The Old Rugged Cross Hymn Study

The Old Rugged Cross Hymn Study includes everything you need to study the hymn in one easy download.

Music pages folded to make a heart; text overlay that says "The Old Rugged Cross"

Hymn study is a simple way to pass the heritage of hymns on to our children. Use this unit study to help your family learn more about the hymn “The Old Rugged Cross.”

The Old Rugged Cross Hymn History

George Bennard (pronounced Benn-ARD), author and composer of “The Old Rugged Cross,” was born in Youngstown, Ohio, on February 4, 1873. As a young boy, he moved with his family from Ohio to Iowa, where his father worked as a coal miner.

When George was sixteen years old, his father died in a mining accident. George then took a job in the coal mines to sup­port his mo­ther and sis­ters.

Soon after his father’s death, Bennard was converted and joined the Salvation Army. After his marriage, both he and his wife served as Salvation Army officers.

A few years later, Mr. Bennard was ordained by the Methodist Episcopal Church. He conducted revival services across the United States and Canada, holding many meetings in Michigan and New York.

Bennard eventually settled in Albion, Michigan, and opened his own hymn publishing company. Here in Albion he began writing the hymn “The Old Rugged Cross.”

He actually composed the melody for the hymn before he wrote the text. For some time the only words he had were, “On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross…”

Then Mr. Bennard passed through a particularly hard time in his life. During one of his revival meetings, he was publicly ridiculed by some unruly teens. He felt burdened, as though he were carrying a cross, just as Jesus had.

After that incident, he wrote the rest of the hymn quite easily. He completed the words during a two-week revival meeting at the First Methodist Episcopal Church in Pokagon, Michigan. Strumming his guitar, he sang the song for the first time to the pastor and his wife.

The hymn was first sung publicly during that same revival on June 7, 1913. Mr. Bennard sang the song in the service, and then offered his penciled notes to the church choir to sing.

“The Old Rugged Cross” soon became well known throughout the United States, and it is generally considered to be the most popular of the twentieth-century hymns.

Mr. Bennard continued in evangelistic work for forty years after writing this well-loved hymn. He wrote more than 350 other hymns, but none were ever as popular as “The Old Rugged Cross.”

You may also like: Amazing Grace Hymn Study

Music pages folded to make a heart; text overlay that says "The Old Rugged Cross"

The Old Rugged Cross Hymn Lyrics

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.

In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’ll share.


So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

Hymn Copywork, Notebooking Pages, and More

Copywork pages, notebooking pages, and other printables are now available in one easy download! The Old Rugged Cross Hymn Study includes everything you need to study the hymn:

  • hymn history
  • lyrics
  • sheet music
  • links to listen to the hymn
  • review questions to gauge comprehension
  • vocabulary words taken from the hymn
  • copywork and notebooking pages
  • related Scripture to memorize

Spiral bound book with music pages on cover and title "The Old Rugged Cross"

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  1. Yoon Roloson says:

    Just wanted to thank you for all your work. I teach music for our homeschool group. I was wanting something like this to teach. You made my job so much easier. Thanks.

    1. Judy Hoch says:

      Thanks so much for your kind words! I’m so glad that this series will be helpful for you and your students.

  2. I teach music in our little school and will use some of your information in our chapel times. 🙂 thanks

    1. Judy Hoch says:

      So glad this series will be helpful for you, Betsy! I’d love to hear how this works out for your chapel services, as well!

  3. Marilyn Priebe says:

    Regarding the study on the ‘Old Rugged Cross’. Our Arizona Association of women (25 of us and almost all over 60) is meeting March 16 for a Lenten Day of Prayer and I was tasked to find a hymn to sing focusing on the Cross of Christ. (that is our theme) Well, you provided everything and more for us.

    Thank you, Judy. We wish you a holy and prayerful Lenten season and a joyous and glorious Easter!

    Ah! Qu’ill est bon, le bon dieu! O How Good is the Good God!

    1. Judy Hoch says:

      I’m so glad this was helpful to you, Marilyn! Thank you so much for your comment–it was an encouragement to me!

  4. I was wondering what phrases like “Till my trophies at last I lay down meant;” along with ” bear it to dark Cavalry”… Can anyone explain those phrases to me. Thanks.

    1. Angela Mitchell says:

      “Till my trophies at last I lay down” is a reference to when one dies and cannot do God’s work here on earth. “Bear it to dark Cavalry” means Jesus going on the cross to die for us on Cavalry Mountain. Because Jesus is God’s son he is perfect and without sin; but He bears our sins for us.

  5. Charis Luke says:

    I sang the “Old Rugged cross” in the street and a lady approached me. She said she was a Christian but she just didn’t get the lyrics. She said “where in the bible does it say you will get a crown?”.
    I couldn’t answer her question and it also go me thinking about another problematic lyrics “my trophies at last I’ll lay down”. What does this mean?
    As the lady said I was singing the song as though it was gospel truth and I really want to know the theological basis of some of the lyrics. Can you please help me so I can give a good answer if I’m asked again?