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Salve Mundi Salutare

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A poem in honour of the various members of Christ on the Cross. A fifteenth-century manuscript ascribes it to St. Bonaventure, and Daniel thinks that this "inspired singer of the Cross" could well have composed it. The commonest ascription is to St. Bernard; and Trench thinks that this and other poems "were judged away from him on very slight and insufficient grounds by Mabillon", who places the hymn among the spurious (aliena et supposititia) works of the saint (P.L., CLXXXIV, 1319-24). Although the saint died in 1153, and no manuscript of the hymn antedates the fourteenth century, Daniel favours the ascription of two of the cantos to the saint. Mone judged the hymn of French origin, and declared that all hope of restoring the text correctly lay in the future discovery of French manuscripts This task was attempted by M. Hauréau ("Poèmes latins attribués à Saint Bernard", 1890, pp. 70-73), who, finding it in only three manuscripts (two in Paris, one at Grenoble), all of the fifteenth century, thinks it incredible that the hymn should have been composed by St. Bernard.

It is divided into seven cantos, headed respectively: "Ad Pedes", "Ad Genua", "Ad Manus", "Ad Latus", "Ad Pectus", "Ad Cor", "Ad Faciem" (To the Feet, Knees, Hands, Side, Breast, Heart, Face). Each canto contains five stanzas of ten lines each, except the canto "Ad Cor", which has seven. The manuscripts give many variant texts and many additional titles (as "To the Mouth", "Shoulders", "Ears", "the Scourging", "the Crowning"). Mone accepts only four cantos (To the Feet, Knees, Hand, Side) as original. Daniel accepts but two original cantos (those addressing the Feet and the Knees), but not their titles, which he believes of later coinage. He thinks the oldest text is found in a Lichtenthal manuscript (fifteenth century) containing only the cantos beginning "Salve mundi salutare" and "Salve, salve rex sanctorum", under the "probably true" title of "Planctus super passionem Domini". "Whoever," he says, "reads the first hymn carefully, must see that it concerns the whole form of Christ suffering, and that the feet are mentioned for the sole reason that the poet places himself at the foot of the cross, prostrate and embracing the feet of the Saviour. The second poem, also, deals with the Passion generally, and only once, and passingly, alludes to the knees." He attributes both the titles and the elaborations to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, when the devotion to the Five Wounds was growing. "Then the verses of Bernard offered convenient warps or threads in which might be interwoven the woof of devotion to the wounds singly." The first lines of the cantos are: 1. Salve mundi salutare (Ad Pedes); 2. Salve Jesu, Rex sanctorum (Ad Genua); 3. Salve Jesu, paster bone (Ad Manus); 4. Salve Jesu, summe bonus (Ad Latus); 5. Salve, salus mea, Deus (Ad Pectus); 6. Summi regis cor aveto (Ad Cor); 7. Salve caput cruentatum (Ad Faciem).

In St. Bernard's "Opuscula" (Venice, 1495), the seventh canto is addressed "To the Whole Body", and commences: "Salve Jesu reverende". Julian gives the first lines of some translations (by non-Catholics) of all the cantos except three and five, and remarks that "some of the parts have suffered from neglect", and that "this should be remedied by an able translator". In the second edition of the "Dict. of Hymnology", he refers to the translation of Mrs. E. M. Shapcote (a convert to Catholicism) and gives the date as 1873. This was published first in the "Rosary Magazine" (1877 and 1878) and republished by Burns and Oates, London, 1879; its title is: "A Rhythmical Prayer to the Sacred Members of Jesus Hanging upon the Cross".

The stanzaic form is that used by Mrs. Shapcote in one of her latest works ("Mary, the Perfect Woman", Manresa Press, 1903), and may be illustrated by the first stanza of canto 5 (To the Breast):

O God of my Salvation, hail to Thee;
O Jesus, Sweetest Love, all hail to Thee;
O Venerable Breast, I worship Thee;
O Dwelling-place of Love, I fly to Thee,
With trembling touch adore and worship Thee.

A different arrangement of the poem, found in Horst's "Paradisus animae christianae" (1644), has been translated by Canon Oakeley (1850), and (probably) by W. J. Copeland. The first lines of both are given by Julian. The paucity of Catholic translations is doubtless due to the fact that the hymn appears never to have been in liturgical use. However, the Roman Breviary hymn "Jesu dulcis amor meus" (Lauds of the feast of the Most Holy Winding Sheet of Our Lord, assigned to Friday after the second Sunday in Lent) is made up of lines taken, with some alterations, from widely separated cantos. This short poem contains five stanzas of the type: "Jesu, dulcis amor meus" (l. 36); "Ac si praesens sis, accedo" (l. 6); "Te complector cum affectu' (l. 13); "Tuorum memor vulnerum" (l. 15). The following stanzas comprise lines 8, 97, (?), 65; 321 (Salve caput cruentatum), 326, 328, 330; 156 (Salve latus Salvatoris), 166, 169, 170; 106, 116, (?), 40. This curiously constructed hymn (the lines are here numbered as they are found in P.L., loc. cit.) has neither rhyme nor classical quantity, while the fourth line of each stanza is in iambic rhythm and the other three lines are in trochaic rhythm. Three translations are indicated below.


JULIAN, Dictionary of Hymnology (London, 1907), pp. 989 and 1697, give first lines of trs. from the Latin and German; DANIEL, Thesaurus hymnologicus, I, 232 and note, p. 233, declares his views that all the cantos "breathe forth the heats and fires of divine love, so that nothing could be imagined softer or sweeter", II, 359, gives a canto which is, as Mone says, an incoherent mixture, IV, 224-8, gives the complete poem, with excellent notes pp. 228-31; MONE, Lateinische Hymnen, I, 162-74, gives much critical apparatus; TRENCH, Sacred Latin Poetry (London, 1874), gives cantos Ad Pedes and Ad Faciem, and (p.138) says of the hymns attributed to St. Bernard: "If he did not write, it is not easy to guess who could have written them; and indeed they bear profoundly the stamp of his mind, being only inferior in beauty to his prose." KONIGSFELD, Lateinische Hymnen und Gesange (Bonn, 1865), 190-201, gives twelve stanzas with German tr.; MARCH, Latin Hymns (New York, 1875), 144-119, gives fifteen stanzas (with notes, p. 277). The hymn Jesu dulcis amor meus, tr. CASWALL, in Lyra Catholica (1849); latest ed. 1884); tr. WALLACE, 1874; tr. BAGSHAWE in Breviary Hymns and Missal Sequences (London, 1900), 75.

About this page

APA citation. Henry, H. (1912). Salve Mundi Salutare. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Henry, Hugh. "Salve Mundi Salutare." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Stan Walker. For Elmer and Gertrude Greey — January 1999.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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