The Hymns and Carols of Christmas


Latin - As adapted to the musical score composed by Franz Schubert

Ave Maria Gratia plena
Maria Gratia plena
Maria Gratia plena
Ave, ave dominus
Dominus tecum

Benedicta tu in mulieribus
Et benedictus
Et benedictus fructus ventris
Ventris tui Jesus

Ave Maria
Ave Maria Mater dei
Ora pro nobis pecatoribus
Ora, ora pro nobis
Ora ora pro nobis pecatoribus

Nunc et in hora mortis
In hora mortis, mortis nostrae
In hora mortis nostrae
Ave Maria

See A Garritan Community Christmas for an MP3:
Ave Maria, Laurence Harvey, Malcolm Messiter & Dan Kury

Songs About Mary on this Site

Ave Maria / Hail Mary


The Ave Maria is one of the oldest and most popular Catholic prayers, and is perhaps the most popular of all the Marian prayers, that is, prayers to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Also called the Ave, the Hail Mary, and the Angelic Salutation, the prayer is often used in private as well as in public devotions, e.g., in the rosary. The Ave Maria (Hail Mary) is of unknown origin; it was not officially incorporated into the liturgy (as part of the Rosary) until the 15th Century. It is composed of two distinct parts, a Scriptural part and an intercessory part.

The first part, the Scriptural part, is taken from the Gospel of St. Luke and joins together the words of the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation (Luke 1:28) together with Elizabeth's greeting to Mary at the Visitation (Luke 1:42). The joining of these two passages can be found as early as the fifth, and perhaps even the fourth, century in the eastern liturgies of St. James of Antioch and St. Mark of Alexandria. It is also recorded in the ritual of St. Severus (538 AD). In the west it was in use in Rome by the 7th century for it is prescribed as an offertory antiphon for the feast of the Annunciation. The great popularity of the phrase by the 11th century is attested to in the writings of St. Peter Damian (1007-1072) and Hermann of Tournai (d.c. 1147). Later, probably by Pope Urban IV around the year 1262, Jesus' name was inserted at the end of the two passages.

The second half of the prayer (Holy Mary...) can be traced back to the 15th century where two endings are found. One ending, Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, is found in the writings of St. Bernardine of Siena (1380-1444 AD) and the Carthusians. A second ending, Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis nunc et in hora mortis nostrae, can be found in the writings of the Servites, in a Roman Breviary, and in some German Dioceses. The current form of the prayer became the standard form sometime in the 16th century and was included in the reformed Breviary promulgated by Pope St. Pius V in 1568.

It has many musical settings; the compositions by Franz Schubert and Charles Gounod are among the most popular.

The Latin:

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum.
    Benedicta tu in mulieribus,
    et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus.
Sancta Maria, Mater Dei,
    ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc,
    et in hora mortis nostrae.

The English translation:

"Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee;
    blessed art thou amongst women,
    and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
    pray for us sinners now
    and at the hour of our death.


There is also an extensive article by Herbert Thurston, "Hail Mary," The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII, located at New Advent [Dec. 28, 2001]

In December, 2007, I received this note from a friend of the site, Todd Leone:

I had always wondered why Schubert's "Ave Maria" sounded so awkward with the Latin prayer "Ave Maria" as lyrics.  They're chopped up, convoluted and contorted, repeated awkwardly in odd bits, all to fit the music. Compare, for example, Gounod's "Ave Maria" which fits the prayer text beautifully.  I discovered that Franz Schubert's "Ave Maria" was not written for that text at all.  Rather, his "Ave Maria" used a German poem for its words, each verse beginning with the prayerful Latin saluation "Ave Maria."  Joan Baez, God bless her, on her Christmas album "Noel" sings the original lyrics, and, finally, the song makes sense and sounds as it should.

It turns out this poem is a German translation by Adam Storck of an excerpt from Sir Walter Scott's "The Lady of the Lake," part of the Arthurian legend.  Schubert called it "Ellens dritter Gesang" ("Ellen's Third Song").  Here are the lyrics by Storck which Schubert used:

Ave Maria! Jungfrau mild,
Erhöre einer Jungfrau Flehen,
Aus diesem Felsen starr und wild
Soll mein Gebet zu dir hinwehen.
Wir schlafen sicher bis zum Morgen,
Ob Menschen noch so grausam sind.
O Jungfrau, sieh der Jungfrau Sorgen,
O Mutter, hör ein bittend Kind!
Ave Maria!

Ave Maria! Unbefleckt!
Wenn wir auf diesen Fels hinsinken
Zum Schlaf, und uns dein Schutz bedeckt
Wird weich der harte Fels uns dünken.
Du lächelst, Rosendüfte wehen
In dieser dumpfen Felsenkluft,
O Mutter, höre Kindes Flehen,
O Jungfrau, eine Jungfrau ruft!
Ave Maria!

Ave Maria! Reine Magd!
Der Erde und der Luft Dämonen,
Von deines Auges Huld verjagt,
Sie können hier nicht bei uns wohnen,
Wir woll'n uns still dem Schicksal beugen,
Da uns dein heil'ger Trost anweht;
Der Jungfrau wolle hold dich neigen,
Dem Kind, das für den Vater fleht.
Ave Maria!

The best translation for those is, of course, the original English by Sir Walter Scott from which the German translation was made:

Ave Maria! maiden mild!
Listen to a maiden's prayer!
Thou canst hear though from the wild,
Thou canst save amid despair.
Safe may we sleep beneath thy care,
Though banish'd, outcast and reviled -
Maiden! hear a maiden's prayer;
Mother, hear a suppliant child!
Ave Maria!

Ave Maria! undefiled!
The flinty couch we now must share
Shall seem this down of eider piled,
If thy protection hover there.
The murky cavern's heavy air
Shall breathe of balm if thou hast smiled;
Then, Maiden! hear a maiden's prayer;
Mother, list a suppliant child!
Ave Maria!

Ave Maria! stainless styled!
Foul demons of the earth and air,
From this their wonted haunt exiled,
Shall flee before thy presence fair.
We bow us to our lot of care,
Beneath thy guidance reconciled;
Hear for a maid a maiden's prayer,
And for a father hear a child!
Ave Maria!

Anyway, when I want to sing or hear sung the Marian prayer in Latin, I'll go for the Gounod.  Sounds way better...

Merry Christmas.

My thanks to Todd for writing and sharing these thoughts.

There is a fantastic web site site that has many musical settings for "Ave Maria" and other Marion songs. Check it out: Ave Maria Songs and AveWiki.

Other songs that celebrate Mary on this site:

From George R. Woodward's Songs of Syon, "The Common Of Our Lady:"

Other Marion songs from Woodward's Songs of Syon:

This is not an exhaustive listing, just one that I tossed together one morning. I'll be doing additional research, and will update the list accordingly. In the meantime, here are several Mary related searches of this web site:

Mary (592 pages returned)

Maria (140 pages returned)

Maid (197 pages returned)

Virgin: (379 pages returned)

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