Hymns about the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins / Ten Bridesmaids

This is a selection of hymns based on the Parable of the Ten Virgins, also known as the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins or the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids or the Parable of the Ten . Wise and Foolish Women.

It does not include hymns about other topics which could be implied from the parable - only ones which relate directly to it.

The list is grouped into two sections:
  • Free-use (either copyright has expired, or the author has allowed them to be freely used)
  • Still subject to copyright and so can only be used if you are covered by a copyright license.


Both children's and adults hymns / songs are included in each list - because except for the youngest of children, it is is difficult to draw a clear distinction between them.

About the Parable

This is one of the most well-known of Jesus' parables, even though it is included only in Matthew's gospel (Matthew 25:1-13).

With a clear message about being prepared for the Day of Judgement, it was particularly popular in the Middle Ages, and had large influence on Gothic art, sculpture and the architecture of German and French cathedrals. This is also reflected in the number of hymns about the story which have now entered the public domain.

The parable tells the story of a group of virgins, who were perhaps bridesmaids or torchbearers for a wedding procession. Each young woman is carrying a lamp, and they must wait for the bridegroom, who is expected at some time during the night. Five of them are wise and have brought extra oil for their lamps, but the other five did not do so, and are described as foolish.

At midnight, the call is given to go and meet the bridegroom. At this, the foolish virgins ask the wise ones for oil - but the request is refused because there is not enough for everyone. While the foolish virgins are trying to get more oil, the bridegroom arrives. He is accompanied to the celebration by the wise bridemaids, while the others arrive late and cannot get in to the party.

This parable is read during Church services:
  • On the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time in Year A by Roman Catholic following the Ordinary rite
  • At Masses of virgins and virgin martyrs, including St. Cecily (22 November) and St. Catherine (25 November) by Roman Catholics following the extraordinary form of the Roman rite (Tridentine Mass),
  • On the 27th Sunday after Trinity in the traditional Lutheran lectionary.
  • On Proper 27 (32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time) in the Revised Common Lectionary.


Songs and hymns which may be freely used

Behold the Bridegroom - Schell

Behold the Bridegroom Cometh - Root

Give me Oil in my Lamp / Sing Hosanna - unknown

Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning - Johnston (gospel blues style)

Rejoice Rejoice Believers - Findlater

Sleepers, Wake! the Watch-Cry Pealeth - Cox

Slumberers, Wake, The Bridegroom Cometh! - Hopkins

The Bridegroom Soon Will Call Us - Loy

The Ten Virgins - Dickinson

There were Ten Virgins - Afro-American spiritual

Up! Awake! From Highest Steeple - Woodward

Wake, Awake, For Night Is Flying - Winkworth

Wake, O Wake! With Tidings Thrilling - Burkitt

What If It Were Today? - Morris

When Christ Descending from the Skies

When the Bridegroom Comes - Warren

Will Jesus find us Watching - Crosby

Ye Virgin Souls Arise - Wesley



Hymns and songs which may still be copyright

Ballad of the Women - Winter

Parable of the Ten Virgins - Markoya

"Sleepers, Wake!" A Voice Astounds Us - Daw

Stay Awake and be Prepared - Davidson

Ten Bridesmaids Waited for the Time - Gilette (author's page)

What is the World Like - Tice (verse 4)

Wise and Foolish Virgins - Stevens (sheet music)





Resources for church-music selection



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