The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

O Sanctissima

Latin Prayer

MIDI / Noteworthy Composer

1. O Sanctissima O Piissima
Dulcis Virgo Maria
Mater amta intemerata
Ora ora pro nobis

2. Tota pulchraes O Maria
Et macula non est in te
Mater anmata intemerata
Ora ora pro nobis

3. Sicut lilium inter spinas
Sic Maria inter filias
Mater amata intemerata
Ora ora pro nobis

4. In miseria in angustia
Ora Virgo pro nobis
Pro nobis ora in mortis hora
Ora ora pro nobis

Translations Include:

William L. Simon, ed., Readerís Digest Merry Christmas Songbook (1981)

"O Sanctissima" is part Christmas carol and part church motet, set to a melody called "The Sicilian Marinerís Hymn to the Virgin," which may be Italian, English, or even Sicilian. No one knows, sometimes, where tunes originate, or when words become attached to a particular melody. This lovely tune is such a mystery "O Sanctissima," with its original Latin text, was first published in 1794 in the United States. Today, the opening bars are familiarly known for their use in the song "We Shall Overcome."

Henry W. Simon, A Treasury of Christmas Songs and Carols

...A Germany poet, Johann Gottfried Herder, was enjoying a trip to Italy [1788], and some years later [1807], with the same tune, published a German translation.  All the early collectors implied an Italian origin, usually Sicilian, sometimes more specifically with the title Sicilian Mariner's Prayer. Yet there is no early Italian publication of the melody...