With the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin coming up this weekend I wanted to present our dearest Mother Mary, (and you dear readers) with a bouquet of my absolute favorite marian hymns. There are so many amazing and beautiful hymns to Our Lady it was exceptionally hard for this ex-choir member (of 15+ years) to narrow the list down but after much youtube searching and getting lost in many hours of beautiful music I finally got it to a manageable size (but feel free to let me know your own favorites in the comments). I adore latin, chant, and polyphony so for those that don’t have translations of the lyrics included in the video I have placed English translations linked to the titles above the videos. Enjoy!
10.) Immaculate Mary (The Lourdes Hymn)- Can’t go wrong with the classics. This one almost everyone knows and it’s one of the first I ever learned (when I was a wee choir-ling). It’s overwhelming popularity and well-known lyrics have secured it’s spot here on my list (because it’s much more fun to sing hymns with EVERYONE!).
9.) Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen)- Most Catholics are familiar with the prayer Hail Holy Queen. This version set to music is by far one of my favorites. It’s another that many, many people know so once one person starts singing it it’s normal for a lot of people to join in.
8.) Ave Maria- The Hail Mary. No list of Marian hymns would be complete without it. There are so, so, so, so many versions of this beautiful prayer, and I’ve sung…well, a lot of them. This version in eight part harmony by Mendelssohn is one of my favorites, though I found it impossible to pick an absolute favorite. Probably not something that would be sung as part of liturgy due to it’s complexity and scope (and um, the whole orchestra) but there is something truly heavenly about listening to the intricate interplay of eight harmonies all praising our Blessed Mother together.
7.) Salve Mater Misericordiae -A Marian hymn written in the 11th century. A bit of a departure from the eight part complexity of Mendelssohn, but I find this arrangement of Salve Mater Misericordiae an easy hymn for those who are just starting to learn Gregorian chant to pick up due to the simple and repetitive melody. Once you got it down, it’s easy to belt it out!
6.) Tota Pulcra Es– There are numerous arrangements of this 4th century hymn (including composers such as Pablo Casals, Heinrich Isaac, G.G. Gorczycki and many others) it is most commonly used as an antiphon during Second Vespers during the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th. The most traditional arrangement is by Maurice Duruflé but I’ve provided my favorite, by Ola Gjeilo.
5.) Ave Maria, Virgo Serena– The translation of the title is Hail Mary, Serene Virgin. While the video does not mention it, this arrangement is by Josquin De Prez, who is well known for his polyphonic motets. Definitely take a look at the translation of the lyrics as they are quite beautiful.
4.) Ave Generosa– “Hail thee, Noble One” is a bit of an anomaly when it comes to marian hymns. The lyrics are attributed to St. Hildegard von Bingen and while many hymns focus on Mary’s humility and meekness, the opening of this hymn glorifies Mary’s nobility, adding that she has a “piercing gaze of chastity”. To me it’s an interesting departure from the norm, reflecting more her role as Queen of Heaven.
3.) Ave Maris Stella by Dufay- The title translated means Hail Star of the Ocean, a title of the Blessed Virgin. It is used in the Divine Office for Vespers on Marian Feasts and the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin. I like this particular arrangement by Guillaume Dufay because it’s got that medieval polyphonic harmonization that I adore. The lyrics are also exceptionally beautiful.
2.) There Is No Rose of Such Virtue- Some of the best marian hymns are also Christmas Carols. This one is written and sung (usually) in Middle English and as a huge Chaucer fan, and Middle English lover I find the lyrics to this beautiful, delicate hymn to be one of my absolute favorites.
1.) The Magnificat– Also known as the Canticle of Mary, the text is taken directly from the Gospel of Luke upon Mary’s arrival to her cousin Elizabeth. It is one of the eight oldest hymns known and is considered (perhaps) the oldest known Marian Hymn. For those who attend a sung mass in Latin, this is often sung at the end of Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. This particular rendition by the Daughters of Mary is sublime and deeply moving (translation: I cry every time I hear it).