The work was composed during the Middle Ages and originally appeared in Latin, the prevalent language of Western Christianity until modern times. Though traditionally ascribed to the eleventh-century German monk Hermann of Reichenau, it is regarded as anonymous by most musicologists. Traditionally it has been sung in Latin, though many translations exist. These are often used as spoken prayers.
Background and history
Marian antiphons have been sung, since the thirteenth century, at the close of Compline, the last Office of the day. Peter Canisius (d. 1597) noted that one praises God in Mary when one turns to her in song. Liturgically, the Salve Regina is the best known of four prescribed Marian Anthems recited after Compline, and, in some uses, after Lauds or other Hours. Its use after Compline is likely traceable to the monastic practice of intoning it in chapel and chanting it on the way to sleeping quarters.
It was set down in its current form at the Abbey of Cluny in the 12th century, where it was used as a processional hymn on Marian feasts. The Cistercians chanted the Salve Regina daily from 1218. It was popular at medieval universities as evening song, and according to Fr. Juniper Carol, it came to be part of the ritual for the blessing of a ship. While the anthem figured largely in liturgical and in general popular Catholic devotion, it was especially dear to sailors.
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui gloriosæ Virginis Matris Mariæ corpus et animam, ut dignum Filii tui habitaculum effici mereretur, Spiritu Sancto cooperante præparasti: da, ut cuius commemoratione lætamur; eius pia intercessione, ab instantibus malis, et a morte perpetua liberemur. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum.
(in the version used by Catholics in the United Kingdom and in the Anglo-Catholic version, the wording "mourning and weeping in this vale of tears" is used in the 5th line)
Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
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.
? Pray for us, O holy Mother of God,
? that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray:
Almighty, everlasting God, who by the co-operation of the Holy Spirit didst prepare the body and soul of the glorious Virgin-Mother Mary to become a dwelling-place meet for thy Son: grant that as we rejoice in her commemoration; so by her fervent intercession we may be delivered from present evils and from everlasting death. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Salve Regina was one of the Leonine Prayers, in which context the collect at the end was replaced by different text:
Let us pray:
O God, our refuge and our strength, look down with mercy upon the people who cry to Thee; and by the intercession of the glorious and immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God, of Saint Joseph her spouse, of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and of all the saints, in Thy mercy and goodness hear our prayers for the conversion of sinners, and for the liberty and exaltation of our Holy Mother the Church. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.
^Lawrence Gushee, "Hermannus Contractus [Hermann der Lahme, Hermann von Reichenau]," in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd edition (2001): "Although the most venerable ascriptions to Hermannus - the Marian antiphons Alma Redemptoris mater and Salve regina - have been taken away by most recent scholarship, the true authorship is still, and possibly will be for ever, the subject of controversy."