by James Greer
The Stabat Mater is a 13th-century hymn to Mary. There are actually two Stabat Maters: the Stabat Mater Dolorosa (about the Sorrows of Mary) and the Stabat Mater Speciosa (about the Nativity). The title refers to the first line: Stabat mater dolorosa, or “the mother sadly stood,” and: Stabat mater speciosa, “the beautfiul mother stood.” We are concerned here with the former, though the latter is also lovely.
The text has been set to music many times over the centuries, including by Palestrina, Vivaldi, Rossini, and Arvo Pärt. My favorite is the version by Dvorák. There’s also a black metal version by Anorexia Nervosa, if that’s your thing.
Literal English translation side by side with the Latin original (including variations) can be found here.