August 7: Catherine Winkworth, Poet, 1878

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

About this commemoration

Catherine Winkworth
Catherine Winkworth

Catherine Winkworth is celebrated as the premier translator of German hymns and chorales into English.

Winkworth was born in London in 1827, but grew up in Manchester where she spent most of her life. Her lifelong fascination with German hymns and chorales began during a yearlong visit to Dresden, Germany, in 1848. Her first set of translations, Lyra Germanica, 1855, contained 103 hymns, and a second series under the same title appeared in 1858, and contained 121 hymns. Her translations were immensely successful in expressing the theological richness and spirit of the German texts; Lyra Germanica went through numerous editions and reprints and remains today a monumental contribution to the history of hymnody. Among the most well known of Winkworth’s translations are “Jesus, priceless treasure,” “Now thank we all our God,” “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,” and “Deck thyself, my soul, with gladness.”

In some cases, Winkworth’s sturdy translations had been wed with tunes that did not always capture the spirit of the original German chorale. To help rectify this, Winkworth published The Chorale Book for England in 1863 that matched her translations with their original tunes. In 1869, she published a commentary that provided biographies of the German hymn writers and other material to make the German hymn and chorale more accessible to the English singers of her masterful translations.

She is also remembered for her advocacy for women’s rights and for her efforts to encourage university education for women. In support of her advocacy for women, Winkworth sought inspiration in German literature and made it available in English translation. Notable are her translations of the biographies of two founders of sisterhoods for the poor and the sick: Life of Pastor Fliedner, 1861, and Life of Amelia Sieveking, 1863.

Winkworth was traveling to an international conference on women’s issues when she died of a heart attack on July 1, 1878. She was 51. She was buried at Monnetier, near Geneva. Her life and work has been honored with a monument in Bristol Cathedral.

Collect of the Day

Comfort your people, O God of peace, and prepare a way for us in the desert, that, like your poet and translator Catherine Winkworth, we may preserve the spiritual treasures of your saints of former years and sing our thanks to you with hearts and hands and voices, eternal triune God whom earth and heaven adore; for you live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.


Exodus 6:28–7:2

1 Corinthians 14:20–25

Mark 1:35–38

Psalm 47:5–9

Preface of the Dedication of a Church

We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

3 thoughts on “August 7: Catherine Winkworth, Poet, 1878

  1. This is another of those ‘double’ feasts: John Mason Neale vs. Catherine Winkworth. I can’t seem to figure out from her bio why she is remembered on August 7. August 4th was free. Why not remember her on her own day?

    Collect: This is nice. What a positive difference from some of the previous collects already considered..

    Hebrew Reading: ‘Let my people go’? This seems an odd choice.
    NT Reading: Speaking in tongues. Likewise, this seems an odd choice.
    Gospel: Jesus retreats to a deserted place. Dare I say it again, this seems an odd choice
    Psalm: Why stop at verse 9? At least include verse 10, or just list the whole Psalm.

    I guess I will just have to study up on Ms Winkworth to make the connections. So far it is a mystery.

    Bio: Just a suggestion … when persons included in H82 are commemorated (and their hymns or texts are mentioned in the bio) might it be a good idea to list the H82 # ? For instance the 2nd paragraph mentions H82 #’s: 396, 397, 390, and 339.

  2. Ditto Michael Hartney: give her her own date. These feasts honoring multiple people, especially when they were not close collaborators on a single project, are difficult to handle in a homily or newsletter piece. Neither honoree gets his or her due mead of glory.
    Contrary to other posts on the poet/translators, however, I think identifying hymns by number is a bad idea, The first line is enough if it’s a familiar hymn, and it’s easy enough to find the hymn in the index if it’s not. Giving the hymn number alone makes me look each one up, and including it requires an otherwise unnecessary revision should the Hymnal ever be revised. Plus I can find the full poem on line by the first line, while the Hymnal may include only a few stanzas.

  3. I thought we had decided to stick with Massey Shepherd’s rule that we would have only one commemoration for each date. Although Catherine Winkworth and John Mason Neale have much in common as translators of hymns, they are not paired here.

    In the seventh line of the third paragraph, putting “hymn” and ‘chorale” into the plural would seem more natural and clearer.

    At the caption on the facing page, I urge the addition of the word “translator” to describe her. (I was present at the 1982 GC, when we were considering the texts of what became the 1982 Hymnal. For several hymns, the Blue Book suggested different translations, but several changes were made to restore the Catherine Winkworth versions.)

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