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13th century carved Agnus Dei in ivory, Louvre.

Agnus Dei, referring to the Christian theological concept of the Lamb of God and the associated liturgical text from the Roman Catholic Latin Mass, has been set to music by many composers, as it is normally one of the movements or sections in a sung Mass setting.[1][2] However, sometimes it stands alone, e.g. it provides the lyrics for Samuel Barber's Agnus Dei, the choral arrangement of his Adagio for Strings.



The Agnus Dei is a setting of the "Lamb of God" litany, based on John the Baptist's reference in John 1:29 to Jesus ("Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world"):

In a Requiem Mass, the words "miserere nobis" are replaced by "dona eis requiem" (grant them rest), while "dona nobis pacem" is replaced by "dona eis requiem sempiternam" (grant them eternal rest).


Agnus Dei from Schubert's Mass No. 2

Some examples from full mass settings include:

Further examples are too numerous to name, as virtually every setting of the Mass Ordinary or Proper (of which there are thousands) includes an Agnus Dei. The text has also been used by composers for arrangements in popular culture, including:

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Randel, Don Michael (2003). The Harvard Dictionary of Music. p. 28. ISBN 0-674-01163-5.
  2. ^ Atkinson, Charles Mercer (1975). The Earliest Settings of the Agnus Dei and Its Tropes. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina. p. 14.