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O sacred head now wounded

Full Text

1 O sacred Head, now wounded,
with grief and shame weighed down,
now scornfully surrounded
with thorns, Thine only crown.
O sacred Head, what glory,
what bliss till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory,
I joy to call Thee mine.

2 What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered
was all for sinners' gain;
mine, mine was the transgression,
but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior!
'Tis I deserve Thy place;
look on me with Thy favor,
vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

3 What language shall I borrow
to thank Thee, dearest Friend,
for this, Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever!
And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never,
outlive my love for Thee.

4 Be near when I am dying,
O show Thy cross to me!
And, for my succor flying,
come, Lord, to set me free.
These eyes, new faith receiving,
from Thee shall never move;
for he who dies believing
dies safely in Thy love.

Source: Hymns to the Living God #147

Author (attributed to): Bernard of Clairvaux

Bernard of Clairvaux, saint, abbot, and doctor, fills one of the most conspicuous positions in the history of the middle ages. His father, Tecelin, or Tesselin, a knight of great bravery, was the friend and vassal of the Duke of Burgundy. Bernard was born at his father's castle on the eminence of Les Fontaines, near Dijon, in Burgundy, in 1091. He was educated at Chatillon, where he was distinguished for his studious and meditative habits. The world, it would be thought, would have had overpowering attractions for a youth who, like Bernard, had all the advantages that high birth, great personal beauty, graceful manners, and irresistible influence could give, but, strengthened in the resolve by night visions of his mother (who had dies! in… Go to person page >

Author (attributed to): Arnulf, Abbot of Villers-la-Ville

(no biographical information available about Arnulf, Abbot of Villers-la-Ville.) Go to person page >

Author (German version): Paul Gerhardt

Gerhardt, Paulus, son of Christian Gerhardt, burgomaster of Gräfenhaynichen, near Wittenberg, was born at Grafenhaynichen, Mar. 12, 1607. On January 2, 1628, he matriculated at the University of Wittenberg. In the registers of St. Mary's church, Wittenberg, his name appears as a godfather, on July 13, 1641, described still as "studiosus," and he seems to have remained in Wittenberg till at least the end of April, 1642. He appears to have gone to Berlin in 1642 or 1643, and was there for some time (certainly after 1648) a tutor in the house of the advocate Andreas Barthold, whose daughter (Anna Maria, b. May 19, 1622, d. March 5, 1668) became his wife in 1655. During this period he seems to have frequently preached in Berlin. He was appoint… Go to person page >

Alterer: James W. Alexander

Alexander, James Waddell, D.D., son of Archibald Alexander, D.D., b. at Hopewell, Louisa, county of Virginia, 13 Mar., 1804, graduated at Princeton, 1820, and was successively Professor of Rhetoric at Princeton, 1833; Pastor of Duane Street Presbyterian Church, New York, 1844; Professor of Church History, Princeton, 1849; and Pastor of 5th Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York, 1851; d. at Sweetsprings, Virginia, July 31, 1859. His works include Gift to the Afflicted, Thoughts on Family Worship, and others. His Letters were published by the Rev. Dr. Hall, in 2 vols., some time after his death, and his translations were collected and published at New York in 1861, under the title, The Breaking Crucible and other Translations. Of these transla… Go to person page >

Text Information

First Line: O sacred head, now wounded
Title: O sacred head now wounded
German Title: O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden
Author (attributed to): Bernard of Clairvaux
Author (attributed to): Arnulf, Abbot of Villers-la-Ville
Alterer: James W. Alexander (1829)
Author (German version): Paul Gerhardt
Meter: D
Source: Salve caput cruentatum, Latin
Language: English
Notes: Paul Gerhardt translated "Salve caput cruentatum," the seventh section of the Latin poem "Salve mundi salutare," into German as "O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden." James W. Alexander then translated the German into the English "O Sacred Head Now Wounded."
Copyright: Public Domain


Scripture References:
st. 1 = Matt 27:29, Mark 15:17-18, John 19:2-3, Isa. 53:3-5

Originally from a Latin poem beginning "Salve mundi salutare" and attributed to either Bernard of Clairvaux (twelfth century) or Arnulf von Loewen (thirteenth century), "O Sacred Head" is one of seven sections to be used for meditation during Holy Week. Each section focuses on one aspect of Christ's dying body.

Paul Gerhardt (PHH 331) translated the seventh section ("Salve caput cruentatum"), which addresses Christ's head, into German ("O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden"). His ten-stanza translation was published in Johann Crüger's (PHH 42) Praxis Pietatis Melica (1656).

The English translation is mainly the work of James W. Alexander (b. Hopewell, Louisa County, VA, 1804; d. Sweetsprings, VA, 1859). It was published in Joshua Leavitt's The Christian Lyre (1830) and revised by Henry W. Baker (PHH 342) for Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861). Alexander was often overshadowed by his father, the renowned Archibald Alexander, first professor at Princeton Theological Seminary. But James Alexander was also a fine preacher, teacher, and writer. He studied at New Jersey College (now Princeton University) and Princeton Seminary. Ordained in the Presbyterian Church, he alternated his career between teaching and pastoring; for two years (1849-1851) he was professor of ecclesiastical history and church government at Princeton Seminary. Alexander translated a number of hymns from Greek, Latin, and German but is mainly known today for his translation of "O Sacred Head."

"O Sacred Head" has enjoyed great popularity since 1656; the hymn appears in all modern hymnals, in many languages and translations, and with various numbers of stanzas. Deeply devotional, the text makes a very personal application of Christ's atoning death (st. 1-2) and confesses our gratitude and commitment to Christ (st. 3).

Liturgical Use:
Good Friday

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook



The tune HERZLICH TUT MICH VERLANGEN has been associated with Gerhardt's text ["O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden"] since they were first published together in 1656. The tune's first association with a sacred text was its attachment in 1913 [sic: should read 1613] to Christoph Knoll's funeral text "Herzl…

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Baptist Hymnal 1991 #137
  • Full Score (PDF)
  • Bulletin Score (melody only) (PDF)
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The Cyber Hymnal #5298
  • Adobe Acrobat image (PDF)
  • Noteworthy Composer score (NWC)
  • XML score (XML)
Psalter Hymnal (Gray) #383
The United Methodist Hymnal #286
  • Bulletin Score (melody only) (PDF)
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Worship and Rejoice #284


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Ambassador Hymnal: for Lutheran worship #61
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Anglican Hymns Old and New (Rev. and Enl.) #576
Baptist Hymnal 1991 #137TextAudioPage Scan
Baptist Hymnal 2008 #231Text
Celebrating Grace Hymnal #191TextPage Scan
Chalice Hymnal #202TextPage Scan
Christian Worship: a Lutheran hymnal #105
Church Hymnary (4th ed.) #382TextPage Scan
Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary #334TextPage Scan
Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary #335TextPage Scan
Evangelical Lutheran Worship #351TextFlexscorePage Scan
Evangelical Lutheran Worship #352TextPage Scan
Glory to God: the Presbyterian Hymnal #221Text InfoTextFlexscoreAudioPage Scan
Hymnal Supplement 1991 #741TextPage Scan
Hymnal: A Worship Book #252
Hymns and Psalms: a Methodist and ecumenical hymn book #176
Hymns for a Pilgrim People: a congregational hymnal #183
Hymns of Faith #161TextPage Scan
Hymns of the Saints: Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints #262
Hymns to the Living God #147TextPage Scan
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Lutheran Service Book #450
Lutheran Worship #113
Moravian Book of Worship #345TextPage Scan
Praise! Our Songs and Hymns #213Page Scan
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Rejoice Hymns #289
Rejoice in the Lord #300TextPage Scan
Renew! #235TextPage Scan
Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal #156
Sing Joyfully #238TextPage Scan
Small Church Music #221Audio
The Baptist Hymnal: for use in the church and home #123
The Celebration Hymnal: songs and hymns for worship #316TextPage Scan
The Christian Life Hymnal #169
The Covenant Hymnal: a worshipbook #238
The Cyber Hymnal #5298TextScoreAudio
The Hymnal for Worship and Celebration #178TextPage Scan
The New Century Hymnal #226TextPage Scan
The New National Baptist Hymnal #73
The United Methodist Hymnal #286TextFlexscoreAudioPage Scan
The United Methodist Hymnal #752Text
The Worshiping Church #221TextFlexscorePage Scan
Together in Song: Australian hymn book II #339
Trinity Hymnal (Rev. ed.) #247TextFlexscorePage Scan
Voices United: The Hymn and Worship Book of The United Church of Canada #145TextPage Scan
Worship and Rejoice #284TextScoreAudioPage Scan
Worship in Song: A Friends Hymnal #109TextAudio
生命聖詩 - Hymns of Life, 1986 #118
Include 585 pre-1979 instances