Monday, 10 June 2013

Latin Prayer of the Week: Salve Regina

As we are now back in time after Pentecost, I thought this might be a good moment to take a look at the Marian antiphon for this season, Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen).

Traditionally it is sung at Compline each night in this time throughout the year, and has a 'solemn' chant version for Sundays and feasts, as well as the better known 'simple' tone for weekdays.

The antiphon is also said of course, as one of the concluding prayers of the Rosary.

And it carries with it a partial indulgence, so worth reciting daily aside from its intrinsic merits!


The antiphon was composed by the eleventh century monk Blessed Hermann the Cripple (aka Hermann of Reichenau, Hermannus Contractus or Hermannus Augiensis).

Blessed Hermann (1013-54) is an extraordinary figure.  The son of an earl, he was born in 1013 with a cleft palate, cerebral palsy and is said to have had spina bifida. As a result, he had great difficulty moving and could hardly speak. At seven, he was placed in a Benedictine monastery by his parents who could no longer look after him.

He was professed as a monk at 20 at Reichenau, and was literate in several languages, including Arabic, Greek and Latin and wrote about mathematics, astronomy and theology.

He was renowned as a musical composer (among his surviving works are officia for St. Afra and St. Wolfgang). He also wrote a treatise on the science of music, several works on geometry and arithmetics and astronomical treatises (including instructions for the construction of an astrolabe, at the time a very novel device in Western Europe). As a historian, he wrote a detailed chronicle from the birth of Christ to his own present day, for the first time compiling the events of the 1st millennium AD scattered in various chronicles in a single work, ordering them after the reckoning of the Christian era. One of his disciples Berthold of Reichenau continued it.  He built musical and astronomical instruments and was also a famed religious poet.

When he went blind in later life, he began writing hymns, the best known of which is this one..

He was beatified in 1863.

The antiphon was adopted by the Cistercians very early on (indeed some sources claim that St Bernard of Clairvaux added the last three lines in a sudden fit of inspiration on hearing the song.  The lines, however, appear in manuscripts predate the claimed event).

By the fourteenth century it had entered the Roman Office at Compline, where it continues to feature in the traditional form of the Office.

The text

Here is the text as given in the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Salve, Regína,
Mater misericórdiæ,
vita, dulcédo et spes nostra, salve.
Ad te clamámus,
éxsules fílii Evæ.
Ad te suspirámus geméntes et flentes
in hac lacrimárum valle.
Eia ergo, advocáta nostra,
illos tuos misericórdes óculos
ad nos convérte.
Et Iesum benedíctum fructum ventris tui,
nobis, post hoc exsílium, osténde.
O clemens, o pia, o dulcis Virgo María!

Though not included in the Compendium, at Compline and at other times, a versicle and prayer usually accompanies it:

V. Ora pro nobis, sancta Dei Genetrix.
R. Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.


Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui gloriosae Virginis Matris Mariae corpus et animam, ut dignum Filii tui habitaculum effici mereretur, Spiritu Sancto cooperante, praeparasti: da, ut cuius commemoratione laetamur; eius pia intercessione, ab instantibus malis, et a morte perpetua liberemur. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

You can hear the prayer read out loud in Latin here.

The Compendium actually provides two alternative translations, a UK (because Brits apparently prefer a few thees and thous still?) and a US version.  Here they both are for reference purposes:


Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
Hail our life, our sweetness and our hope!
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.
To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears!
Turn, then, most gracious Advocate,
thine eyes of mercy toward us,
and after this, our exile,
show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving,
O sweet Virgin Mary.


Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To you do we cry,
poor banished children of Eve.
To you do we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this valley of tears
Turn then, most gracious advocate,
your eyes of mercy toward us,
and after this exile
show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb,
O clement, O loving,
O sweet Virgin Mary.

And here is a translation of the versicle and prayer:

V. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray
Almighty, everlasting God, who by the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, didst prepare the body and soul of the glorious Virgin-Mother Mary to become a worthy dwelling for Thy Son; grant that we who rejoice in her commemoration may, by her loving intercession, be delivered from present evils and from the everlasting death. Amen.

Looking at the Latin

And here is a word by word literal translation to help you with the Latin:

Salve (Hail), Regína (Queen),
Mater (mother) misericórdiæ (of mercy),
vita (life), dulcédo (sweetness) et (and) spes (hope) nostra (our), salve (hail).
Ad (to) te (you) clamámus (we cry out),
éxsules (banished/exiled) fílii (sons/children) Evæ (of Eve).
Ad (to) te (you) suspirámus (we sigh) geméntes (groaning/sighing) et (and) flentes (weeping)
in (in) hac (this) lacrimárum (of tears) valle (valley/vale).
Eia (turn then!/come then!) ergo (therefore), advocáta (advocate) nostra (our),
illos (these) tuos (your) misericórdes (merciful) óculos (eyes) ad (to) nos (us) convérte (turn).
Et (and) Iesum (Jesus) benedíctum (blessed) fructum (fruit) ventris (of the womb) tui (your),
nobis (to us), post (after) hoc (this) exsílium (exile), osténde (show).
O clemens (o clement/loving/merciful), o pia (o holy/devoted/affectionate/loving), o dulcis (O sweet) Virgo (Virgin) María (Mary)!

Here is sung in the 'simple' tone:

And in the solemn version:

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