudex saeculi,
Conserva nos in tempore
Hostis a telo perfidi.

He knows that is God preserve us from the dart of the enemy in time we need have no concern for eternity. The revisers kept the idea but almost nothing of the epigrammatic expression:
Te deprecamur ultimae
Magnum diei iudicem,
Armis supernae gratiae
Defende nos ab hostibus."

G. W. McGrath, The Revision of the Hymns of the Roman Breviary under Urban VIII, unpublished dissertation 1939, p. 76  [back]

The song can be sung on the old gregorian tune, but also - because of the 8-8-8-8 metre - on many other tunes (Psalm 134, = the Old Hundredth), or Christe qui lux est &cetera.


Jean Titelouze: Hymnes de l'Église pour toucher sur l'orgue' (1623)
organ and plainchant alternatim. [back]



J.M. Neale's version

1 Creator of the stars of night,
your people’s everlasting light,
O Christ, Redeemer of us all,
we pray you, hear us when we call.

2 In sorrow that the ancient curse
should doom to death a universe,
you came to save a ruined race
with healing gifts of heav'nly grace.

3 When earth drew on to darkest night,
you came, but not in splendor bright,
not as a king, but the child
of Mary, virgin mother mild.

4 At your great name, majestic now,
all knees must bend, all hearts must bow;
all things on earth with one accord
join those in heav’n to call you Lord.

5 To God the Father, God the Son,
and God the Spirit, Three in One,
praise, honor, might, and glory be
from age to age eternally.


Source: Christian Worship: Hymnal, 323   back