Irae: famous Latin hymn about the Day of Judgment
“Dies ____” (Latin hymn); Dies follower; Classic hymn
2 times a year
Chant – “Dies Irae”
Iræ is a famous Latin hymn written by Thomas of Celaeno. It
is often judged to be the best medieval Latin poem, differing
from classical Latin by its accentual (non-quantitative) stress,
and its rhymed lines. The meter is trochaic. The poem describes
the Day of Judgment, the last trumpet summoning souls before the
throne of God, where the good will be delivered and the evil will
be cast into eternal flames.
Last Judgment – Fresco in the Sistine Chapel by
Iræ! dies illa
sæclum in favilla
David cum Sibylla!
of Wrath! That day (which) will scatter the universe into embers,
by the witness of David and the Sibyl!'
tremor est futurus,
judex est venturus,
trembling is to come, when the Judge arrives, everything drawn
together to be shattered.'
mirum spargens sonum
omnes ante thronum.
trumpet, casting a wondrous sound through the tombs of all
nations, gathers all before the Throne.'
stupebit et natura,
shall be stunned, and nature, when creation rises again, to
answer the Judge.'
quo totum continetur,
written book shall be brought forth, in which all is contained,
from which the world will be judged.'
ergo cum sedebit,
when the Judge shall sit, whatever is hidden shall be clear, no
unpunished thing shall remain.'
sum miser tunc dicturus?
vix justus sit securus?
am I, wretched, to say, What patron (am I) to call, when the just
will (only) narrowly be safe?'
salvandos salvas gratis,
me fons pietatis.
of awesome majesty, who freely saves the chosen, save me, O
fountain of grace'.
sum causa tuæ viæ:
me perdas illa die.
gracious Jesus, that I am the cause of your journey; do not
forget me that day.'
me, sedisti lassus:
labor non sit cassus.
me, you sat exhausted; you redeemed me by suffering on the Cross;
so great a work should not be in vain.'
judge of vengeance, grant me the gift of forgiveness, before the
day of reckoning'.
rubet vultus meus:
groan as though guilty, sin reddens my face; spare the
supplicant, O God'.
quoque spem dedisti.
who forgave Mary (Magdalene), and heard the plea of the thief
(Dismas), have also given me some hope.'
meæ non sunt dignæ:
tu bonus fac benigne,
perenni cremer igne.
prayers are unworthy; but you, the Good, show me favour, that I
may not be consumed by eternal fire.'
oves locum præsta,
ab hædis me sequestra,
in parte dextra.
me a place among the sheep, and keep me from the goats, standing
at your right hand.'
me cum benedictis.
the slanderers silenced, sentenced to piercing flames, call me
with the blessed.'
supplex et acclinis,
contritum quasi cinis:
curam mei finis.
I plead, (my) contrite heart like ash: carry my trouble until the
poem appears complete as it stands at this point. Some scholars
question whether the remainder is an addition made in order to
suit the great poem for liturgical use, for the last stanzas
discard the consistent scheme of triple rhymes in favor of rhymed
couplets, while the last two lines abandom rhyme for assonance
and are, moreover, catalectic:
resurget ex favilla
ergo parce, Deus:
eis requiem. Amen.
day will be full of tears, when from the grave, guilty mankind
rises to be judged. Therefore, have mercy upon me, O God; sweet
Lord Jesus, grant them eternal rest. Amen'.
is sometimes translated 'fount of piety.'
inspiration of the hymn seems to have come from the Vulgate
translation of Zephaniah I:15-16:
iræ, dies illa, dies tribulationis et angustiæ, dies
calamitatis et miseriæ, dies tenebrarum et caliginis, dies
nebulæ et turbinis, dies tubæ et clangoris super
civitates munitas et super angulos excelsos.
day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of
wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day
of clouds and thick darkness, a day of the trumpet and alarm
against the fenced cities, and against the high towers. (KJV)
oldest text of the sequence is found, with slight verbal
variations, in a 13th century manuscript in the Biblioteca
Nazionale at Naples. It is a Franciscan calendar missal that must
date between 1253 - 1255 for it does not contain the name of
Saint Clare, who was canonized in 1255, and whose name would have
been inserted if the manuscript were of later date.
words have often been set to music as part of the Requiem
service, originally as a sombre Gregorian chant. Famous classical
versions include those by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Giuseppe Verdi
and Hector Berlioz.
traditional Gregorian melody has also been quoted in a number of
other classical compositions, among them Berlioz's Symphonie
Franz Liszt's Totentanz,
and several pieces by Sergei Rachmaninoff, including Rhapsody
on a Theme of Paganini,
Isle of the Dead
and the finale of his final large work, the Opus 45 Symphonic
hymn was used as a sequence in the Roman Catholic Requiem service
until the Missal of Paul VI, released in 1972. (It is still
permitted as an optional sequence at that Mass). The hymn is
suggested in the current Latin Breviary (Editio
from 2000) for use in the Liturgy of the Hours during the last
week of Ordinary Time, leading up to the feast of Christ the
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article "Dies Irae".