Lexicon of Marian Art Music©

Selection of the Musical Forms
Selection of Composers
The Tables


 "The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as a combination of sacred music and words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy...." (Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC) 112)

Just a glimpse at the huge quantity of masterpieces and the great names associated with them is enough to confirm that the Second Vatican Council was right indeed in calling the musical tradition of the Catholic Church a real "treasure," and in insisting that: "The treasury of sacred music is to be preserved and cultivated with great care." (SC 114)

When we examine this "treasure," we discover that the Blessed Virgin Mary occupies an extraordinary place in it. In fact, through the centuries, a large number of composers have been drawn to the Mother of God, and they have dedicated to her some of their more inspired works. The quantity of these works is so great that it is impossible to give a complete list of them; the quality of many of them is such that they can rank among the best music ever written.

Unfortunately, this "treasure" of Marian art music is now little known and very rarely performed. The purpose of the present work is to call attention to the existence of this beautiful music in honor of Our Lady, and to invite all those in charge of liturgical worship to become acquainted with it, and make use of it according to their possibilities.

It is not the purpose of this work to talk about the history and characteristics of each musical form; to give information about the possible authors and dates of composition of the various texts; or to analyze them from the Mariological point of view.

What we seek is to gather in one source as much information as possible from material that is found in encyclopedias and endless lists of works of different composers. This contribution hopes to be an interesting "manual" for musicians and anyone who is interested in religious music in general, and Marian music in particular. It can also serve as a practical index for organists and choir directors of parishes.


So much has been written in honor of Our Lady that it is not possible to mention every thing. Therefore, four main categories of Marian music have been selected:

  • Antiphons
  • Sequences
  • Canticles
  • Hymns
For each category have been chosen the most representative examples. From the Marian Antiphons, the four Marian Antiphons most commonly used in the Liturgy today:
  • Alma Redemptoris Mater
  • Ave Regina Caelorum
  • Regina Caeli Laetare
  • Salve Regina

And the extremely important antiphon, the Ave Maria.
From the Sequences, the well-known Stabat Mater. 
From the Canticles, the most famous of all, the Magnificat. 
From the Hymns, the beautiful Ave Maris Stella.


Composers were chosen by country: Seventeen European countries were selected for this study, and the most significant composers of each country were included. The period of time analyzed extends from the twelfth to the twentieth centuries. In all, 155 composers were examined.


The results of this investigation are synthesized in four tables.


In the first table , the composers are organized by country and by date. Since it is equally interesting to see who has written Marian music, and who has not, a "Yes/No" section is included here.

 See Table I


In the second table, the musical forms (Antiphons, Sequences, Canticles, and  Hymn) and the name of the composers who have written in these forms are given. This is intended for those who are interested in a specific form, e.g. Magnificat, and want to know who has written Magnificats.

 See Table II


The third table lists again the musical forms and the pages in the Liber Usualis where the Latin text and Gregorian Chant melodies are found. Since many composers make use of these melodies in their compositions, it is useful to know where to find them quickly. The Latin texts that were set to music are also included here.

 See Table III


In this table are included all the composers who wrote Marian music in the selected musical forms (Antiphons, Sequences, Canticles, Hymns), with all the information that could be found  and might be useful about each work: Date of composition, opus number, singers and/or instruments needed to perform the work, etc. This list is not exhaustive, but opens the way for further investigation. It is our hope that this Lexicon will stimulate an ever increasing interest in this beautiful music and the desire to see it become an integral part of our Church life.

 See Table  IV


To use these abbreviations effectively, leave this document at this point when switching to and viewing other documents. Use the "go" command or the "back" and "forward" to switch back and forth.
A - Alto
ad lib. - ad libitum
arr. - arrangement
arrs. - arrangements
B - Bass
Bar. - Baritone
BarB - Baritone Bass
bc - thorough-bass
db - double bass
eng hn - English horn
fl - flute
hn - horn
insts - instruments
Mezz/Bar - Mezzo-Soprano/Baritone
movts - movements
ob - oboe
obo d'amore - oboe d'amore
Op. - Opus
orch - orchestra
org - organ
pf - pianoforte
post. - posthumous
rec - recorder
S - Soprano
str - string
T - Tenor
tbn - trombone
timp - timpani
tpt - trumpet
v - voice
va - viola
vc - violoncello
vle - viole
vn - violin
vv - voices
? - unknown


APEL, WILLY, Harvard Dictionary of Music, Harvard University Press, MA. 1962.

ARNOLD, DENIS, New Oxford Companion to Music, Oxford University Press, N.Y. 1983.

BAKER, THEODORE, Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, 8th.ed., revised by Nicolas Slonimsky, Shirmer Books, Macmillan Inc; N.Y. 1984.

DAVISON, ARCHIBALD T. and WILLI APEL, Historical Anthology of Music, Oriental, Medieval and Renaissance Music, Harvard University Press, MA 1959.

HULL, ARTHUR EAGLEFIELD, Dictionary of Modern Music and Musicians, 1924.

KENNEDY, MICHAEL, Oxford Dictionary of Music, Oxford University Press, N.Y. 1985.

SADIE, STANLEY, Ed., The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 6th. ed., NY 1980, 20 Vols.

SANTUCCI, PELLEGRINO, La Madonna nella Musica, Capella Musicale S. Maria dei Servi, Bologna 1981, 2 Vols.

SCHMITZ, EUGENE, Das Madonnen Ideal in der Tonkunst, Leipzig 1918.

THOMPSON, KENNETH, A Dictionary of 20th. Century Composers 1911-1971, Faher & Faber, London 1973.

THOMPSON, OSCAR, International Cyclopedia of Music, Dodo, Mead &Co., N.Y. 1985.

The Liber Usualis, with Introduction and Rubrics in English. Ed. by The Benedictines of Solesmes, Society of St. John the Evangelist, Desclee & Co., Catholic Education Press, Washington D.C. 1934.

The Liber Usualis, with Introduction and Rubrics in English. Ed. by The Benedictines of Solesmes, Desclee Company, Tournai (Belgium) - New York 1963.

©This material was compiled by Deyanira Flores, S.T.D. for The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute.
Return to the top of this document

Return to the Music Menu


This page, maintained by The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute, Dayton, Ohio 45469-1390, and created by Michael P. Duricy , was last modified Thursday, 02/03/2011 15:16:19 EST by Ramya Jairam . Please send any comments to jroten1@udayton.edu.

URL for this page is http://campus.udayton.edu