The Anglo-Saxons came to Britain at around the same time the Romans were on their way out. This is what their prayers must have sounded like.
Today, the words of the Christian faith have been translated into just about every world language in order to propagate the religion, however this is not a new practice. At its inception, the scriptures were written in Hebrew and Greek. When the Roman ruler Constantine converted his empire to Christianity, the Scriptures were translated again to Latin, which became the standard for prayer and liturgy as well as the Bible for many centuries.
As the power of the Roman Empire began to subside, however, its vast colonial holdings were broken up into dozens of countries, each governed by its own people and each with its own language. It is because each of these cultures maintained their Christian faith that the words of our faith became translated into each of their native tongues.
In England, around the turn of the first millennium, these people were what we now call the Anglo-Saxons, and the language they spoke at that time is known as Old English.
The Anglo-Saxons came to the English territories at around the same time the Romans were on their way out. They were a people who hailed from Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands, and their language drew from all of these. While no one is certain exactly what the language sounded like, experts have used the current English language, in tandem with documents written in Old English, to try to determine the proper pronunciation.
In the video featured above, Daniel Foucachon recites the Lord’s Prayer in Old English. Some of the words are recognizable, like “world” or “heaven,” and others we can figure out from their placement in the prayer: e.g. “forgyf us ure gyltas” appears right where we say “forgive us our trespasses,” and when it is pronounced, we hear it as “Forgive us our guilts.”
Hearing the development of our most important prayer, as well as the similarities between the two translations, reminds us of the storied history of our faith. The next time you recite the Lord’s Prayer, remember how this prayer has bound us together across the barriers of time and language for 2,000 years.
Fæder ure þu þe eart on heofonum;
Si þin nama gehalgod
to becume þin rice
gewurþe ðin willa
on eorðan swa swa on heofonum.
urne gedæghwamlican hlaf syle us todæg
and forgyf us ure gyltas
swa swa we forgyfað urum gyltendum
and ne gelæd þu us on costnunge
ac alys us of yfele soþlice
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