It took three countries and nearly seven centuries to create the hymn All Creatures of our God and King that we know and love today…
Italy, 1225: A year before his death, Italian friar St. Francis of Assisi penned the poem Cantico di fratre sole (Canticle of Brother Sun or Song of All Creatures). St. Francis – fittingly the patron saint of animals and the environment – exhibits his love of creation in the poem calling on “Brother Sun,” “Sister Moon,” and “Mother Earth” to praise God. Considered one of the earliest works of Italian literature, this poem is the foundation of All Creatures of Our God and King.
Germany, 1623: The tune most often used for All Creatures appeared in a Jesuit hymnal paired with a different text (Lasst uns erfreuen herzlich sehr). Later, Ralph Vaughan Williams modernized the tune creating its current version. Seen first in The English Hymnal (1906), his rendition was set with Athelstan Riley’s text Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones.
England, 1910: William H. Draper translated and paraphrased St. Francis’ poem into an English hymn for a children’s Pentecost (Whitsuntide) festival. In order for the text to fit Ralph Vaughan Williams’ version of the tune, Draper added the repeating phrases “Alleluia” and “O Praise Him” which are not part of St. Francis’ original poem. Draper published the seven stanza hymn in the Public School Hymn Book (1919).
All creatures of our God and King,
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
All Creatures of our God and King was an obvious choice to include when I decided to arrange a creation-themed piano medley – and I thought the perfect match for it was another nature-based hymn: All Things Bright and Beautiful. Both hymns are joyous so I paired them together, added a bit of spice, and tacked a cute “bird tweet” on the end to create a medley that’s sure to add cheerful notes to worship services. Enjoy!