O Maria, Deu maire

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Fourth stanza, explaining how Jesus was born of Mary to save sinners:
Since he was of woman born,
God saved women;
And he was born a man
To save men.

O Maria, Deu maire ("O Mary, mother of God") is an Old Occitan song, a hymn to the Virgin Mary, unique in being both the only song from the Saint Martial school (the chantry of the Abbey of Saint Martial at Limoges) that is entirely in the vernacular (having no Latin stanza or refrain) and the only medieval Occitan song with extant musical notation for all its (twelve) stanzas.[1] It dates to the 1090s and is preserved in MS f. lat. 1139 of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.[2] It has been translated into English.[3]

A liturgical song, O Maria was designed to communicate sacred truth to the people in a language they could understand, although usually this was done through a mixture of Latin and vernacular verses. The melody of the piece basically repeats for each stanza with only minor variations. The later songs of the troubadours, composed in the same style, were never transcribed with more than one stanza of music. It has been suggested that, like O Maria, subsequent stanzas were melodically similar with only minor variations. Similarities have been drawn between the music of O Maria and that of a ninth-century hymn to the Virgin, Ave maris stella ("Hail, star of the sea"),[4] and also between O Maria and Reis glorios, verais lums e clardatz ("Glorious King, true light and brilliance"), an alba by the troubadour Guiraut de Bornelh (fl.c.1200). The latter may be a contrafactum or just a metrical imitation, although its words cannot be presumed to have any similar religious significance.[5]


  1. ^ For the importance of the work, and a new English translation, see William D. Paden and Frances F. Paden, edd., Troubadour Poems from the South of France (D. S. Brewer, 2007), 3 and 18–19.
  2. ^ A photograph of folio 49r can be seen in John Haines, Eight Centuries of Troubadours and Trouvères: The Changing Identity of Medieval Music (Cambridge University Press, 2004), 17.
  3. ^ An Occitan/English edition can be found in Howell D. Chickering and Margaret Louise Switten, edd., The Medieval Lyric (Mount Holyoke College, 1988), I, 21–29.
  4. ^ An edition of this poem with translation can be found in Frederick Brittain, ed., The Penguin Book of Latin Verse (Penguin, 1962), 129.
  5. ^ For Guiraut's poem in translation, with an introduction, see Paden and Paden, 92–93.