Thursday, February 03, 2022

Ave Regina Caelorum

In the Breviary of St Pius V, the four Marian antiphons for the end of Compline are each assigned to a specific part of the year; Alma Redemptoris Mater is said in Advent and the Christmas season, Ave, Regina caelorum from the evening of February 2nd until Spy Wednesday, Regina caeli in Eastertide, and Salve Regina from Trinity Sunday to the end of the liturgical year. Before the Tridentine reform, however, there was a lot of variation in their use. In a Roman Breviary printed for the Franciscans in 1529, the Regina caeli is assigned to the Easter season, but there are no rubrics about when to sing the others, and there is also a fifth antiphon, Quam pulchra; the same arrangement is found in the post-Conciliar Liturgy of the Hours, with Sub tuum praesidium added to the traditional group of four.

There were also variations in the text of the Ave Regina Caelorum, which originally had a less regular rhyme; the more regular version currently used dates from the revision of the Breviary promulgated by Pope Clement VIII (1592-1605) in 1602. Prior to that, the Roman version read as follows:

Ave, Regina caelorum,
Ave, Domina Angelorum,
Salve, radix et porta (or ‘Salve, radix sancta’)
Ex qua mundo lux est orta.
Gaude, gloriosa,
Super omnes speciosa;
Vale, valde decora
Et pro nobis semper Christum exora.

From a Roman Breviary printed in Venice in 1582
With an occasional variation, this is the version known to composers working before the 1602 revision, such as Gaspar van Weerbeke, a contemporary of Josquin des Prez, and representative of the same Franco-Flemish school of polyphony (ca. 1445-1516).

and Tomás Luis de Victoria (ca. 1548-1611).

Here is the newer text, in a polyphonic setting with instruments by Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla, a Spanish composer born around 1590, who served as master of the chapel at the cathedral of Puebla, Mexico, from 1628 until his death in 1664.

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