Sub tuum praesidium – a polyphonic video recording
by Nicholas Lemme
The Marian prayer Sub tuum praesidium is thought to be the oldest of prayers dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Ancient forms of the prayer have been found in Greek, Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, and Latin. A third century Egyptian papyrus fragment of the prayer in its Greek form can still be viewed today at the John Rylands Library in England.
Traditionally, the prayer was sung in Litanies to the Blessed Virgin Mary and after the night Office of Compline. In seminary life it is often said at the conclusion of each class.
sancta Dei Genitrix:
sed a periculis cunctis
libera nos semper,
we take refuge
Holy Mother of God;
do not despise
but of all dangers
deliver us always
This prayer, familiar to most by its traditional chant melody, has been a favorite of saints and composers alike throughout the ages. Blessed Karl of Austria and Empress Zita are said to have had the prayer’s first lines, “Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, sancta Dei Genitrix,” engraved on their wedding rings, and composers, such as Palestrina, Haydn, Mozart, and Camille Saint-Saëns, set it to music after being inspired by its text.
In October of 2022 Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary was invited to sing Vespers and Benediction at the Cathedral of St. Cecilia in Omaha, NE. This is a live recording of a setting of the text by French Baroque composer, Marc Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704). Charpentier wrote a great number of sacred works whilst being under the employment of Mlle Guise (cousin of King Louis XIV). In addition to writing works for the King’s son, the Dauphin, he also was employed in writing music for Carmelite, Benedictine, and Cistercian monasteries and convents whilst living in Paris. The premier occasion for the following composition is unknown.
Nicholas Lemme is Professor of Gregorian chant, sacred polyphony, and voice at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary, and Choir Master at St. Francis of Assisi Oratory in Lincoln. You can learn more about his work on his website www.nicholaslemme.com.
March 3, 2023