Ave maris stella

"Ave maris stella" (Latin for 'Hail, star of the sea') is a Marian hymn used at Vespers from about the eighth century. 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


The creation 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] The text is not found written by 9th-century hands, but as a tenth-century addition in two 9th-century manuscripts, one from Salzburg now in Vienna[3] and the other still at the Abbey of Saint Gall.[4] 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.[5] "Much of its charm is due to its simplicity".[6] 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.[7]

The melody is found in the Irish plainsong "Gabhaim Molta Bríde", a piece in praise of St. Brigid of Kildaire.[8] 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 its ancient chant setting

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:[9]

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

Sumens illud «Ave»
Gabrielis ore,
funda nos in pace,
mutans Evæ[10] nomen.

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

Monstra te esse matrem,
sumat per te precem [11]
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.[12]

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).[13]

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;[9] a fourth is given in the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary as an alternative to the memorial tone. These plainchant tones have been used as the cantus firmus for some polyphonic settings of the mass, including those by Josquin and Victoria.[14]

Renaissance settings include those by Hans Leo Hassler, Felice Anerio, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Dufay and Byrd. Baroque settings include Monteverdi's Vespro della Beata Vergine 1610, one by Emperor Leopold I, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, 4 sets, H 60, H 63, H 65, H 67. 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.

Acadian anthemEdit

"Ave Maris Stella" is the anthem of the Acadians, a francophone community in the Canadian Maritimes distinct from the French-Canadians of Quebec.

The Acadians were highly devout, and had and still have a high degree of devotion to the Virgin Mary. As such, Acadia's symbols reflect its people's beliefs. This is particularly evident in their anthem which instead of being written in French is written in Latin. It was adopted as the anthem of the Acadian people at the Second Acadian National Convention, held in Miscouche, Prince Edward Island in 1884.[15] To this day, it remains a source of Acadian patriotism.

The hymn was sung in its original version until French lyrics were finally composed in 1988.[15] The French lyrics are attributed to Jacinthe Laforest, from Mont-Carmel, Prince Edward Island, who submitted her lyrics during a contest held throughout the Maritimes by the Société nationale de l'Acadie in search of French lyrics. Out of respect for the original hymn, the first verse in the Acadian national anthem remains in Latin.

These are the lyrics, in French. The first verse is in Latin, and is repeated at the end of the hymn.

Ave Maris Stella
Dei Mater Alma
Atque Semper Virgo
Felix Coeli Porta
Felix Coeli Porta

Acadie ma patrie
À ton nom je me lie
Ma vie, ma foi sont à toi
Tu me protégeras
Tu me protégeras

Acadie ma patrie
Ma terre et mon défi
De près, de loin tu me tiens
Mon cœur est acadien
Mon cœur est acadien

Acadie ma patrie
Ton histoire je la vis
La fierté je te la dois
En l'Avenir je crois
En l'Avenir je crois

Ave Maris Stella
Dei Mater Alma
Atque Semper Virgo
Felix Coeli Porta
Felix Coeli Porta

Ave Maris Stella
Dei Mater Alma
Atque Semper Virgo
Felix Coeli Porta
Felix Coeli Porta

Acadia my homeland
To your name I draw myself
My life, my faith belong to you
You will protect me
You will protect me

Acadia my homeland
My land and my challenge
From near, from far you hold onto me
My heart is Acadian
My heart is Acadian

Acadia my homeland
I live your history
I owe you my pride
I believe in your future
I believe in your future

Ave Maris Stella
Dei Mater Alma
Atque Semper Virgo
Felix Coeli Porta
Felix Coeli Porta

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. ^ Cod. Vindob. 387, fol. 3v, has a fragmentary version written by a later hand (10th/11th century) in originally blank space
  4. ^ Codex Sangallensis 95, p. 2, has a full version written by a later hand (10th/11th century) on originally blank space
  5. ^ Reynolds, Brian. Gateway to heaven, New City Press, 2012, ISBN 9781565484498, p. 194
  6. ^ Brittain, F., Mediaeval Latin and Romance Lyric to A, Cambridge University Press, 1951, p. 79
  7. ^ "Ave Maris Stella Prayer", International Marian Research Institute, University of Dayton
  8. ^ Wood, David (2014-02-01). "Gabhaim molta Bríde". Song of the Isles. Retrieved 2019-10-24.
  9. ^ a b Liber Hymnarius, Solesmes, 1983.
  10. ^ Also spelled Hevæ.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Thus in Liber Hymnarius, Solesmes, 1983. Pope Urban VIII's text has Spiritui Sancto, Tribus honor unus.
  13. ^ The word "Hail" in Latin [Ave] is the reverse spelling of the Latin for "Eve" [Eva].
  14. ^ The Josquin companion: Volume 1 by Richard Sherr 2001 ISBN 0-19-816335-5 Page 110
  15. ^ a b "What is the national Acadian anthem?", Acadian Museum of Prince Edward Island

External linksEdit