Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895), author of this hymn text, was an amazing woman. She wrote over 400 poems in her time, many of which became hymns. “There is a Green Hill Far Away” is considered one of her finest. It is said that she wrote this hymn while sitting up one night with a sick child. She lived outside Londonderry, Ireland, and on her way to visit or shop, often passed a green hill outside that ancient walled city. She imagined Calvary (Golgotha) to be similar to this green, Irish hill, so this was her inspiration for the hymn, since she never actually visited Jerusalem. The word “without” in those days commonly meant the opposite of “within,” so was describing a hill “outside” the city wall, not a city without walls.
This charmingly simple hymn reminds us that Christ’s love for us motivated his great sacrifice for us, and we should love him in return. It was written as part of a collection of hymns designed to teach children the Apostles Creed, a statement of beliefs used in many Christian churches. These hymns became part of a book called “Hymns for Little Children” which has been immensely popular through the years. “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” “Once in Royal David’s City,” and “He is Risen” were also part of that book by Cecil Frances Alexander. All proceeds from her work went to support a local school for the deaf. She died and was buried in her beloved Derry, Ireland… “without” the city walls.
John 19:16-18 “… And they took Jesus, and led him away. And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: Where they crucified him…”
Listen to our arrangement with vocal countermelody:
Listen to our arrangement with flute/violin countermelody: