Musicus Online Museum

Motet: Salve Regina

Motet: Salve Regina (Jean LeBrung)


The Marian prayer, “Salve Regina,” and its elaborate chant melody, were the most pervasive devotional incantations to the Virgin Mary in the Middle Ages. Traditionally sung from Trinity Sunday through the end of the liturgical year, the “Salve” was often performed after the daily office of Compline from the thirteenth century onwards. Its melody achieved the status of a popular tune, notably among sailors, and was mentioned in the journals of Christopher Columbus. In the fifteenth century, the “Salve” was sung in numerous new services in honor of the Virgin Mary, typically funded by lay confraternities in merchant cities such as Bruges, Antwerp and Ghent. Many leading Renaissance composers set the “Salve” text, often multiple times.

This setting of the “Salve Regina” was composed by the early sixteenth-century composer, Jean LeBrung, who sang bass in the chapel of Louis XII of France. It is copied in a manuscript consisting entirely of “Salve” settings, which survives today in Munich. LeBrung’s setting of this text alternates between unison plainchant phrases and fluid passages of florid polyphony. The chant melody still maintains a presence in these choral sections, whether stated clearly in long notes in the tenor or integrated – in decorated form – into imitative paragraphs involving multiple voices.

Salve Regina, mater misericordiae,


Vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve.


Ad te clamamus exsules filii Evae.


Ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes

in hac lacrimarum valle.


Eia, ergo, advocata nostra, illos tuos misericordes oculos

ad nos converte.


Et Iesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui, nobis post hoc exsilium ostende.


O clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria.

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 sigh, mourning and weeping

in this valley of tears.


Turn then, our Advocate, your eyes toward us.


And show unto us, after this our exile,

the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus.


O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.


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