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Ave Maris Stella


The first verse of an unrhymed accentual hymn in honor of Our Lady. There are seven strophes of four lines each, written in trochaic dimeter brachycatalectic with three trochees to each line. It was first recorded in the Codex Sangallensis 95, found in the Abbey of Sankt Gallen, dating from the 9th century. The hymn has been attributed to various authors: St. bernard of clairvaux paul the deacon, and Venantius fortunatus are the most frequently mentioned, although the MS date makes it obvious that it could not have been the work of Bernard. It was one of the most popular hymns used for marian feasts in the Middle Ages and was historically assigned in the Roman breviary as the vespers hymn for the Common of feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary as well as for the Saturday Office and the Little Office of Our Lady. The title by which Mary's intercession is sought, maris stella, is similar to those used in the Litany of Loreto. In the first strophe Mary is referred to as the gate of heaven, caeli porta, while the second stanza contrasts Mary's place in the work of redemption with Eve's responsibility for the Fall. The third stanza appeals for help and enlightenment, and in the fourth Mary is asked to use a mother's influence with her Son on our behalf. The fifth strophe recognizes the virtues we should follow if we are to reach the salvation described in the sixth stanza, ut videntes Iesum. The last stanza is a brief doxology. The poem, with great beauty and moving simplicity, has been translated many times, most notably by E. Caswall. The complete text with notes has been edited by C. Blume [Analecta Hymnica 51 (1908) 140142].

Bibliography: f. j. mone, ed., Lateinische Hymnen des Mittelalters, 3 v. (Freiburg 185355) 2:216229. f. b. plaine, "Hymni Marialis Ave Maris Stella Expositio," Studien und Mitteilungen aus dem Benedictiner-und Cistercienser Orden 14 (1893) 244255. g. m. dreves, "Der Hymnus vom Meerestern," Stimmen aus Maria Laach 50 (1896) 558569. p. wagner, "Le due melodie dell'inno Ave Maris Stella," Rassegna Gregoriana 1 (1902) 7375. g. bas, Rhythme Grégorien (Rome 1906) 1519. e. costanzi, "Quando invaluerit disciplina genuflectendi ad 1 stroph. Hymni Ave Maris Stella," Ephemerides liturgicae 42 (1928) 322326. m. britt, ed., The Hymns of the Breviary and Missal (new ed. New York 1948) 347349. a. dal zotto, "Ricerche sull'autore dell' Ave Maris Stella," Aevum 25 (1951) 494503. j. carcia and e. r. panyagua, "Estudios de Ave Maris Stella," Helmantica 8 (1959) 421475. a. molien, Catholicisme 1:111112. h. lausberg, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 195765) 1:114142. j. szÖvÉrffy, Die Annalen der lateinischen Hymnendichtung (Berlin 196465) 1:219220.

[b. j. comaskey]

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