Rock of Ages

Updated: Jan 29

Painted In the 1860’s by the Johannes Adam Simon Oertel the painting was originally known as Saved or The Emblematic Representation of Christian Faith. The painting later became widely distributed and known as the Rock of Ages. Unfortunately, do to a copywriting mistake Oertel didn’t receive revenues for this work.

The painting was based off a popular hymn titled Rock of Ages written in 1763 by Reverend Augustus Toplady and published in 1775 in The Gospel Magazine. Legend has it that the hymn was written by Toplady while he was taking shelter from a storm in a cave. The cave is in a rock in Burrington Comb gorge in North Somerset, England. There is a plague on the rock commemorating Toplady and his hymn. The idea of the hymn is the rock of faith being the shelter for life.

The painting has been translated into tattoos since the 19th century. the image and composition of The design fits the human form perfectly whether it’s on the arms or torso. It’s unclear who originally tattooed the image but there are popular early versions of it done by Samuel O’Reilly, Percy Waters, Bert Grimm, and many more.

Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,

let me hide myself in thee;

let the water and the blood,

from thy wounded side which flowed,

be of sin the double cure;

save from the wrath and make me pure.

Not the labors of my hands

can fulfill thy law’s commands;

could my zeal no respite know,

could my tears forever flow,

all for sin could not atone;

though must save, and though alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,

simply to the cross I cling;

naked, come to thee for dress;

helpless, look at thee for grace;

foul, I to the fountain fly;

wash me, Savior, or I die.

While I draw this fleeting breath,

when mine eyes shall close in death,

when I soar to worlds unknown,

see thee in thy judgment throne,

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,

let me hide myself in thee.

For more information about the artists and design check out these excellent articles: