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A hymn writer (or hymnwriter or hymnist or hymnographer) is someone who writes the text, music or both of hymns. In the Judeo-Christian tradition the composition of hymns dates back to before the time of David who composed many of the Psalms.[1] The term hymnodist, in the USA more than in other regions, broadens the scope to include the study of hymns.


Early Church and Middle Ages

Many hymn writers in the early Church gained prominence and achieved canonisation. Saint John of Damascus (c. 675 or 676 - 749) was noted for his work as a hymn writer; some of the most popular English hymns which are translations of his works include Come ye faithful, raise the strain, Let us rise in early morning and The day of resurrection, all associated with the season of Eastertide and all translated by John Mason Neale.[2]

Until the twelfth century, it was accepted that only men served the Church in this role. Saint Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) challenged this notion in the twelfth century, becoming the first woman to serve in this position.[3]


Many leaders of the reformation, including Martin Luther (1483-1546) himself, were hymn writers; Luther's work included "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott" ("A mighty fortress is our God") and "Christ lag in Todesbanden (Christ Jesus lay in death's strong bonds)".[4] Lutherans continued to compose hymns, and some of the popular hymn writers of the 16th and 17th centuries included the three saints commemorated in the Lutheran Calendar of Saints on 26 October: Philipp Nicolai (1556-1608), [5] Johann Heermann (1585-1647),[6] and Paul Gerhardt (1607-76).[7] Michael Praetorius (1571-1621),[8] and Johann Crüger (1598-1662)[9] also gained renown as German Lutheran hymn writers of that era.

In the English-speaking world, the art of writing hymns was brought to prominence by the approximately 750 hymns composed by Isaac Watts (1674-1748),[10] followed by the almost tenfold Watts' output[clarification needed] composed a generation later by co-founder of Methodism, Charles Wesley (1707-88).[11]

Nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries

Major modern publishers include the Jubilate Group and Stainer & Bell in the UK; CanticaNOVA Publications, World Library Publications and Oregon Catholic Press in the USA; and Willow Publishing in Australia.

Leading UK hymn writers have included Timothy Dudley-Smith (born 1926), Jubilate hymn writers Michael Perry (1942–96), Michael Saward (1932-2015) and Christopher Idle (born 1938), Stainer & Bell hymn writer Fred Pratt Green (1903-2000), as well as James Quinn (1919-2010) and Brian Foley (1919-2000). More recent evangelical hymn writers have included Stuart Townend (born 1963), Keith Getty (born 1974) and his wife Kristyn Getty (born 1980).

Modern hymn writers from outside the UK include French-American Lucien Deiss (1921-2007) and Australian duo James McAuley (1917–76) and Richard Connolly (born 1927).

Hymn writers who have achieved sainthood

This list is incomplete. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it.

Catholic (Eastern Catholic and Western Catholic)



See also


  1. ^ "King David and the Psalms".
  2. ^ "St. John of Damascus - Hymnary.org".
  3. ^ "Hymnology".
  4. ^ "Martin Luther - Hymnary.org".
  5. ^ "Philipp Nicolai - Hymnary.org".
  6. ^ "Johann Heermann - Hymnary.org".
  7. ^ "Paul Gerhardt - Hymnary.org".
  8. ^ "Michael Praetorius - Hymnary.org".
  9. ^ "Johann Crüger - Hymnary.org".
  10. ^ "Isaac Watts - Hymnary.org".
  11. ^ "Charles Wesley - Hymnary.org".
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