Ave Maria Text and Translation

The English version of this original Latin prayer

Ave Maria prayer
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"Ave Maria" is one of the best known and beloved pieces of Christian religious music. The version written by Franz Schubert is widely sung at Catholic masses and other Christian religious ceremonies: and its text is a literal translation into Latin of the famous "Hail Mary" prayer.

The "Hail Mary" prayer is itself the chief Catholic prayer to the Virgin Mary, the mother of the Christian God. The text is said to be a direct quote from the Archangel Gabriel, when he descends from heaven and appears to the Virgin Mary, telling her she has been blessed to carry the lord, Jesus Christ, within her womb.

The "Hail Mary" text is found in the New Testament of the Judeo-Christian Bible, in the book of Luke, chapter 1, verse 28. Like most books in the New Testament, Luke was originally written in Koine Greek, a language common to the diaspora Christian communities in the eastern Mediterranean. The prayer's eventual evolution into Latin began nearly 1,000 years ago and likely took 500 or more years to reach its current form.

Ave Maria Greek Original Text 

Θεοτόκε Παρθένε, χαῖρε, κεχαριτωμένη Μαρία,
ὁ Κύριος μετὰ σοῦ. εὐλογημένη σὺ ἐν γυναιξί,
καὶ εὐλογημένος ὁ καρπὸς τῆς κοιλίας σου,
ὅτι Σωτῆρα ἔτεκες τῶν ψυχῶν ἡμῶν.

Ave Maria Latin Text

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum.
Benedicta tu in mulieribus,
et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus.
Sancta Maria, Mater Dei,
ora pro nobis peccatoribus,
nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

Ave Maria English Translation

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and in the hour of our death. Amen.

Famous Ave Maria Songs and their Composers

The Ave Maria is one of the most recognizable and well-known prayers throughout the western world, known to many people who are not Christian or religious at all. Its content inspired leagues of composers and musicians to write some of their most memorable works. Below is a handful of the most famous of the Ave Maria compositions that are heard throughout the world.

  • Bach/Gounod (listen)
    In 1853, French composer, Charles Gounod improvised a melody to Johann Sebastian Bach's Piano Prelude No. 1 in C Major, which Bach published in 1722 as part of "The Well-Tempered Clavier," a book of piano music Bach wrote to sell to students interested in learning and perfecting their piano technique.  Gounod's work was originally published for violin/cello with piano and harmonium, but in 1859, after receiving a request from Pierre-Joseph-Guillaume Zimmermann (Gounod's future father-in-law who transcribed Gounod's improvisation) Jacques Léopold Heugel released a vocal version with the melody set to the text of the Ave Maria prayer.
  • Mascagni (listen)
    Mascagni's Ave Maria is an adaption of his beloved Intermezzo (a piece of music performed between two scenes or acts in an opera) from the opera, Cavalleria Rusticana.
  • Schubert (listen)
    In 1825, Schubert composed "Ellens Dritter Gesang" (Ellen's Third Song) and included it in his collection of seven songs titled ​"Liederzyklus vom Fräulein vom See" ("The Lady of the Lake"). Schubert based his work on Walter Scott's similarly titled epic poem. Schubert's original published score for this song was not set to the Latin prayer despite its opening phrase "Ave Maria."  
  • Stravinsky (listen)
    Stravinsky was raised in the Russian Orthodox Church, but in his young adult life, his religious practices were "put on hold" so to speak.  It wasn't until he returned to the church that he wrote a series of three motets intended for use within the orthodoxy: "The Lord's Prayer" (1926), "Credo" (1932), and "Ave Maria" (1934). Stravinsky composed all three works in Slavic text, then fifteen years later, after moving to the United States, he republished the works with Latin texts.
  • Verdi (listen)
    This sublime aria is sung in the fourth act of Giuseppe Verdi's opera, "Otello"by Desdemona. Knowing she may die that evening at the hands of her husband Otello, Desdemona asks her servant Emilia to prepare her wedding gown with instructions to bury her in it in case she dies that evening.  After Emilia leaves, Desdemona prays to Virgin Mary, asking her to pray for the sinner, the weak, the oppressed, the mighty, the unfortunate, and for them in the hour of their death.