Through their teaching, their recordings, and above all their example, the monks of Saint Benedict Abbey in Saint-Benoît-du-Lac have been, for over 80 years, staunch advocates of the Gregorian chant [...]
Cantus Mariales: Medieval Sacred chants to the Virgin Mary
They spoke about it
Every century of the Christian era has witnessed the birth of glorious songs of praise to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. In this unanimus concert throughout the generations proclaiming Mary to be Blessed, the Middle Ages have played a significant exceptional role. In effect, the simple yet fervent devotion of this period towards the Queen of heaven and earth produced a wealth of hymns and chants.
Among all this sacred writing, there are many texts which are truly superior, either because of their depth of understanding of doctrine, or because of the candor and sincerity of the emotions expressed. Others offer a refreshing simplicity of text while others are remarkable for their use of Biblical imagery, which for the most pious of souls is of far superior value than any wordly imagery. Still others are masterpieces of rhythmic vitality and musical piety.
Unfortunately, many of these remarkable works of devotion left by our ancestors have been neglected, remaining bound in the confines of their dusty manuscripts. They are like precious flowers dried between the pages of a forgotten book.
Bringing this music back into the sunlight, thus allowing it to serve its purpose in praising God and comforting souls, in a worthy goal. We are therefore very happy to offer an edition of these Marian songs, some of which are from the Middle Ages while others are modern compositions written according to the rules of this ancient art.
Some of the ancient chants are not reproduced exactly as they were found in their original manuscripts, even the best of them. In some cases, it was useful or even necessary to stray somewhat from the original in order to adhere more closely to doctrine, to provide greater textual clarity or to offer a more pleasing disposition of the rhythm or melody. This should not come as a surprise, as we let ourselves be guided by our piety rather than by the need to produce a historically correct publication.
May pious souls everywhere accept with joy and benevolence this bouquet of Marian hymns. The blooms, of various types, colours and scents, were piously picked in the garden of the Church.
O loving Mother, how sweet it is
To find in you the source of our joy, O Mary!
And all you who cherish her
Before the altar, before the throne
Of the Virgin Mother of God Sing once more your sweet and expressive hymns
Excerpts from the Cantus Mariales’ preface, by Dom Joseph Pothier (1835-1923) abbot at the Saint-Wandrille Abbey.