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The Story Behind "Be Thou My Vision"

Updated: Sep 23, 2020

Music has a way of dividing us. Turn on music in a car full of people and you will get a car full of mixed reactions. But there are certain songs that everyone enjoys. Most would have a hard time turning down the sound of bagpipes playing Amazing Grace or of a chorus singing Ode to Joy.

In the same way, the hymn, Be Thou My Vision fits into this category. It's one of the most loved songs of all times. The medieval melody brings images of rolling hills and Scottish highlands, causing people to cry when they hear it, and millions more to request it for their own funerals.

But very few people know the story behind the song. In fact, the history of Be Thou My Vision is as ancient and mysterious as the haunting hymn itself. A quick look in a hymnal offers little help. Ambiguous entries like “Irish Melody” and “Anonymous” appear where the name of the composer and lyricist typically belong.

So what is the true story behind this legendary hymn? Where did it come from? And if it's so old, how did it survive to the 21st century?