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Are these the 17 most beautiful hymns to Mary?


VOCI Venezia | Youtube

Tom Hoopes - published on 05/13/18

We bet there are a few here you've never heard.

May is the most beautiful month, so of course it is dedicated to Mary. But what are the most beautiful Marian hymns?

I asked that question on Facebook, and heard from friends far and wide. I loved many of their suggestions — some of which introduced me to hymns I had never heard before. Others were hymns that may have once been favorites, but which I have now sung maybe 35 or 50 times too many.

I pared the list down to my personal 17 favorites. Please note your own favorites in the comments!

17: Lovely Lady Dressed in Blue

The song itself may not be my favorite, but anyone who has heard Fulton Sheen mention this prayer —reading it dramatic fashion to end a talk — will appreciate “

Lovely Lady Dressed in Blue
” set to music.

16: Bring Flowers of the Rarest

I’m not always in the mood for Irish tenors, but when I am, I want to hear them sing the 19th-century hymn “

Bring Flowers of the Rarest
” written by Mary E. Walsh that celebrates “the Queen of the May.”

15: O Mary of Graces

The beautiful hymn “

O Mary of Graces
” is translated from a
Gaelic original

14: You Were There

This Anglican boys choir from London includes a number of Marian hymns in its repertoire. “

You Were There
” is a contemporary hymn sung to God and to his mother, the queen of heaven.

13: Holy Mother

Marian pop songs range from the absurd (Elvis Presley’s wonderfully cheesy “

Miracle of the Rosary
”) to the sublime (Patty Griffin’s beautiful, introspective “
”) but here is one everyone can love, “
Holy Mother
,” which was a regular on the set list of Eric Clapton in his later years.

12: Behold, the Virgin Shall Be With Child

I love this Marian hymn that uses a text from Isaiah. “

Behold, the Virgin Shall Be With Child”
was written by two young musicians I met a long time ago when they were not yet able to handle instruments so well, Brendon and Natalie Mezzetti.

11: Dear Lady of Fatima

My wife and I were surprised one day at one of Atchison’s smaller churches (our small town has four Catholic churches) to hear the beautiful “

Dear Lady of Fatima
” by American Gladys Gollahon sung as a recessional hymn. We asked the singer, one of our confirmation students, how it ended up in the rotation and she said a couple of older parishioners requested it, remembering it from their youth.

10:Sing of Mary (Pure and Lowly)

I love when we get to sing “

Sing of Mary (Pure and Lowly
),” an early 20th-century hymn by Canadian Anglican Roland F. Palmer. I love that it is often attributed to “anonymous,” which makes its composer seem pure and lowly himself.

9:Ave Maria by Schubert

How could we not include the most popular

Ave Maria
? We hear it every Christmas from
Harry Connick Jr.
, but everybody has their favorite. You can’t go wrong with Andrea Bocelli:

8: Hail Holy Queen Enthroned Above.

Hail Holy Queen Enthroned Above
” is a lot of fun to sing — especially with the organ blaring and with a church full of singers. But no one had more fun with it that the makers of Sister Act.

7: Salve Regina


Salve Regina
is an irresistible old Latin Compline hymn that I know by heart though I never tried to memorize it. (“Gementes et flentes in hac lacrimarum valle …”). It’s the Latin inspiration for “Hail Holy Queen Enthroned Above.”

6: Ave Maria Angelus Domini by Franz Biebl

Here is another great “

Ave Maria
,” written in 1961 for a firemen’s choir, capable of bringing you to tears through the music alone.

5. The Akathist to the Theotokos

This 7th-century

“Akathist to the Theotokos
,” sometimes known by its “Rejoice Unwedded Bride” section, is a beautiful Eastern explanation of the greatness of the Blessed Mother.

4: Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming

When I asked for Marian hymns on Facebook, “

Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming
” was the first one mentioned. The original was a 16th-century German song, “
Es ist ein Ros entsprungen
.” Here is an English version by pop singer Sting.

3: Gabriel’s Message

Another one that Sting performs is “

Gabriel’s Message
” which is reportedly from a Basque folk carol, originally based on Angelus Ad Virginem, a 13th- or 14th-century Latin carol. Here is a version from one of my family’s favorite Christmas CDs, by the Christian group Jars of Clay.

2: O Sanctissima

O Sanctissima
is an 18th-century song sometimes called “The Sicilian Mariners Hymn.” Of course,
traditional versions
are the best, but you’ve got to love hearing Bing Crosby sing it.

1: Ave Maria by Bach/Gonoud

My favorite Marian hymn is the

Ave Maria by Bach/Gounod
. Charles Gounod set the theme over a Bach prelude (Prelude No. 1 in C major, BWV 846, from Book I of J.S. Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier). I like nearly
of the many versions of it, but Bobby McFarrin’s is the most fun, and he describes how the piece was written, too — though he leaves out the detail that Gounod improvised the melody but his father-in-law was there to write it down.

Sacred MusicVirgin Mary
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