Rock Of Ages

Album: Sings America's Favorite Hymns (1775)


  • This timeless hymn was written by the Anglican curate, Reverend Augustus Toplady (1740-1778) after taking a walk at Burrington Combe, a steep limestone valley with many caves in Somerset, South West England. A mighty thunderstorm blew up and the curate found an opening in an immense granite rock, in which he sheltered from the storm. This inspired the imagery of Christ as a sheltering rock. The hymn was first published in the Gospel Magazine in 1775, some 12 years after Toplady wrote it.
  • Despite being converted under a Methodist evangelist while attending the University of Dublin, the Calvinist Toplady rejected Charles and John Wesleys' theology and waged a running battle with them through tracts, sermons, and even hymns. He later softened his stance a little and two years before he died of tuberculosis and overwork at the age of thirty-eight, Toplady published his own hymnal, in which this classic hymn and Charles Wesley's "Jesus, Lover of My Soul" were placed side by side.
  • The hymn was a favourite of Prince Albert, who asked it to be played to him on his deathbed, as did Confederate Genera J.E.B. Stuart. The British Prime Minister William Gladstone did a Latin translation 'Jesus, pro me perforatus' and it was later played at his funeral.
  • The hymn is usually sung to the tune of "Toplady" by the American composer Thomas Hastings (1784-1872).
  • Many gospel and inspirational artists have recorded versions of this hymn including Johnny Cash, Patti Page, Chris Rice and Mahalia Jackson.

Comments: 1

  • Annabelle from Eugene, OrThis hymn was allegedly a favorite of Mary Ann Cotton in her childhood days. In 1873, while a chaplain rang a single church bell at West Auckland Parish Church, Mary Ann sang it in her cell at Durham County Jail, shortly before being hanged in a botched execution by William Calcraft, for the crime of murder by arsenic poisoning of up to 21 members of her family.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

The 10 Bands Most Like Spinal TapSong Writing

Based on criteria like girlfriend tension, stage mishaps and drummer turnover, these are the 10 bands most like Spinal Tap.

Pete AndersonSongwriter Interviews

Pete produced Dwight Yoakam, Michelle Shocked, Meat Puppets, and a very memorable track for Roy Orbison.

Van Dyke ParksSongwriter Interviews

U2, Carly Simon, Joanna Newsom, Brian Wilson and Fiona Apple have all gone to Van Dyke Parks to make their songs exceptional.

Victoria WilliamsSongwriter Interviews

Despite appearances on Carson, Leno and a Pennebaker film, Williams remains a hidden treasure.

Jules Shear - "All Through The Night"They're Playing My Song

Shears does very little promotion, which has kept him secluded from the spotlight. What changed when Cyndi Lauper had a hit with his song? Not much, really.

What Musicians Are Related to Other Musicians?Song Writing

A big list of musical marriages and family relations ranging from the simple to the truly dysfunctional.