Jerusalem the Golden

Full Text

1 Jerusalem the golden,
descending from above,
the city of God's presence,
the vision of God's love–
I know not, oh, I know not
what joys await us there
what radiancy of glory,
what bliss beyond compare!

2 They stand, those halls of Zion,
all jubilant with song,
so bright with many an angel
and all the martyr throng.
The Prince is ever in them,
the daylight is serene;
the tree of life and healing
has leaves of richest green.

3 There is the throne of David,
and there, from pain released,
the shout of those who triumph,
the song of those who feast.
And all who with their leader
have conquered in the fight,
forever and forever
are robed in purest white.

4 How lovely is that city,
the home of God's elect!
How beautiful the country
that eager hearts expect!
O Christ, in mercy bring us
to that eternal shore
where Father, Son, and Spirit
are worshiped evermore.

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Scripture References

Thematically related:

Further Reflections on Scripture References

This text "of such rare beauty" (Neale's words) is based on the imagery of the new Jerusalem found in Revelation 21:22. Like the saints described in Hebrews 11:13-16, Christians today long "for a better country–a heavenly one. Therefore God … has prepared a city for them." As we sing “Jerusalem the Golden,” we yearn for a fulfillment of this vision, for the Lord to come quickly so that we may be a part of "the city of God's presence.”

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 22, Questions and Answers 57 and 58 say that believers’ resurrected bodies will be “raised by the power of Christ, reunited with my soul, [will be] made like Christ’s glorious body.” And then “I will have perfect blessedness such as no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no human heart has ever imagined; a blessedness in which to praise God forever.”


Additionally, “Christ will cast all his enemies and mine into everlasting condemnation, but will take me and all his chosen ones to himself into the joy and glory of heaven” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 19, Question and Answer 52).


Our Song of Hope, stanza 21 expresses it this way: “God will renew the world through Jesus, who will put all unrighteousness out, purify the works of human hands, and perfect their fellowship in divine love. Christ will wipe away every tear; death shall be no more. There will be a new heaven and a new earth, and all creation will be filled with God’s glory.”

“We long for that day when our bodies are raised, the Lord wipes away our tears, and we dwell forever in the presence of God. We will take our place in the new creation...” (Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 56)


Jerusalem the Golden

Tune Information

C Major
Meter D



Jerusalem the Golden

Hymn Story/Background

This hymn was translated from part of a satiric poem of almost three thousand lines, "De Contemptu Mundi" ("the contemptable world"), written around 1145 by the twelfth-century monk Bernard of Cluny. Not to be confused with Bernard of Clairvaux, Bernard of Cluny is thought to have been born in Murles, France, supposedly of English parents. He spent the greater part of his adult life in the famous monastery of Cluny during the time that Peter the Venerable was its abbot (1122-1156). Founded in 910 with high standards of monastic observance, the monastery was wealthy—its abbey, with splendid worship services, was the largest of its time. In the twelfth century there were more than three hundred monasteries that had adopted the Cluny order. During his life Bernard was known for his published sermons and his piety, but his lasting fame rests on "De Contemptu Mundi."
In that poem Bernard applied dactylic hexameter (six groups of triplets) and intricate internal rhyme schemes to satirize the evils of his culture, as well as those of the church and his own monastery. Amazed at his own skill and discipline, Bernard said, "Unless the Spirit of wisdom and understanding had flowed in upon me, I could not have put together so long a work in so difficult a meter." To put sin in sharp relief, Bernard began his poem by focusing on the glories of heaven.
Seven hundred years later Richard C. Trench published the initial stanzas of the Poem, beginning "Urbs Sion aurea, patria lactea," in his Sacred Latin Poetry (1849) John M. Neale  translated this portion of the poem into English and published it in his Medieval Hymns and Sequences (1851). Neale made revisions and additions to his earlier free translation when he published it in his The Rhythm of Bernard (1858). “Jerusalem the Golden” is the most well-known of the four hymns derived from Neale's translation.
This text "of such rare beauty" (Neale's words) is based on the imagery of the new Jerusalem found in Revelation 21:22. Like the saints described in Hebrews 11:13-16, Christians today long "for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God… has prepared a city for them." As we sing “Jerusalem the Golden,” we yearn for a fulfillment of this vision, for the Lord to come quickly so that we may be a part of "the city of God's presence.”
Alexander Ewing originally composed EWING for "For Thee, O Dear, Dear Country," another hymn taken from Neale's translation of Bernard's poem. At first in triple meter, the tune was sung to that text by the Aberdeen Harmonic Choir (of which Ewing was a member) and published in leaflet form in 1853 and in Grey's Manual of Psalms and Hymn-Tunes (1857).
EWING was recast into duple meter by William H. Monk and set to “Jerusalem the Golden” in Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861). A strong tune for this text, EWING has a wide compass and a glorious ascent in its third line. Sing in harmony with robust dignity.
Bernard of Cluny’s text is derived from the initial stanzas of his long satiric poem, “De Contemptu Mundi,” in which he contrasts the glory of heaven with the evils of his culture. The lasting union of John M. Neale’s translation with Alexander Ewing’s tune was forged in Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861).
— Bert Polman

Author Information

Working from the Latin text, John Mason Neale (b. London, England, 1818; d. East Grinstead, Sussex, England, 1866) translated this originally Latin text.  Neale's life is a study in contrasts: born into an evangelical home, he had sympathies toward Rome; in perpetual ill health, he was incredibly productive; of scholarly tem­perament, he devoted much time to improving social conditions in his area; often ignored or despised by his contemporaries, he is lauded today for his contributions to the church and hymnody. Neale's gifts came to expression early—he won the Seatonian prize for religious poetry eleven times while a student at Trinity College, Cambridge, England. He was ordained in the Church of England in 1842, but ill health and his strong support of the Oxford Movement kept him from ordinary parish ministry. So Neale spent the years between 1846 and 1866 as a warden of Sackville College in East Grinstead, a retirement home for poor men. There he served the men faithfully and expanded Sackville's ministry to indigent women and orphans. He also founded the Sisterhood of St. Margaret, which became one of the finest English training orders for nurses.
Laboring in relative obscurity, Neale turned out a prodigious number of books and articles on liturgy and church history, including A History of the So-Called Jansenist Church of Holland (1858); an account of the Roman Catholic Church of Utrecht and its break from Rome in the 1700s; and his scholarly Essays on Liturgiology and Church History 1863). Neale contributed to church music by writing original hymns, including two volumes of Hymns for Children (1842, 1846), but especially by translating Greek and Latin hymns into English. These translations appeared in Medieval Hymns and Sequences (1851, 1863, 1867), The Hymnal Noted (1852, 1854), Hymns of the Eastern Church (1862),and Hymns Chiefly Medieval (1865). Because a number of Neale's translations were judged unsingable, editors usually amended his work, as evident already in the 1861 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modem; Neale claimed no rights to his texts and was pleased that his translations could contribute to hymnody as the "common property of Christendom."
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

Alexander Ewing (b. Old Aachar, Aberdeen, Scotland, 1830; d. Taunton, Somerset, England, 1895) was a well-loved Scottish church leader. In 1838 he was admitted deacon’s orders, and after a trip to Italy he took charge of an episcopal congregation at Forres. He was ordained as a presbyter in 1841. His charm and joviality won him over with many, and in 1847 he was made the bishop of the newly formed Diocese of Argyll and The Isles, a position he maintained until his death.
After having studied law, German, and music, Ewing served in the British army during the Crimean War and in the foreign service in Australia and China. An accom­plished amateur musician (an excellent pianist), he was active in the Haydn Society of Aberdeen and in the Aberdeen Harmonic Choir. Ewing is known today only because of the one popular tune named after him.
— Laura de Jong
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