Words: , 569 (Vex­il­la Re­gis pro­deunt); trans­lat­ed from La­tin to Eng­lish by , Med­iae­val Hymns and Se­quenc­es, 1851.

Music: Ham­burg, , 1824; first ap­peared in The Bos­ton Han­del and Hay­dn So­ci­e­ty Col­lect­ion of Church Mu­sic, third edi­tion, 1825. Al­ter­nate tunes:

  • Gonfalon Royal, (1871-1947)
  • Herr Je­su Christ, Wahr Mensch und Gott, at­trib­ut­ed to , 1597
  • St. Ce­cil­ia (Hamp­ton), , in Hymns An­cient and Mo­dern, 1861
  • Vexilla Re­gis, prop­er Sar­um mel­o­dy

Legend says that on No­vem­ber 19, 568, St. Ra­de­gund pre­sent­ed to the town of Poi­ti­ers a frag­ment be­lieved to be the true Cross. Fortunatus was the one chos­en to re­ceive the rel­ic on its ar­riv­al at Poi­ti­ers. When the bear­ers of the ho­ly frag­ment were two miles dist­ant from the town, For­tu­na­tus, with a great ga­the­ring of be­liev­ers and en­thus­iasts, some car­ry­ing ban­ners, cross­es and other sac­red em­blems, went forth to meet them. As the marched, they sang this hymn, which For­tu­na­tus had writ­ten.

The royal banners forward go,
The cross shines forth in mystic glow;
Where He in flesh, our flesh Who made,
Our sentence bore, our ransom paid.

Where deep for us the spear was dyed,
Life’s torrent rushing from His side,
To wash us in that precious flood,
Where mingled water flowed, and blood.

Fulfilled is all that David told
In true prophetic song of old,
Amidst the nations, God, saith he,
Hath reigned and triumphed from the tree.

O tree of beauty, tree of light!
O tree with royal purple dight!
Elect on whose triumphal breast
Those holy limbs should find their rest.

Blest tree, whose chosen branches bore
The wealth that did the world restore,
The price of humankind to pay,
And spoil the spoiler of his prey.

Upon its arms, like balance true,
He weighed the price for sinners due,
The price which none but He could pay,
And spoiled the spoiler of his prey.

O cross, our one reliance, hail!
Still may thy power with us avail
To give new virtue to the saint,
And pardon to the penitent.

To Thee, eternal Three in One,
Let homage meet by all be done:
As by the cross Thou dost restore,
So rule and guide us evermore.