This traditional Palm Sunday hymn was written in 820 AD by Bishop Theodolph of Orleans, France. He wrote it while in prison at the monastery of Angers. Born in Spain, Bishop Theodolph was a well-known poet and pastor. He had been a close friend of the well-known Emperor Charlemagne, the one who tried to revive the Roman Empire in the 8th century. When the Emperor died in 814, Charlemagne’s son and successor, Louis 1, had Bishop Theodolph imprisoned under suspicion of plotting against the new ruler.
Six years later, while still in prison, Theodolph penned the words to this hymn in Latin. Legend has it that Louis happened to pass beneath Theodolph’s cell while the bishop was worshiping alone. When Louis heard Theodolph sing this hymn, Louis was so moved by the words that he immediately ordered the bishop’s release. The bishop died shortly after leaving the prison, however, and some believed that he had been poisoned while still in prison.
The tune of the hymn was written in 1613 by Melchior Teschner, a Lutheran pastor in Germany. J. S. Bach used the tune in his St. John Passion.
This hymn is a great example of how he can use broken people to accomplish His purposes. Bishop Theodolph had fallen from great social and political heights and was near death when he wrote this hymn. In this low point in his life, the bishop wrote a hymn that has been used by the Church for nearly 1200 years!
Dear Lord, thank you for selecting broken people to accomplish Your work. Let my life be an offering of praise and thanksgiving to you for the redeeming work of your Son. Amen.
Schnorr von Carolsfeld, woodcuts © WELS Permission to use these copyrighted items is limited to personal and congregational use.