Day 1: The First Polish Christmas Carol

    Over the next 24 days, we invite you to join us for our Advent Calendar with Poland Daily 24. Every day, we’ll bring you little tidbits about Christmas in Poland. Today, we are taking a closer look at the oldest Polish carol. 

    Carols and pastorals are something that gives Christmas Eve and Christmas Day a special dimension. Everyone knows at least a few Polish carols, but not everyone knows which one is the oldest. Therefore, we introduce the story of “Zdrow bądź Krolu Anjelski” (English: Be well the Angels’ King). 

    At the end of the 19th century, a manuscript from the Załuski Library in St Petersburg was found by Alexander Brückne. The text of the carol “Zdrow bądź Królu Anielski,” dating from 1424, was recorded in a sermon by Jan Szczekna, a Cistercian monk and confessor of Queen Jadwiga. 

    Zdrow bądź Królu Anjelski” is considered the oldest Polish carol. Its text can be found in several sources, the most important being a 1424 collection of sermons by Jan Szczekna. It also can be found in the codex with Latin sermons by Piotr from Miłosław. This codex, kept in the National Library in Warsaw, comes from the Benedictine abbey at Holy Cross.

    Unfortunately, the original musical notation has not survived. The carol was most likely a translation from the Czech or Latin original of the song “Ave rex angeleorum.”

    We invite you to listen to the following version of this carol performed by St Casimir’s Gregorian Schola

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