Four bishops appear in this list of saints—Athanasius, Cuthbert, Flavian, and Theodulph. Athanasius (293?-373) was born in Egypt and became bishop of Alexandria in A.D. 326 although he was expelled at least four times. At the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325, as a comparatively unknown theologian, he defended the doctrine of the Trinity successfully against Arius, who asserted that Jesus was a created being. He, of course, has since been commemorated in the Athanasian Creed, which gives equality to all three persons of the Godhead. This tune, No. 229, was composed in 1872 by the organist Edward John Hopkins (1818-1901), and so named because it was intended to be sung to a hymn by Christopher Wordsworth beginning "Holy, holy, holy, Lord," each stanza concluding with the words, "to the blessed Trinity."
Flavian flourished in the early part of the fifth century and was appointed bishop of Constantinople in A.D. 447. It was a time of persecution for the Christian church, and Flavian had offended the new emperor, Theodosius, by sending him a present of consecrated bread instead of the anticipated jewels. At the Council of Ephesus in 449 a show of military force intimidated those gathered there, and a majority of Egyptian monks resulted in Flavian's condemnation for heresy. He was severely beaten and banished, and he died of the injuries received. The tune named after him (No. 193) is an old psalm tune of unknown origin set in Day's Psalter of 1562 to Psalm 132, hence its alternative name Old 132d. There appears to be no associated significance with Bishop Flavian.
St. Cuthbert, No. 214, is another tune composed by J. B. Dykes, reminding us of his connections with Durham Cathedral where Cuthbert is buried and where a shrine is dedicated to him. The tune was specially written for the words that describe the effect of the Holy Spirit on the life of the believer, and could well apply to the life of Cuthbert also. He was a shepherd boy of Northumbria, athletic and excelling in games. But at the tender age of fifteen he had a vision of angels, which led him to devote his life to God. He crossed the border into Scotland and became a monk at Melrose in A.D. 651, then a missionary who converted virtually the whole of northeast England to Christianity. From A.D. 665 to 687 he labored in Lindisfarne, or Holy Island, being consecrated as bishop in 684 and endearing himself to all his flock by his cheerful, loving, and sympathetic disposition.
The fourth bishop for whom a hymn tune is named is Theodulph (760-821), who was bishop of Orleans, France, in A.D. 785. The story, which appeared first about 700 years later, is that he was imprisoned in A.D. 818 for suspected treachery against the Emperor Louis. While confined in a monastery he wrote hymn No. 15 (in Latin) describing the triumphal entry of our Lord into Jerusalem. On palm Sunday he is said to have sung this hymn while the Emperor's procession was passing by, to celebrate this festival. The story continues that Louis halted the procession, called for the singer, and liberated him on the spot. The tune was composed for this hymn in 1615 by the Lutheran, Melchoir Teschner (1584-1635) of Germany, and named to honor the hero of the story.
Many churches are named after saints, and it is not surprising to find hymn tunes named after such churches. St. George occurs twice, although commemorating churches in different towns. George was a soldier of high rank in the army of Diocletian and was held in high esteem by the Emperor. However, when he rebuked Diocletian for his persecution of Christians and resigned his commission, he was tortured and then beheaded for his Christian beliefs at Lydda in Palestine in A.D. 303. He became the emblem of combat against evil, and apparently returning crusaders adopted him as the patron saint of England, devoting the day of his death, April 23, to his honor. St. George's, Windsor, No. 496, was composed in 1859 by George J. Elvey (1816-1893), and St. George's, Bolton, No. 467, was written by James Walch (1837-1901).
St. Michael is another saint whose name is taken for many churches in England and Wales. This is an old tune set to Psalm 134 in Sternhold and Hopkin's Psalter of 1562, which was based on the earlier Genevan Psalter. Its name was therefore called Old 134th until 1836, when William Crotch (1775-1847) named it St. Michael in honor of the college of that name in Ten-bury, England. This tune is used for hymn No. 285, where it is in the key of A flat, and for hymn No. 270, where it is a semitone lower in G. Crotch's arrangement was still a tone lower, in F, and had a minor ending. Because of the references in Daniel 12 and Revelation 12, Michael is taken as the protector in sorrow and in conflict, but there is no association with this idea in the words of the two hymns that use the tune.
St. Asaph, No. 664, was first named Thanksgiving, because it was written in 1872 just after the Prince of Wales recovered from typhoid fever. In 1874, however, the composer, William Samuel Bambridge (1843-1923), who was born in New Zealand, changed its name to St. Asaph, a cathedral town in the county of Flint, North Wales. Bambridge was the music master at Marlborough College, Wiltshire, England, for nearly fifty years. Asaph was a seer (2 Chron. 29:30) and a singer living in the time of King David (Neh. 12:46). Many psalms list his name (Ps. 73-83).
Two other saints famed in English history also gave their lives for their faith. One was the first British martyr, Alban, who sheltered a priest from those who were seeking his life during the persecutions of Diocletian in the early years of the fourth century A.D. He learned Christianity from the one he was sheltering, and when the Roman soldiers discovered their hiding place, Alban donned the priest's clothes and gave himself up. He refused to burn incense to the Roman gods and was beheaded on the hill above old Verulamium where now stands St. Alban's Cathedral. Tune No. 69, however, is named after another St. Albans church, one in Holborn, London, where St. Albans tune book was first used in 1866. Its editor was Thomas Morley who was the organist of the church there, and he named the book honoring his own church, which took its name from the first British martyr.
St. Edmund, No. 345, was composed by Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan (1842-1900) in 1872 for the words of No. 659, "heaven is my home." As such they aptly fit the wise young king of East Anglia, Edmund (841?-870), who laid down his kingdom and his life for the hope of a better, eternal one. He was made king in A.D. 855 at the early age of fourteen and led the East Anglians to attack the marauding Danes in 870, seeking to preserve the Christian faith, the monks, and the monasteries against the depredations of heathen invaders. He was captured and tortured, being given the opportunity of renouncing his religion to save his life. He chose rather to remain true to God, and his faithful stand has been commemorated ever since in the name of the town where he is buried, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, England.
Five others remain in the list of saints' tunes. St. Christopher (No. 280) was composed in 1881 by a Bristol organist, Frederick Charles Maker (1844-1927) expressly for the words of "Beneath the Cross of Jesus." The legend has it that Christopher, whose name was formerly Reprobus, was a Syrian giant who was seeking someone stronger than he whom he could serve. The king feared the devil and the devil feared the cross, so Reprobus was finally converted to Christianity. Finding no inclination to a hermit's life of fasting and prayer, he decided to live a life of charity, and took upon himself the duty of carrying travelers over a bridgeless river. On one occasion he carried a child who in midstream became unaccountably heavy and nearly submerged Reprobus. The identity of the child was then revealed as the Creator of the world, and the carrier's name was changed to Christopher, or "carrier of Christ." He was martyred in A.D. 250 and later became the patron saint of those who travel.
St. Drostane, No. 127, is yet another tune by J. B. Dykes, composed in 1862 for the words that describe the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Drostane was an Irish monk, a nephew of St. Columba, who took the gospel to Ireland and Western Scotland, founding churches wherever he went.
St. Chrysostom, No. 350, is a tune composed in 1872 by Joseph Barnby (18381896), but for other words. It is named after John Chrysostom who lived from A.D. 347 to 407 and who earned his surname, which means "golden-mouthed," because of his eloquent orations. He became archbishop of Constantinople and preached against the vice of the church and of the court. He was banished, recalled, and banished again, as his words had such a powerful effect on wrongdoers.
St. Kevin, No. 136, was composed in 1872 by Sir Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900) for the words of this hymn, "Come, Ye faithful." The name commemorates an Irish hermit who fled from the seductive temptations of the world to the vale of Glendalough, near Dublin, where he established a monastery. Kevin is reputed to have died in A.D. 618 at the advanced age of 120 years.
St. Leonard, No. 54, was composed in 1868 by Henry Hiks, expressly for the words by Adelaide Proctor, but there is no associated significance in the name. One St. Leonard who died about A.D. 500 is the patron saint of prisoners, because all those he visited in Limousin, France, were released by the king. Another Leonard (16761751) was an Italian who entered the Franciscan Order and, after his prayers for restoration of health were granted, dedicated himself to preaching repentance to sinners throughout his homeland.
Here, then, we have thirty tunes named after saints. May it be that as we know more about the tunes, we can "sing . . . praises with understanding" (Ps. 47:7).