Gloria in Excelsis Deo: Lyrics to This Ancient Christmas Song

Easily Memorize the Words to the Carol

Nativity of Jesus by Christus Petrus c. 1445-1450 at the National Gallery of Art.
Nativity of Jesus by Christus Petrus c. 1445-1450 at the National Gallery of Art. Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia

The refrain of the French Carol translated into English as "Angels We Have Heard on High" is in Latin as "Gloria in Excelsis Deo." Below is one version of the English version of the carol from the same source. The translation from French to English is by Bishop James Chadwick (1813-1882). Review the translations in English and French and learn about the song's history as well as its place in pop culture as we know it today.

History of the Music

The Christmas carol "Angels We Have Heard on High" was originally written by James Chadwick but played to music from the song 'Les Anges Dans Nos Campagnes'. The French carol translates as "The Angels in our Countryside" and was originally created in Languedoc, France despite not knowing who the original composer was. The song meaning is about Jesus Christ as a newborn child and the many angels singing and praising his birth.

In Pop Culture

Dozens of popular artists have covered the song, from independent singer-songwriters such as Josh Groban, Brian McKnight, Andrea Bocelli and Christina Aguilera. Groups of musicians and bands such as The Piano Guys, Bad Religion, Bayside and Glee have also created notable versions of the famous carol. Translations to the song may also be found in Scottish Gaelic, Portuguese, German, Spanish, and Mandarin Chinese amongst others.

The English Translation (Angels We Have Heard on High)

Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o'er the plains,
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains.



Refrain
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be
Which inspire your heavenly song?

Refrain

Come to Bethlehem and see
Him whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee,
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.

Refrain

See Him in a manger laid,
Whom the choirs of angels praise;
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,
While our hearts in love we raise.

Refrain

The French Version (Les Anges Dans Nos Campagnes)

Les anges dans nos campagnes
Ont entonné l'hymne des cieux;
Et l'écho de nos montagnes
Redit ce chant mélodieux.
Gloria, in excelsis Deo,
Gloria, in excelsis Deo.

Bergers, pour qui cette fête?
Quel est l'objet de tous ces chants?
Quel vainqueur, quelle conquête
Mérite ces cris triomphants?
Gloria, in excelsis Deo,
Gloria, in excelsis Deo.

Ils annoncent la naissance
Du libérateur d'Israël,
Et pleins de reconnaissance
Chantent en ce jour solennel.
Gloria, in excelsis Deo,
Gloria, in excelsis Deo.

Bergers, loin de vos retraites
Unissez-vous à leurs concerts
Et que vos tendres musettes
Fassent retentir dans les airs:
Gloria, in excelsis Deo,
Gloria, in excelsis Deo.

Cherchons tous l'heureux village
Qui l'a vu naître sous ses toits,
Offrons-lui le tendre hommage
Et de nos coeurs et de nos voix!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo,
Gloria, in excelsis Deo.

Note: Additional sources for Latin Christmas carols can be found in the MIDI Files of Christmas Carols.