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Background

The Hymns and Hymn Writers of The Church
Charles S. Nutter & Wilbur F. Tillett, 1911

This grand and pathetic hymn comes from the Latin of St. Bernard: “Salve, caput cruentatum.” The translation from the German appeared in the Christian Lyre, edited by Joshua Leavitt, New York, 1830. Dr. Philip Schaff gives it in his Christ in Song, and in the preface to the hymn says: “This classical hymn has shown an imperishable vitality in passing from the Latin into the German and from the German into the English and proclaiming in three tongues and in the name of three confessions— the Catholic, the Lutheran, and the Reformed— with equal effect, the dying love of our Savior and our boundless indebtedness to him.”

The Methodist Hymn-Book Illustrated
John Telford, 1909

Dr. Alexander’s translation appeared in the Christian Lyre, 1830. Two stanzas were added in 1849.

Gerhardt’s ‘O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden’ is itself a free translation of the Salve caput cruentatum, ascribed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux (110), and entitled ‘A rhythmical prayer to any one of the members of Christ suffering and hanging on the Cross.’ It is divided into seven parts, addressed to the feet, knees, hands, side, breast, heart, and face of Jesus. This hymn is a translation of that addressed to the face of our Lord. According to the superstition of the time, the image of Christ on the cross bowed itself and embraced Bernard with outstretched arms as a token that his devotion was accepted. He died in 1153, and no manuscript of the poem is known earlier than the fourteenth century.

Gerhardt’s version, published in 1656, is headed ‘To the suffering face of Christ.’ Dr. Schaff says, ‘This classical hymn has shown an imperishable vitality in passing from the Latin into the German, and from the German into the English, and proclaiming in three tongues, and in the name of the three Confessions– the Catholic, the Lutheran, and the Reformed– with equal effect, the dying love of our Savior, and our boundless indebtedness to Him.’

When Christian Friedrich Schwartz was dying at Tanjore, in 1798, after nearly fifty years’ apostolic labor for India, where Hyder Ali trusted and honored him, his Malabar pupils gathered round and sang in their own language the last verse of this hymn. The missionary frequently joined in it. Then he rested a little, asked to be raised up, and passed to his rest.
#HymnalShort NameTitleAuthorTuneComposerVerses
050The Scottish Hymnal, 1892TSH92O Lamb of God, Once WoundedSt. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153)Bach’s Passion ChoraleHans Leo Hassler (1564-1612)4
068The Church Hymnary (Scotland), 1898TCH98O Sacred Head Now WoundedRev. Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676), Translation by Rev. James W. Alexander (1804-1859)Passion ChoraleHans Leo Hassler (1564-1612)4
053The Presbyterian Book of Praise, 1897PBP97O Sacred Head Now WoundedFrom St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), Rev. Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676), translation by Rev. James W. Alexander (1804-1859), alteredPassion ChoraleHans Leo Hassler (1564-1612)4
163The Methodist Hymn-Book, 1904MHB04O Sacred Head Once WoundedRev. Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676), Translation by Rev. James W. Alexander (1804-1859) from Christian Lyre, 1830, altered, 1849Passion ChoraleHans Leo Hassler, 16014
102aThe Church Hymnal Revised and Enlarged, 1892TCH92O Sacred Head SurroundedSt. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), Translation by Rev. Sir Henry W. Baker, 1861Passion ChoraleHans Leo Hassler (1564-1612)4
102bThe Church Hymnal Revised and Enlarged, 1892TCH92O Sacred Head SurroundedSt. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), Translation by Rev. Sir Henry W. Baker, 1861St. ChristopherFrederick C. Maker, 18894
105aThe Church Hymnal Revised, 1920CHR20O Sacred Head SurroundedSt. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), Translation by Rev. Sir Henry W. Baker (1821-1877)Passion ChoraleHans Leo Hassler (1564-1612)4
105bThe Church Hymnal Revised, 1920CHR20O Sacred Head SurroundedSt. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), Translation by Rev. Sir Henry W. Baker (1821-1877)St. ChristopherFrederick C. Maker (1844-1927)4
158The Hymnal (Episcopal), 1916THE16O Sacred Head SurroundedSt. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), Translation by Rev. Sir Henry W. Baker, 1861Passion ChoraleHans Leo Hassler, 1601, adapted and harmonization by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)4
102The Hymnal Revised and Enlarged, 1903HRE03O Sacred Head SurroundedAscribed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), Translation by Rev. Sir Henry W. Baker, 1861Passion ChoraleHans Leo Hassler (1564-1612)4
138Congregational Church Hymnal, 1887CCH87O Sacred Head! Now WoundedRev. Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676), Translation by Rev. James W. Alexander (1804-1859), verse 1, line 7, alteredPassion ChoraleHans Leo Hassler (1564-1612)5
141Church Hymns, 1903CH03O Sacred Head! Sore WoundedRev. Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676), Translation by James Waddell Alexander (1804-1859), Translation by Catherine Winkworth (1829-1878)Passion ChoraleHans Leo Hassler (1564-1612), Harmonization by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)4
113Congregational Hymnary, 1916CH16O Sacred Head! Sore WoundedRev. Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676), Translation by Rev. James W. Alexander (1804-1859)Passion ChoraleHans Leo Hassler (1564-1612)4
140aThe Hymn Book, 1908THB08O Sacred Head! Sore WoundedTranslation (1830) from the German of Rev. Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676) by Rev. James W. Alexander (1804-1859)Passion ChoraleHans Leo Hassler, 1601, Harmonization by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)4
140cThe Hymn Book, 1908THB08O Sacred Head! Sore WoundedTranslation (1830) from the German of Rev. Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676) by Rev. James W. Alexander (1804-1859)MunichMeiningisches Gesangbuch, 16934
140bThe Hymn Book, 1908THB08O Sacred Head! Sore WoundedTranslation (1830) from the German of Rev. Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676) by Rev. James W. Alexander (1804-1859)St. ChristopherFrederick C. Maker, 18814
065Church Praise, 1907CP07O Sacred Head, Now WoundedRev. Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676), Translation by Rev. James W. Alexander (1804-1859)Passion Chorale (O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden)Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612)4
099Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church, 1918CSB18O Sacred Head, Now WoundedRev. Paul Gerhardt, 1656, Based on a Latin Hymn of St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), Translation by Rev. James W. Alexander, 1830, alteredPassion ChoraleHans Leo Hassler, 16015
087bHymnal and Canticles of the Protestant Episcopal Church, 1874HAC75O Sacred Head, Now WoundedSt. Bernard of Clairvaux, 1153, Rev. Paul Gerhardt, 1656, Translation by Rev. James W. Alexander, 1849LancashireHenry Smart (1813-1879)5
087aHymnal and Canticles of the Protestant Episcopal Church, 1874HAC75O Sacred Head, Now WoundedSt. Bernard of Clairvaux, 1153, Rev. Paul Gerhardt, 1656, Translation by Rev. James W. Alexander, 1849Passion ChoraleGerman Tune, from Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)5
222aHymnal of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1878HME78O Sacred Head, Now WoundedSt. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), Rev. Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676), Translation by Rev. James W. Alexander (1804-1859)MunichArranged by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-1847)4
222bHymnal of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1878HME78O Sacred Head, Now WoundedSt. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), Rev. Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676), Translation by Rev. James W. Alexander (1804-1859)Passion ChoraleHans Leo Hassler (1564-1612)4
098Methodist Hymn and Tune Book, 1918MHT18O Sacred Head, Now WoundedSt. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), Rev. Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676), Translation by Rev. James W. Alexander (1804-1859)Passion ChoraleHans Leo Hassler (1564-1612), Harmonization by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)4
087aThe Church Hymnal, 1879CHR79O Sacred Head, Now WoundedSt. Bernard of Clairvaux, 1153, Rev. Paul Gerhardt, 1656, Translation by Rev. James W. Alexander, 1849Passion ChoraleHans Leo Hassler (1564-1612)5
087bThe Church Hymnal, 1879CHR79O Sacred Head, Now WoundedSt. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), Rev. Paul Gerhardt, 1656, Translation by Rev. James W. Alexander, 1849LancashireHenry Smart (1813-1879)5
106The Evangelical Hymnal, 1921TEH21O Sacred Head, Now WoundedSt. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), Rev. Paulus Gerhardt, 1656, Translation by Rev. James W. Alexander (1804-1859)GerhardtJoseph P. Holbrook, 18624
217aThe Hymnal (Presbyterian), 1895THP95O Sacred Head, Now WoundedAscribed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), Translation into German by Rev. Paul Gerhardt, 1656, Translation by Rev. James W. Alexander, 1830Passion ChoraleHans Leo Hassler, 1601; Harmonization by J. S. Bach, 17295
217bThe Hymnal (Presbyterian), 1895THP95O Sacred Head, Now WoundedAscribed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), Translation into German by Rev. Paul Gerhardt, 1656, Translation by Rev. James W. Alexander, 1830GerhardtJoseph P. Holbrook, 18625
220aThe Hymnal Revised (Presbyterian), 1911THR11O Sacred Head, Now WoundedAscribed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), Translation (into German) by Rev. Paul Gerhardt, 1656. Trans. (from the German) by Rev. James W. Alexander, 1830Passion ChoraleHans Leo Hassler, 1601, Harmonization by Johann Sebastian Bach, 17295
220bThe Hymnal Revised (Presbyterian), 1911THR11O Sacred Head, Now WoundedAscribed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), Translation (into German) by Rev. Paul Gerhardt, 1656. Trans. (from the German) by Rev. James W. Alexander, 1830GerhardtJoseph P. Holbrook, 18625
151bThe Methodist Hymnal, 1905TMH05O Sacred Head, Now WoundedSt. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), Rev. Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676), Translation by Rev. James W. Alexander (1804-1859)Passion ChoraleHans Leo Hassler (1564-1612)3
151aThe Methodist Hymnal, 1905TMH05O Sacred Head, Now WoundedSt. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), Rev. Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676), Translation by Rev. James W. Alexander (1804-1859)MunichArranged by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-1847)3
149The Presbyterian Hymnal, 1874TPH74O Sacred Head, Now WoundedTranslation by Rev. James W. Alexander (1804-1859)CrucifixGreek Melody6
087bTunes, Old and New: Adapted to The Hymnal, 1874TON74O Sacred Head, Now WoundedSt. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), Translation by Rev. James W. Alexander (1804-1859)ParkerSigismund Thalberg (1812-1871), Arranged by William W. Rousseau (?-1897)5
087aTunes, Old and New: Adapted to The Hymnal, 1874TON74O Sacred Head, Now WoundedSt. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), Translation by Rev. James W. Alexander (1804-1859)Passion ChoraleHans Leo Hassler, 16015
172The Hymnal Companion to the Book of Common Prayer, Revised and Enlarged Edition, 1877THC80O Sacred Head, Once WoundedSt. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), Translation by Rev. James W. Alexander (1804-1859)The Passion ChoraleLutheran Chorale5
192The Hymnal Companion to the Book of Common Prayer, Third Edition, 1890THC90O Sacred Head, Once WoundedFrom the German, Translation by Rev. James W. Alexander (1804-1859)Passion ChoraleHans Leo Hassler (1564-1612), Harmonization by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)5
097aThe Primitive Methodist Hymnal, 1889PMH89O Sacred Head, Once WoundedRev. Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676), Translation by Rev. James W. Alexander (1804-1859)St. ChristopherFrederick C. Maker (1844-1927) 
097bThe Primitive Methodist Hymnal, 1889PMH89O Sacred Head, Once WoundedRev. Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676), Translation by Rev. James W. Alexander (1804-1859)SuccorThomas Wallhead5
102bThe English Hymnal, 1906TEH06O Sacred Head, Sore WoundedRev. Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676), based on Salve caput cruen tatum (ascribed to St. Bernard), Translation by Yattendon Hymnal, 1899Passion Chorale (Alternative version)Melody by Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612), Harmonized by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) in the ‘Passion according to St. Matthew’5
102aThe English Hymnal, 1906TEH06O Sacred Head, Sore WoundedRev. Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676), based on Salve caput cruen tatum (ascribed to St. Bernard), Translation by Yattendon Hymnal, 1899Passion ChoraleMelody by Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612), Adapted and harmonized by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)5
122Hymns Ancient and Modern, New Edition, 1904HAM04O Sacred Head, SurroundedRev. Sir Henry W. Baker, Bart. (1821-1877), and Compilers: from the German of Rev. Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676)Herzlich thut mich verlangen (Passion chorale)Hans Leo Hassler, 16013
111Hymns Ancient and Modern, Standard Edition, 1922HAM22O Sacred Head, SurroundedRev. Sir Henry W. Baker (1821-1877) and Compilers: from the German of Rev. Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676)Passion ChoraleHans Leo Hassler, 16013
097Hymns Ancient and Modern, with Appendix, 1868HAM68O Sacred Head, SurroundedRev. Sir Henry W. Baker (1821-1877): from the German of Rev. Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676)Passion ChoraleGerman, chiefly from Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)3
139aIrish Church Hymnal, 1919ICH19O Sacred Head, SurroundedAscribed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), Translation by Rev. Sir Henry W. Baker, 1861Passion ChoraleHans Leo Hassler, 1601, Set by Johann Sebastian Bach, 17292
139bIrish Church Hymnal, 1919ICH19O Sacred Head, SurroundedAscribed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), Translation by Rev. Sir Henry W. Baker, 1861Passion Chorale (Alternative Version)Hans Leo Hassler, 1601, Set by Johann Sebastian Bach, 1729, in the Passion according to St. Matthew2
095The Oxford Hymn Book, 1908OHB08O Sacred Head, SurroundedRev. Paulus Gerhardt (1607-1676), Translation by Rev. Sir Henry Williams Baker (1821-1877)O Haupt voll Blut und WundenHans Leo Hassler (1564-1612), Harmonization by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)3
152The New Psalms and Hymns, 1901NPH01O Sacred Heart, Now WoundedAscribed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), Translation by Rev. Paul Gerhardt, 1656. Tr. Rev. James W. Alexander, 1830Passion ChoraleHans Leo Hassler, 16015

The texts from any two of the above sources (assuming two or more exist) can be selected to appear below side by side by selecting the source name from the drop-down lists. The Short Name abbreviations following the titles are shown in the table above:

1O 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.
2O noblest brow and dearest,
In other days the world
All feared when Thou appearedst;
What shame on Thee is hurled!
How art Thou pale with anguish,
With sore abuse and scorn;
How does that visage languish
Which once was bright as morn!
3What 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.
4What 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 to Thee.
5Be 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 Jesus shall not move;
For he who dies believing,
Dies safely, through Thy love. Amen.
1O Sacred Head! Sore wounded,
With grief and shame weighed down;
How scornfully surrounded
With thorns, Thy only crown;
How art Thou pale with anguish,
With sore abuse and scorn;
How does that visage languish
Which once was bright as morn!
2Thy grief and bitter passion
Were 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.
3What 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 to Thee.
4Be 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 Jesus shall not move,
For he who dies believing,
Dies safely through Thy love. Amen.
BookReferenceBible Text
Exodus12:27That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the LORD's passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped.
Psalm69:7Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face.
Psalm69:19,2019 Thou hast known my reproach, and my shame, and my dishonour: mine adversaries are all before thee. 20 Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.
Isaiah52:14As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:
Isaiah53:4Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
Isaiah53:5But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
Isaiah59:1,21 Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: 2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
Matthew27:27Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers.
Matthew27:29And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!
Matthew27:29,3529 And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! 35 And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.
Matthew27:35And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.
Mark15:17And they clothed him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about his head,
Mark15:30-3530 Save thyself, and come down from the cross. 31 Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save. 32 Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him. 33 And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? 35 And some of them that stood by, when they heard it, said, Behold, he calleth Elias.
John1:29The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
John10:11I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
John12:32And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.
John19:2And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe,
John19:2-52 And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe, 3 And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands. 4 Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him. 5 Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!
John19:5Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!
John19:35And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.
Romans5:6For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
2 Corinthians5:21For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
Galatians2:20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
Galatians3:13Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
Colossians1:20And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
Titus2:14Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
Hebrews2:10For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
1 Peter3:18For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
1 John3:16Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.