Numerous authors have been proposed for what is said to be the most popular Marian antiphon; St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Adhemar de Monteil, Bishop of Le Puy (ca 1080 AD), and Peter of Compostela (930 AD). Herman Contractus, who wrote a number of well known Marian pieces, is the author favored by current scholarship. An interesting story exists describing its last three invocations. The Chronicles of Spires tell us that the final three invocations were added by St. Bernard (1091-1153). The hymn, so the story goes, originally ended with the word ostende. However, when St. Bernard was the Papal Legate in Germany, he heard the hymn being sung in the Church of Spires, threw himself upon his knees, and with a fit of sudden inspiration rang out with the words: O clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria. These three invocations have been repeated ever since and four stones in the Church mark the place where the holy doctor knelt. Unfortunately for the story, the lines appear in early manuscripts before this event was supposed to have taken place.
What we do know for certain is that the Salve Regina was used as a processional chant at Cluny by 1135. Around 1218 the Cistercians adopted it as a daily processional chant and in 1251 as an ending to Compline. Both the Dominicans and the Franciscans also adopted it around this same time and the Carmelites used it for a while in place of the last Gospel at Mass. Gregory IX (1227-1241) ordered it to be chanted after Compline on Fridays. From the 14th century down to today it has been a part of Compline for the Latin Rite. Traditionally this antiphon is recited at Compline from Trinity Sunday until Advent.
This hymn is said to be a favorite of our Lady herself by testimony of those who have reportedly seen her in visions. One account concerning this claim relates a vision St. Dominic had. He was entering a corridor of the monastery to resume his midnight prayer vigil when he chanced to raise his eyes and see three beautiful ladies approach him. He knelt before the principle lady and she blessed him. Even though St. Dominic recognized her, he begged her to tell him her name. The lady replied: "I am she whom you invoke every evening: and when you say, <<Eia ergo, advocata nostra.>> I prostrate myself before my Son, entreating Him to protect this Order." (From the Life of St. Dominic, Lacordaire).
Many writers have praised this hymn. St. Alphonsus comments upon the Salve Regina extensively in his Glories of Mary, and Father Taunton writes: "Its fragrance lingers over our soul when, at the end of a long day, or at the end of any Hour, we place our prayers in Mary's hands, that she, the pure and glorious one, may offer them with all the power of a Mother's love to her God, to that Son, the blessed Fruit of her womb. Our prayers coming through her hands will be doubly acceptable to her Son, and we shall be the sooner heard for the reverence He has for His Mother". It has also been recorded that the Salve Regina was recited by Columbus' men the evening before they sighted the New World the next morning.
Today this prayer is one of the final Marian Antiphons that conclude Compline in the Divine Office and it is also used in conjunction with the Rosary. A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who devoutly recite this prayer. The traditional collect, which is not part of the prayer proper, is given below
| SALVE, Regina, mater misericordiae, vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve. Ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevae. Ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes in hac lacrimarum valle.
|| HAIL holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
| Eia, ergo, advocata nostra, illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte. Et Iesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui, nobis post hoc exsilium ostende.
O clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria. Amen.
| Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us. And after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary. Amen.
| V. Ora pro nobis, sancta Dei Genetrix.
R. Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.
| V. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui gloriosae Virginis Matris Mariae corpus et animam, ut dignum Filii tui habitaculum effici mereretur, Spiritu Sancto cooperante, praeparasti: da, ut cuius commemoratione laetamur; eius pia intercessione, ab instantibus malis, et a morte perpetua liberemur. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
| Let us pray
Almighty, everlasting God, who by the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, didst prepare the body and soul of the glorious Virgin-Mother Mary to become a worthy dwelling for Thy Son; grant that we who rejoice in her commemoration may, by her loving intercession, be delivered from present evils and from the everlasting death. Amen.