Medieval Easter Carols

We think of carols in association with Christmas, but in times long gone, carols were also sung at Easter. A carol, by it simplest definition, is a song of religious nature not necessarily connected to worship, with a lively or dance-like tune. It was originally a circle dance accompanied by singers, and from the 1150's to 1350's, they were popular as dance songs.
In the Middle Ages, a song was also required to have a certain structure to the lyrics to be considered a carol. They must have uniform stanzas and a 'burden,' or what we would call a refrain, which was sung at the beginning of the song and between the verses.

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A medieval Easter carol, then, would focus on the Resurrection of Christ, and some of the earliest examples left were written by monks. Two very earliest come to us from St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan in the 4th Century, and from Venantius Fortunatas two centuries later.

Hail, day of days, in peals of praise,
Throughout all ages owned,
When Christ our God,
Hell's empire trod,

And high o'er heaven was throned.
This glorious morn, the world newborn,
In rising beauty shows;
How, with her Lord to life restored,
Her gifts and graces rose.

As star by star He mounts afar,
And hell imprisoned lies,
Let stars and light and depth and height
In Alleluias rise.

(Venantius Fortunatas)

St. Bernard of Clairvaux lived from 1090 to 1153, one of six sons born to a lord and lady of Burgundy. He was given the best education due to his destiny being foretold while he was yet unborn. He devoted himself for a time, early in his education, to poetry. He particularly valued the study of literature as an avenue to study the Scriptures. In 1115, the young Bernard was sent at the head of a group of monks to found a new house for his order. In addition to many other accomplishments and writings, this carol is credited to him.

Jesus, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see,
And in Thy presence rest.

With Mary to Thy tomb I'll haste,
Before the dawning skies,
And all around with longing cast
My soul's inquiring eyes.

Beside Thy grave will make my moan,
And sob my heart away;
Then at Thy feet sit trembling down,
And there adoring stay.

Nor from my tears and sighs refrain,
Nor those dear feet release,
My Jesus, till from Thee I gain
Some blessed word of peace.

At roughly the same time, Peter the Venerable, was the head of the monastery at Cluny. He was born in 1092 and died on Christmas Day in 1156. He made his profession at age seventeen and at 20 became professor and prior of the monastery of V├ęzelay. At age thirty, he was elected general of the order, which included 2,000 houses. He wrote extensively on theological matters, but also left us an Easter carol.

Lo, the gates of death are broken,
And the strong man armed is spoiled;
Of his armor which he trusted,
By the Stronger Arm despoiled.
Vanquished is the prince of hell,
Smitten by the Cross he fell.

Then the purest light resplendent
Shone those seats of darkness through,
When, to save whom He created,
God willed to create anew.

That the sinner might not perish,
For him the Creator dies;
By whose death our dark lot changing,
Life again for us doth rise.

Adam of St. Victor lived in the 11th and 12th centuries. He was a prolific composer of hymns, believed to have been influential in expanding the repertoire of the Notre Dame school (a group of composers working at or near Notre Dame Cathedral). He was known for his strong rhythms and the imagery that filled his poetry. He left over one hundred hymns, including this Easter carol.

Now the world's fresh dawn of birth
Teems with new rejoicing rife;
Christ is rising and on earth
All things with Him rise to life.
Feeling this memorial day,
Him the elements obey,
Serve and lay aside their strife.

Gleamy fire flits to and fro,
Throbs the everlasting air;
Water without pause doth flow,
And the earth stands firm and fair;
Light creations upward leap,
Heavier to the center keep,
All things renovation share.

And finally, two untitled carols by unknown composers. The first is from either the fourteenth or sixteenth centuries:

Smile praises, O sky, soft breathe them, O air,
Below and on high and everywhere.
The black troop of storms has yielded to calm;
Tufted blossoms are peeping, and early palm.
Awake thee, O Spring, ye flowers, come forth,
With thousand hues tinting the soft green earth;
Ye violets tender and sweet roses bright,
Gay Lent lilies blended with pure lilies white.

Sweep, tides of rich music, the world along,
And pour in full measure, sweet lyres, your song,
Sing, sing, for He liveth, He lives as He said;
The Lord has arisen, unharmed from the dead.

Clap, clap your hands, mountains, ye valleys, resound.
Leap, leap for joy, fountains, ye hills, catch the sound.
All triumph; He liveth, He lives as He said;
The Lord has arisen unharmed from the dead.

An untitled Easter Carol:

verse 1

Cheer up, friends and neighbors, now it's Easter tide
Stop from endless labors worries put aside
Men should rise from sadness evil folly strife
When god's mighty gladness brings the earth to life.

verse 2

Out from snowdrifts chilly,
Roused from drowsy hours,
Bluebell wakes, and lily;
God calls up the flowers!

Into life he raises
All the sleeping buds;
Meadows weave his praises,
And the spangled woods.

verse 3

All his truth and beauty,
All his righteousness,
Are our joy and duty,
Bearing his impress:

Look! The earth waits breathless
After Winter's strift:
Easter shows man deathless,
Spring leads death to life.

Verse 4

Ours the more and less is;
But, changeless all the days,
God revives and blesses,
Like the sunlight rays.

'All mankind is risen,'
The Easter bells do ring,
While from out their prison
Creep the flowers of Spring!

Happy Easter! May it be a day of many joyous songs!


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  1. Thanks for the give away.
    GFC - Ronyka7
    FB like - veronika Briseno

    flaka.077 at gmail dot com

    When I was little we just to celebrate Easter in a park lookin for eggs, it was with several families, so we where a lot of kids and the park was big and we spend hours looking for eggs it was fun.

  2. What great info you provided about Easter and carols. I love history. I am following you from the Easter Hop.

    My favorite tradition, now that we have children, is to do Easter egg hunts every year. This year we are going to have a mystery egg hunt, where inside each egg I leave a clue that will lead them to their big prize. I like to have fun with it.

    Follow back if you would like. Thanks for hosting!


  3. I follow you on Google Friend Connect

    Cayman Richardson

  4. I have already "liked" you on Facebook

    Cayman Lucy Richardson

  5. When I was younger I used to love to go to my grandparents house...but that passed when they did :0(
    Now I find that I enjoy watch my son hide eggs so that his little sister can find's rather funny.
    I'm already a follower ;0)

  6. Thank you so much for this giveaway! I am a GFC follower and liked your facebook page (alyssa pinto). My email is

    One of my favorite Easter traditions is painting and decorating eggs with my nieces!

  7. Awesome giveaway!
    Liked your facebook page.
    GFC follower: Angela J. Prieto

  8. Thank you for the awesome giveaway :) One of my favorite Easter traditions is watching the kids hunt for eggs!

    GFC follower Tiffany Drew
    Facebook liker Tiffany Drew


  9. Happy Easter! Thanks for the chance to win giveaway.
    I'm a GFC follower - Cindy Macbeth
    Love having the whole family sitting around the kitchen table coloring eggs.

    cindymacbeth at gmail dot com

  10. Thanks for the great giveaway.
    Going to church is my favorite tradition.
    GFC follower - Andrea I
    Like on Facebook - Andrea Infinger


  11. Thanks for the giveaway
    Follow on GFC
    Like your FB page
    jenhedger at hotmail dot com

  12. Thanks for the giveaway old gfc follower ( barbara hightower)

    also liked fp page

    bhitwr at gmail dot com

  13. Thanks for the giveaway and for participating in this blog hop! I already follow via GFC (MamaHendo3) and FB fan (Laura G. Henderson).


  14. Great Give away! GFC Follower - Loveangel132, and FB Like - Heidi Larsen

  15. thanks for the giveaway!

    GFC follower (Katie) and "Liked"


  16. Thanks for the giveaway and a Very Happy Easter to you.

    Now that my son is older we don't do it anymore but when he was younger we would hide eggs , candy all over for him to find then leave his basket at the end of the hunt, Now we just get together as a family.

    Liked FB-Dawna Newman


  17. Following on GFC and Facebook: Chelsea Rafferty :)

    My favorite Easter Traditions are hiding little chocolate eggs all over the house and hoping they don't melt and that the cat or dog doesn't find it before he does lol ;)

    email is swtlilangel4jc @ yahoo dot com

  18. Thanks for the giveaway!
    GFC Follower - Memrie
    Like - Memrie Harris


  19. Happy Easter.
    FB fan--Michelle Penton Bledsoe
    GFC---Michelle Bledsoe

  20. follow via GFC (Throuthehaze)
    Like on Facebook-Rae Pavey

    We don't really have any Easter traditions

    throuthehaze at gmail dot com

  21. We dont have any real fancy Easter traditions. Just prayers, talking to family and having a nice meal. We remember the meaning behind the day and respect that.
    GFC follower LadyVampire2u
    Facebook follower: Aprille Shadowspeak

    LadyVampire2u AT gmail DOT com

  22. My favorite part of Easter has always been watching small children hunt for eggs. They get so excited and it brings back so many memories of easter egg hunts at my grandparents house when I was little.

    GFC follower: June M.
    manning_ 2004 at yahoo dot com

  23. Thanks for the giveaway. I love to get together with my family and watch the kids hunt eggs.
    GFC follower - Sherry S.
    Like you on Facebook - Sherry Strode

    sstrode at scrtc dot com

  24. I am a GFC follower and Like your FB page.

    AmethystDaydreams at zoho dot com

  25. I follow you on GFC with the name Steph B and like you on facebook with the name Steph Contest

    I always liked easter baskets in the morning. It gave the day something like a Christmas vibe.

  26. GFC~katsrus
    Like on FB~sue brandes
    I always loved decorating the eggs for Easter. Thanks for the giveaway.
    Sue B

  27. Hi there,

    I'm a follower and a liker! :)

    We like to celebrate Easter by having a meal similar to what Christ might have eaten during His time on earth. We get olives and dates and pita bread and cheese - we're probably getting it all terribly wrong, but it's the thought that counts, right?

  28. Thanks for the giveaway and I hope you have a great Easter! I am a GFC follower and Facebook follower (Brittany Morrow) I don't have any special Easter Traditions but my favorite thing to do though, is dye eggs :)

  29. I liked on FB (April Xu) and I follow on GFC! I don't have many Easter traditions, but I do love doing Easter egg hunts! Jelly beans are like my favorite candy lol.

  30. My favorite Easter tradition now is watching my 2 year old son hunt for Easter eggs!
    GFC follower: Lexie@BookBug
    FB follower: Lexie May Hogan
    Email: lexie.bookbug at gmail dot com

  31. GFC follower- Alyssa
    facebook-Alyssa Hoffmaster

    easter tradition= eating dinner with my family and sharing stories

  32. Thanks for the giveaway! Have a super nice Easter.

    GFC follower = Juana Esparza

    Liked you on FB = Juana Esparza


    There are no kids in our household so my mom and I get together with a couple of my cousins and go to dinner and just enjoy each others company.

  33. I'm already a GFC Follower and FB liker! :D
    GFC follower: Sakira
    FB Liked: Kris Summers

    My favorite Easter tradition is the egg hunt. I love hunting for eggs or hiding eggs for kids to find. You never know what's inside, so that's also a plus. I love surprises!


  34. GFC follower. FB like.

    I love going to early morning Church services!

    rootml1 AT hotmail DOT com

  35. I am an old GFC follower and a new FB liker.
    Easter traditional - having the least traditional meal possible with my parents

  36. GFC Follower (ArtsyBookishGal) & FB Like (Amy Sondova)

    My fave tradition is this crazy Easter egg hunt my best friend and I do around our apartment every year. It's so silly and we get all upset if we don't get a lot of eggs...even though we hid them.

    Amy // amyismyfriend at aol dot com

  37. I am a public follower of yours on Google Friends Connect (Carolsue)
    I like you on Facebook:
    Name: Carol Anderson
    Digicats @ (my FB e-mail)
    Digicat @ (my regular e-mail)
    digicat {AT} sbcglobal {DOT} net

  38. Thank you for the giveaway!!
    GFC Shannon Johnson
    FB Shannon Johnson
    I like to decorate and eat the easter eggs!!!

  39. Great giveaway :)

    GFC- Stacie
    FB- Stacie Amelotte

    Love the Easter eggs & chocolate peanut butter eggs.


  40. Thanks for participating in the Giveaway Hop.
    GFC Follower
    Like on Facebook
    Easter tradition that I miss most. Listening to my now deceased father sing in the Easter Program at church.
    2much2reid {at} comcast {dot} net

  41. This is awesome!! Thank you for a great giveaway and some awesome info!
    I am a GFC follower -- Kimmie, Nola
    Like you on Facebook

    I love baking with my nieces the most. Doesn't matter what it is. When my granddaughter is old enough, she'll bake with us!

    blazesandbubbles AT gmail DOT com

  42. I just remember eating candy, and I loved coloring eggs and eating them. :)

    I'm a GFC follower: Lorielle
    I liked you on Facebook!

  43. Thanks for the giveaway! Happy Easter! I am a GFC follower (Maria). I like you on Fb (Maria Ramey)


  44. My new favorite Easter tradition is putting an empty basket on the bed for my son to find in the morning and fill with eggs that lead him to his easter basket.


  45. I think our favorite tradition is having our Easter dinner with the whole family. Or I should say mob. lol It's a perfect time to spend with family together and rejoicing. Happy Easter .
    GFC follower under Lucky47.
    Carol L

  46. Thank you for the great giveaway. On Easter we usually get together and have a big family meal and the kids hunt for eggs.

    GFC follow as seriousreader
    Facebook like as Linda Henderson

    seriousreader at live dot com

  47. GFC- oreo_93
    FB- Rachelle Hayes

    oreo_93 at hotmail dot com

  48. This comment has been removed by the author.

  49. GFC Follower-Lora1967

  50. GFC Elle Facebook Sherry P.

    Thank you! elleberra at gmail dot com

  51. Hello and Happy Easter!

    I don't have a favorite Easter tradition, there is just myself and my husband. Although I do quite often get him to take me to church. We went yesterday. He's cooking today, Yeah!!
    GFC Dancealert - GFC Brenda Rupp
    dancealert at aol dot com

  52. I follow on blogger as Ella G and
    I am a facebook fan (as Anne Jolly)

    eagjolly at gmail dot com

  53. GFC follower as jcottey. I "like" you on FB (Jane Eileen).
    jcottey at aol dot com

  54. Never knew there were Easter carols.
    GFC follower: lindadao2060
    Fb like: Linda Dao
    Our family has two Easter egg hunts. One for the kids and one for the adults. I participate in both and come back a happy girl with a stomach filled with chocolate and if I'm lucky, money!
    Thanks for the giveaway.
    Lindadao2060 at yahoo dot com

  55. Our easter egg hunt is the best. I love finding new ways to hide eggs.

    Following GFC and Facebook.

    Thanks for the giveaway.


    mary_reiss @

  56. GFC Karine Traverse, FB Karine Capobianco Traverse

  57. Thank you for being part of this amazing blog hop, and for your generous giveaway! Happy Easter - may yours be a blessed one! :)

    GFC Follower: Enamored Soul
    Facebook : Hira Hasnain
    Email: Enamoredsoul(at)gmail(dot)com

  58. Congratulations! I gave you an award on my blog. Please stop by to claim it.

  59. Thanks for the chance!
    GFC follower: Tara W
    FB like: Tara Woods
    mizztuts AT bellsouth DOT net

  60. I am a GFC follower as Velvet
    I like you on Facebook as Velvet Hubler

    velvethubler at yahoo dot com

  61. My family and I always go out to a nice Brunch on Easter. And I used to love participating in Easter Egg Hunts when I was a little girl. Now that I'm older I love to plan them for the little ones in our family.

    GFC: Dominique S
    FB: Nikki Marie
    couponcookie at gmail dot com

  62. Thanks for the nice giveaway

    gfc follower - ramblings of a part time druid

  63. Thanks for the giveaway!

    GFC and FB name is the the same - Marie Kacerosky

    We love the egg hunt tradition best! Love to see the kids shrieking and finding the eggs.

    BellaMarie @ tampabay . rr. com

  64. Thanks for this chance to win! My GFC name is Krystal Larson...facebook Lindsay Ann

  65. -Thanks for the giveaway!
    I'm a follower and I 'Like' you on Facebook.
    My favorite Easter tradition would be having an Egg Hunt. I love those!


  66. great giveaway
    brn2shop9 at gmail dot com


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