Ave maris stella

"Ave maris stella" (Latin for 'Hail, star of the sea') is a medieval Marian hymn, usually sung at Vespers. It was especially popular in the Middle Ages and has been used by many composers as the basis of other compositions.

Ave maris stella in a 14th-century antiphonary


Authorship of the original hymn has been attributed to several people, including Bernard of Clairvaux (12th century), Saint Venantius Fortunatus (6th century)[1] and Hermannus Contractus (11th century).[2] Probably originating in the 9th century,[3] it appears as a 10th century addition in two 9th-century manuscripts, one from Salzburg now in Vienna[4] and the other still at the Abbey of Saint Gall.[5] Its frequent occurrence in the Divine Office made it popular in the Middle Ages, many other hymns being founded upon it.[1] The "Ave maris stella" was highly influential in presenting Mary as a merciful and loving Mother.[6] "Much of its charm is due to its simplicity".[7] The title "Star of the Sea" is one of the oldest and most widespread titles applied to Mary. The hymn is frequently used as a prayer for safe-conduct for travelers.[8]

The melody is found in the Irish plainsong "Gabhaim Molta Bríde", a piece in praise of St. Brigid of Kildaire.[9] The popular modern hymn Hail Queen of Heaven, the Ocean Star, is loosely based on this plainsong original.

Latin lyricsEdit

Beginning of "Ave maris stella" in the 1912 Antiphonale Romanum

The Latin text of the hymn as authorized for use in the Liturgy of the Hours of the Roman Rite (Ordinary Form) is the following:[10]

Ave, maris stella,
Dei mater alma,
atque semper virgo,
felix cœli porta.

Sumens illud «Ave»
Gabrielis ore,
funda nos in pace,
mutans Evæ[11] nomen.

Solve vincla reis,
profer lumen cæcis,
mala nostra pelle,
bona cuncta posce.

Monstra te esse matrem,
sumat per te precem [12]
qui pro nobis natus
tulit esse tuus.

Virgo singularis,
inter omnes mitis,
nos culpis solutos
mites fac et castos.

Vitam præsta puram,
iter para tutum,
ut videntes Jesum
semper collætemur.

Sit laus Deo Patri,
summo Christo decus,
Spiritui Sancto
tribus honor unus. Amen.[13]

Hail, star of the sea,
Nurturing Mother of God,
And ever Virgin
Happy gate of Heaven

Receiving that "Ave" (hail)
From the mouth of Gabriel,
Establish us in peace,
Transforming the name of "Eva" (Eve).[14]

Loosen the chains of the guilty,
Send forth light to the blind,
Our evil do thou dispel,
Entreat (for us) all good things.

Show thyself to be a Mother:
Through thee may he receive prayer
Who, being born for us,
Undertook to be thine own.

O unique Virgin,
Meek above all others,
Make us, set free from (our) sins,
Meek and chaste.

Bestow a pure life,
Prepare a safe way:
That seeing Jesus,
We may ever rejoice.

Praise be to God the Father,
To the Most High Christ (be) glory,
To the Holy Spirit
(Be) honour, to the Three equally. Amen.

Musical settingsEdit

The plainchant hymn has been developed by many composers from pre-baroque to the present day. The Roman Rite employs four different plainchant tunes for the Ave maris stella; the first three are designated for solemnities, feasts, and memorials of the Blessed Virgin Mary;[10] a fourth is given in the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary as an alternative to the memorial tone. The tunes have been used as the cantus firmus for some polyphonic settings of the mass, including those by Josquin and Victoria.[15]

Renaissance settings include those by Hans Leo Hassler, Felice Anerio, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Guillaume Dufay and William Byrd. Baroque settings include Monteverdi's Vespro della Beata Vergine 1610, one by Emperor Leopold I, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, 4 settings, H.60, H.63, H.65, H.67 (1670–1680s). Sébastien de Brossard, Romantic settings include those by Dvorak, Grieg, and Liszt. Modern composers who have either set the text or used the hymn as an inspiration include Marcel Dupré, Flor Peeters, Grace Williams, Peter Maxwell Davies, Otto Olsson, Trond Kverno, Jean Langlais, Mark Alburger, James MacMillan, Andrew Cusworth and Roderick Williams.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Ave Maris Stella" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  2. ^ Frauenlob's song of songs by Frauenlob, Barbara Newman, Karl Stackmann 2007 ISBN 0-271-02925-0 page 100
  3. ^ Fassler, Margot Elsbeth (2014). Music in the Medieval West (First ed.). New York. pp. 3–12. ISBN 978-0-393-92915-7.
  4. ^ Cod. Vindob. 387, fol. 3v, has a fragmentary version written by a later hand (10th/11th century) in originally blank space
  5. ^ Codex Sangallensis 95, p. 2, has a full version written by a later hand (10th/11th century) on originally blank space
  6. ^ Reynolds, Brian. Gateway to heaven, New City Press, 2012, ISBN 9781565484498, p. 194
  7. ^ Brittain, F., Mediaeval Latin and Romance Lyric to A, Cambridge University Press, 1951, p. 79
  8. ^ "Ave Maris Stella Prayer", International Marian Research Institute, University of Dayton
  9. ^ Wood, David (2014-02-01). "Gabhaim molta Bríde". Song of the Isles. Retrieved 2019-10-24.
  10. ^ a b Liber Hymnarius, Solesmes, 1983.
  11. ^ Also spelled Hevæ.
  12. ^ Thus in the original, see Te Decet Hymnus, Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1984, p. 255 and Liber Hymnarius, Solesmes, 1983; Pope Urban VIII's 17th-century revision has preces here.
  13. ^ Thus in Liber Hymnarius, Solesmes, 1983. Pope Urban VIII's text has Spiritui Sancto, Tribus honor unus.
  14. ^ The word "Hail" in Latin [Ave] is the reverse spelling of the Latin for "Eve" [Eva].
  15. ^ The Josquin companion: Volume 1 by Richard Sherr 2001 ISBN 0-19-816335-5 Page 110

External linksEdit