Adeste Fideles is a Christmas carol and a magnificent piece of music that has been ascribed to various authors, including John Francis Wade (1711–1786), John Reading (1645–1692), a Portuguese musician named Marcos Antonio da Fonesca (1762-1830), King John IV of Portugal (1604–1656) and others.

Among them, is there one who is most likely to have composed it? Were both the lyrics and the song the work of one person?


The wikipedia article has a good discussion of the claims of the various individuals to be the author. It has what would seem to be a clinching point in favour of King John IV of Portugal, a manuscript in his library which predates John Wade's version. This detail is not mentioned in this other discussion of the topic which argues strongly for Wade.

From both articles it appears that Wade worked a lot with plainchant and worked to revive it. And King John was also a musician and collected,composed and arranged a good quantity of music. An arrangement still used today of "Crux fidelis", a 6th century Latin hymn is attributed to him.

My own view on this is that any answer has to treat the text and music separately.

I'd say that both Wade and King John would be more likely to arrange existing words, rather than write an original, since respect for tradition, and the importance of a connection to the past are part of the Catholic tradition, to which both belonged. So for me, on balance of probability, the real author of the text  was an unknown monk and both of them worked with versions of that text.

I couldn't find an online copy of King John's version, but if it is the same as the version called "The Portuguese hymn", the tune is different to Wade's.(ref wikipedia article). So, author of words unknown, many different arrangements.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.