Holy, Holy, Holy

Another Hymn for Trinity Sunday

The words were written by Revd Reginald Heber (1783-1826). He was Rector of Hodnet, Shropshire from 1807 to 1823 and Bishop of Calcutta from 1823. He wrote many hymns – this is probably the best-known.

After graduating from Oxford he travelled through Europe in 1805-06 (avoiding countries involved in the Napoleonic wars), taking a route through Sweden, Norway and Finland to Russia. He witnessed the large Muslim population of St Petersburg observing Ramadan and the Christian celebration of Easter at the Cossack capital of Novo Tcherask. The return journey was via Poland, Hungary, Austria and Germany, travelling from Hamburg to Great Yarmouth on Lord Morpeth’s private yacht.

He arrived in England in October 1806 and prepared for Holy Orders at Oxford. He was ordained deacon in February 1807 and priest in May 1807. He was then inducted as Rector of Hodnet, where his father had been Rector from 1766 until his death in 1804. All of Heber’s hymns were written while he was at Hodnet, but most (including Holy, Holy, Holy) were not published until after his death. In India, extensive travelling, hard work, the hostile climate and poor health contributed to his early death. Despite his short episcopate, his achievements were much respected in India and in England.

The familiar tune is Nicaea, composed by Revd John Bacchus Dykes (1823-1876). He wrote over 300 hymn tunes, many of which are still in regular use.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.

Holy, holy, holy! All saints adore thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee,
though the sinful human eye thy glory may not see,
only thou art holy; there is none beside thee,
perfect in power, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.


Other hymns by Reginald Heber in this collection include Brightest and Best of the sons of the morning, Bread of the world in mercy broken and By cool Siloam’s shady rill. He also wrote God that madest earth and heaven. Two other hymns From Greenland’s icy mountains and The Son of God goes forth to war are generally not considered politically correct these days.

Other tunes by J B Dykes include “Lux Benigna”, one of several tunes to Lead Kindly Light.

One thought on “Holy, Holy, Holy”

  1. This hymn will always remind me of my childhood because it seemed to be sung on a loop at Wincle’s St Michael’s church. I never took any of the words in as a child but would love humming along. So many thanks for the choosing this hymn.

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