The music from the Llibre Vermell of Montserrat

Revised text edition, based on the original manuscript

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After a concert in Brussels and Antwerp, I revisited the original manuscript and checked the Latin text which is used in almost all performances (live and CD). Some errors - always the same (!) - can be found in almost all editions. The two most obvious examples: the final stanza of Mariam matrem virginem is almost impossible to translate when one follows the usual transcription.

         Pugnare quem viriliter per famulis percussus duris iaculis atrociter.

To whom does quem refer  And per demands an accusativus which famulis is not. And with which/whom percussus should be connected? If one checks the original manuscript things get a lot simpler. One should transcribe:

        Pugnare quam viriliter pro famulis percussis duris iaculis atrociter.

Quam needs no strict reference, pro simply fits famulis, and percussis is nicely lined up with the rest of the words. The translation is still not simple, but one can at least try to make some sense of it (see below, there also the facsimile of these lines).

After correcting the Latin text, I felt impelled to check the usual translations (copy from copy from copy...). Most translators did not seem to know that iocalibus ornantes (in Stella splendens) does not mean "full of joy", but "decorating it (=shrine, or church) with jewels", quite something else, esp. since it refers to the shrine of Mary. The result, in which I am now to blame for the errors, I publish below. The Catallan (or/and Occitan?) texts I did not check for the simple reason that these languages are not familiar to me. I just copied them from the internet, only numbering the seven joys of Mary in Los set goytxs.
The music fascicule of the LLibre Vermell begins at fol. 21v° and ends on fol. 27r° of this 14th century manuscript (entirely written on parchment).* The non-musical elements on these pages I also describe and - if relevant - translate. The source is digitized in the Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes.  [editorial note: For readability I resolved the medieval abbreviations and changed 'e' into 'ae' (or 'oe') when appropriate ( = not always/everywhere, but when it helps the understanding).


Llibre Vermell

[click to enlarge]

fol 21v° - 22r°

fol 22v° - 23r°

fol 23v°- 24r°

fol 24v° - 25r°

fol 25v° - 26r°

fol 26v° - 27r°


Antiphona dulcis armonia dulcissime virginis Mariae de Monte serrato.

Sweet antiphonal melody for the most sweet virgin Mary of Montserrat.


written in margine : « Caça de duobus vel tribus ? » two- or threefold canon?


[1. O Virgo splendens]


O Virgo

Splendens hic in monte celso

Miraculis serrato

fulgentibus ubique

Quem fideles

conscendunt universi,

Eya pietatis oculo placato,

Cerne ligatos fune peccatorum

Ne infernorum ictibus graventur

Sed cum beatis tua prece vocentur.

O Virgin,

shining brightly, on this high

serrated mountain,

with splendid miracles all around,

where the believers

from everywhere ascend, 

Ah, with your gentle loving eye

behold those caught in the bonds of sin,

that they not be vexed by the blows of hell 

but be called among the blessed by your prayer. 


Follows a prayer to the virgin Mary, of which I transribe the beginning and the end:

Ora pro nobis mater […] per Christum dominum nostrum. amen


Sequitur alia cantilena ad trepudium rotundum

     follows another song for a round dance




[First line of Stella splendens, without music notes, then:]


Quia interdum peregrini quando vigilant in ecclesia Beate Marie de Monte Serrato volunt cantare et trepudiare, et etiam in platea de die, et ibi non debeant nisi honestas ac devotas cantilenas cantare, idcirco superius et inferius aliquae sunt scriptae. Et de hoc uti debent honeste et parce, ne perturbent perseverantes in orationibus et devotis contemplationibus, in quibus omnes vigilantes insistere debent pariter et devote vaccare.

Because sometimes pilgrims keeping vigil in the church of the Blessed Virgin of Montserrat want to sing and dance - and similarly on the square during daytime – and since it is not appropiate to sing there anything else than honourable and pious songs, above and below some have been written. They should be used neatly and frugally in order not to disturb those who persevere in prayers and pious contemplations, things all people who keep vigil should concentrate on and piously apply themselves to.


[2. Stella splendens in monte]


Stella splendens in monte ut solis radium miraculis serrato, exaudi populum.



Splendid star on the serrated mountain (Montserrat), shining with wonders like a sunbeam, hear the people. 

Concurrunt unvisersi gaudentes populi,

divites et egeni, grandes et parvuli,

ipsum ingrediuntur, ut cernunt oculi,

et inde revertuntur gracijs repleti.


From all around they rally, rejoicing,

rich and poor, young and old, 

they assemble here to see with their own eyes,

and return from it filled with grace. 

Principes et magnates ex stirpe regia,

saeculi potestates optenta venia

peccaminum proclamant tundentes pectora.

Poplite flexo clamant hic : Ave Maria.


Rulers and magnates of royal stirpes,

the mighty of the world, having obtained indulgence

for their sin, they cry out and beating their breast

they kneel and cry here: Ave Maria. 

Prelati et barones, comites incliti,

religiosi omnes atque presbyteri,

milites, mercatores, cives, marinari

burgenses, piscatores praemiantur ibi.


Prelates and barons, famous counts,

all kinds of monks and priests,

soldiers, merchants, citizens, sailors,

burgers and fishermen are recompensed here. 

Rustici, aratores, nec non notarii,

Advocati, scultores, cuncti ligni fabri,

sartores et sutores, nec non lanifici,

artifices et omnes gratulantur ibi.


Peasants, ploughmen and also scribes,

advocates, stone-masons and all carpenters, 

tailors and shoemakers, and weavers as well,

 all kinds of craftsmen rejoice here. 

Reginae, comitissae,illustres dominae,

potentes et ancillae, juvenes, parvulae

virgines et antiquae, pariter viduae

conscendunt et hunc montem, et religiosae.


Queens, countesses, illustrious ladies

powerful and maidens, teenagers and girls,

virgins, old women and widows equally,

climb this mountain; so do nuns. 

Coetus hii aggregantur hic ut exhibeant

vota regratiantur: ut ipsa et reddant

aulam istam ditantes hoc cuncti videant

iocalibus ornantes, soluti redeant.


All these groups assemble to present themselves here.

May their vows be granted, so that they return (repay them) enriching this shrine - visible for all -
it with jewels, may they return home released.

Cuncti ergo precantes sexus utriusque,

mentes nostras mundantes oremus devote

virginem gloriosam matrem clementiae,

in coelis gratiosam, sentiamus vere.

Therefore, everybody, male and female, beseeching and cleansings our minds, let us devoutly pray:

that we may really experience that the glorious virgin, 

the merciful mother in heaven, is gracious.





[3a. Laudemus virginem ]

Caça de duobus vel tribus (canon à 2 or3)


Laudemus virginem mater est

Et eius filius Ihesus est.

Plangamus scelera acriter

Sperantes in Ihesum iugiter.

Let us praise the virgin Mother

and her son Jesus.

Let us steadfastly  mourn our sins,

constantly hoping in Jesus.


[3b. Splendens ceptigera]


Caça de duobus vel tribus (canon à 2 or3)


Splendens ceptigera

Nostri sis advocata

Virgo puerpera,

Tudentes pectora

Crimina confitentes

Simus altissimo.

Shining sovereign,

Be our advocate,

Virgin Mother,

Beating our breast

Confessing our guilt

Let us be in the highest [= heaven; or: let us exist before the Highest = God]



[4. Los set goytxs recomptarem]

Ballada dels goytxs de Nostre Dona en vulgar cathallan a ball redon
(Ballad of the Joys of Our Lady in vernacular Catalan, for a round dance)


Los set goytxs recomptarem et devotament xantant

humilment saludarem la dolça verge Maria.

We tell you of the 7 joys and sing with devotion,

humbly greeting the sweet Virgin Mary. 



Ave Maria gracia plena

Dominus tecum Virgo serena.


Hail Mary, full of grace,

the Lord may be with you, serene Virgin. 

     Verge fos abans del part

pura e sens falliment

en lo part e prés lo part

sens negun corrumpiment.

Lo Fill de Déus Verge pia

de vós nasque verament.

Virgin, before your labour you were pure and faultless,  from your labour and after it you remained uncorrupted (1); The son of God was truly born of you, pious Virgin. (2) 

     Verge tres reys d’Orient

cavalcant amb gran coratge

al l’estrella precedent

vengren al vostré abitatge.

Offerint vos de gradatge Aur

et mirr’ et encenç.

Virgin, three Kings from the Orient, riding with great courage, following the star, they arrived at your house. They offered you - one after the other - gold and myrrh and incense. (3)

     Verg’estant dolorosa

per la mort del Fill molt car

romangues tota joyosa

can lo vis resuscitar.

A vos maire piadosa

prima se volch demostrar.

Virgin, being grieved by the death of your beloved son, you are now full of joy, having seen him revive. (4)
He wanted to appear first to you, merciful mother. 

     Verge lo quint alegratge

que’n agues del fill molt car

estant al munt d’olivatge

al cel l’on véès pujar.

On aurem tots alegratge

si per nos vos plau pregar.

Virgin, the fifth joy that you received from your beloved son happened when, on Mount Olive, you saw him ascend to Heaven. We will be full of joy if you pray for us. (5)

     Verge quan foren complitz

los dies de pentecosta amb vos

eren aunits los apostols et de costa.

Sobre tots sens nula costa

devallà l’espirit sant.

Virgin, after the days of Pentecost, the apostles and the others were united by you.

 Above all came the Holy Spirit.(6)

     Verge’l derrer alegratge

que’n agues en aquest mon

vostre Fill amb coratge

vos munta al cel pregon.

On sots tots temps coronada

Regina perpetual.


Virgin, the last joy you is not found here; your son takes you to heaven with great courage, where you will remain crowned for all time, perpetual queen. (7)


[5. Cuncti simus concanentes] 

A ball redon (for a round dance)

Cuncti simus concanentes : Ave Maria.


Virgo sola existente en affuit angelus,

Gabriel est appellatus atque missus celitus

Clara facieque dixit : Ave Maria.


Clara facieque dixit : audite karissimi.

En concipies Maria, Ave Maria.


En concipies Maria : audite karissimi.

Pariesque Filium : Ave Maria.


Pariesque Filium : audite karissimi.

Vocabis eum Jhesum : Ave Maria.

Let us all sing together: Hail Mary.

When the Virgin was alone, lo, an angel appeared,

Gabriel was his name and he was sent from Heaven. 

With a shining face he said: Hail Mary.

With a shining face he said (listen my dear ones):

You will conceive, Mary. 



You will bear a son.



You will call him Jesus.




[6. Polorum regina]

A ball redon (for a round dance)


Polorum regina omnium nostra

Stella matutina dele scelera


Ante partum virgo deo gravida.

Semper permansisti inviolata

Stella matutina dele scelera

Et in partu virgo deo fecunda.

Semper permansisti inviolata

Stella matutina dele scelera

Et post partum virgo mater enixa.

Semper permansisti inviolata

Stella matutina dele scelera.

Our queen encompassing all of heaven,

morning star, take away our sins.


Before birth, Virgin, pregnant by God,

you remained always inviolate.


And in labour, Virgin, fertile by God,

you remained always inviolate.


And after birth, Virgin, child-bearing mother

 you remained always inviolate.


[7. Mariam matrem virginem]

(... live recording with barking dogs as intro.)


R. Mariam Matrem Virginem


Ihesum Christum extollite


Mary, the Virgin Mother,

exalt her, 

and extol Jesus Christ,



Maria seculi asilum

defende nos.

Ihesu totum refugium

exaudi nos.

Iam estis nos totaliter


totum mundi confugium



Mary, asylum for the world,

defend us.

Jesus, total refuge,

hear us. 
You are, while we are totally


a complete safe haven from the world


Ihesu suprema bonitas


Maria dulcis pietas


Amplissima conformiter

sit caritas

Ad nos quos pellit vanitas



Jesus, supreme goodness,

Full of truth,

Mary, sweet mercy

Full of grace,

May similarly superabound

Your love

Towards us who the vanity of life strikes


Maria virgo humilis,

te colimus,
Ihesu desiderabilis,

te querimus,
Et volumus mentaliter

in superis
Frui cum sanctis angelis


*the text reads: "perhepniter"


Mary, humble virgin,

we honour you.
Desirable Jesus,

we long for you.
And mentally we want
in heaven

to delight with the holy angels



Ihesu, pro peccatoribus

qui passus es,
Maria, sta pro omnibus,

quae mater es,
Nam omnes nos labiliter

Iuvari unde petimus



Jesus, who for sinners,

Did suffer,
Mary, stand for [us] all

as you are a mother,
Because insecure is our

therefore we beg for help,



Maria facta saeculis


Ihesu dam[p]nati hominis


Pugnare quam viriliter

pro famulis

Percussis duris jaculis


Mary, used to procure for generations


Jesus, for damned mankind

Fight as ardently

for your servants,

as they are being struck hard




  comment 1 (quem or quam): Two dots above a character always indicate the presence of the vowel "a"; hence "qm" = quam

comment 2 (per or pro): both per and pro are abbreviated. The difference is the place and direction of the added element:

A straight horizontal line through the tail of the "p" suggests: per.. par.. por; an oblique line: pro.

[8. Imperaytritz de la ciutat joyosa]


discantus :

1. Imperaytritz de la ciutat joyosa

de paradis amb tot gaug eternal

neta de crims de virtutz habundosa

mayre de Déu per obra divinal

verges plasent amb fas angelical

axi com sotz a Déu molt graciosa

plaçaus estar als fidels piadosa

preyan per lor al rey celestial.


Empress of the joyous city of paradise, eternally happy, purified of sin, abounding in virtues, Mother of God, by divine order; pleasing Virgin with angelic face, because you are so gracious for God, 
be pityful with the faithful, pious one, praying for them to the celestial king.

2. Rosa flagran de vera benenança

fons de mercè jamays no defallent

palays d’onor on se fech l’aliança

de deu e d’hom per nostre salvament

e fo ver Déus es hom perfetament

sens defallir en alcuna substança

e segons hom morí sens dubtança

e com ves Déus llevech del moniment.

Fragrant rose of true goodness, source of virtues which never failed, palace of honour, where the alliance was made, between god and man, to save us. Who saw God become a perfect man without any failing, and - according to man - died without any doubt and rised from the tomb as the true God . 

3. Flor de les flors dolça clement et pia

l’angel de Déu vesem tot corroçat

e par que Déus lamandat qu’ens alcia

don elles prest amb l’estoch affilat.

Dons plaça avos que’l sia comandat

qu’estoyg l’estoch e que remès nos sia

tot falliment tro en lo presen dia

ens done gaug e patz e sanitat.


Flower of flowers, sweet, merciful and pious, we see the grim angel of God, and because God sent him to punish, he is ready for it, with raised sword.Let it be your will that he is ordered not to raise the sword, and that our failings may be forgiven to the present day, and that we may receive joy, peace and health. 

tenor :

1. Verges sens par misericordiosa

de vos se tany quens defentas de mal

é no siats devas nos endenyosa

pels fallimentz que fem en general.

Mas quens cubratz amb lo manto real

de pietat pus quen etz cupiosa

car totz som faytz d’avol pasta fangosa

per que’l fallir es de carn humanal.


Virgin out of mercy, trusted by those who are to be defended from evil. 
And do not be enraged by the failures which we always commit, but give us shelter under your royal coat of mercy, because who is abounding in virtues can improve ordinary mud, since failure is of human flesh. 

2. Vexell de patz corona d’esperança

port de salut bé segur de tot vent

vos merexets de tenir la balança

on es pesat bé dreyturerament.

E pesa mays vostre fill excellent

mort en la crotz per nostra deliurança

quels peccats d’om en fayt nen cobejança

al be fidel confes e penident.

Vessel of peace, crown of hope, port of health, certain for all, you merit to hold the scale on which virtue is weighed, and your excellent son, who died on the cross for our deliverance, weighs more than the sins commited amongst those, who confess and do penance. 

3. Estel de mar qui los perillans guia

e’ls fay venir a bona salvetat

si Jesu Christ obesir no volia

ço que per vos li sera supplicat

mostratzli els pitz don l’avetz alletat

et totz los santz amb la gran jerarchia

de paradis qui us faran companya

tot quan volretz vos es ben autreyat.

Star of the sea, who guides us through perils, so that we can safely reach the harbour, if Jesus Christ does not wish to obey what is requested through you, show him the breasts that suckled him, and all the saints from the great hierarchy of paradise who are with you: Everything you wish will be granted, and more. 



[9. Ad mortem festinamus]


R. Ad mortem festinamus peccare desistamus.

We hurry towards death, let us desist from sin. 


Scribere proposui de contemptu mundano,

ut degentes seculi non mulcentur in vano.

Iam est hora surgere a sompno mortis pravo.


I have resolved to write about the contempt of the world,

that the now living will not bide their time in vane things. 

Now is the hour to rise from the evil sleep of death. 

Vita brevis breviter, in brevi finietur,

mors venit velociter quae neminem veretur.

Omnia mors perimit et nulli miseretur.


Life is short, and shortly it will end;

death arrives faster than anyone fears.

Death annihilates all and has mercy with no-one.

Ni conversus fueris et sicut puer factus,

et vitam mutaveris in meliores actus,

intrare non poteris regnum Dei beatus.


If you don’t convert and become pure as a child,

And change your live by doing better deeds,

you can not as a blessed one enter the kingdom of God.

Tuba cum sonuerit dies erit extrema

et judex advenerit, vocabit sempiterna

electos in patria praescitos ad inferna.


When the horn sounds the last day will be there,

And the Judge will appear, and he will forever call

home the chosen and the other ones to hell. 

Quam felices fuerint qui cum Christo regnabunt,

facie ad faciem sic eum adspectabunt,

Sanctus, Sanctus Dominus Sabaoth conclamabunt.


How happy will those be, who will reign with Christ,

they will see him face to face and

Holy, holy is the Lord Zebaoth, they will shout. 

Et quam tristes fuerint qui aeterne peribunt,

pene non deficient nec propter has obibunt:

Heu, heu miseri numquam inde exibunt.


And how miserable will the eternally damned be;

no escape from retribution, they will perish. 

Woe, the wretched will never get out from there. 

Cuncti reges seculi et in mundo magnates

advertant et clarici omnesque potestates

fiant velut parvuli dimitant vanitates.


All earthly kings, all mighty men of this world must change,

And the clerics and all powerful officials

have to become like children, renouncing vainglory. 

Heu, fratres karissimi, si digne contemplemus

passionem Domini, amare et si flemus,

ut pupillam oculi servabit ne peccemus.


Alas, dearest brothers, les us so decently contemplate

the Lord’s passion, and also bitterly weep and ask,

that he will guard the apple of his eye, that we sin no more. 

Alma Virgo virginum, in caelis coronata,

apud tuum filium sis nobis advocata,

et post hoc exilium occurrens mediata.


Nourishing virgin among virgins, crowned in heaven,

be our advocate with your son, 

and after this exile meet us halfway (i.e. intercede).

               [clearly a paraphrase of the "Salve Regina"]


[The next part is sometimes sung as well, although the text is separated from the song by the image of a cadaver, headed by the words:


O mors, quam amara est memoria tua

            O death, how bitter is your memory


Vile cadaver eris, cur non peccare vereris.

Vile cadaver eris, cur intumescere quaeris

Vile cadaver eris, ut quid peccuniam quaeris.

Vile cadaver eris, quid vestes pomposas geris.

Vile cadaver eris, ut quid honores quaeris.

Vile cadaver eris, cur non paenitens confiteris.

Vile cadaver eris, contra proximum non laeteris.**


You will be a vile corpse: Why not avoid sinning?

... Why seek for anger?

... Why want money?

... Why wear splendid clothes?

... Why look for signs of glory?

... Why not confess, doing penance?

... Do not rejoice at your neighbour's expense.


** The final phrase is hard to translate but does ring a bell because of the close intertext with the Decaloque: 'contra proximum non loqueris testimonium falsum'. Cf. also Psalm 15 (Latin: Psalm 14), verse 3: ' fecit proximo suo malum, et opprobrium non accepit adversus proximos suos.' (= Vulgata. The Psalterium Romanum has a singular: '... adversus proximum suum'). And verse 3: 'qui iurat proximo suo et non decipit eum.'

Dick Wursten, 28 september 2010 /2019 (minor corrections in Latin transcription, and some new translations)

For more ars nova texts and translations (iso-rythmic motets), click here




*  The Llibre vermell is a collection of manuscripts bound together. 137 folios of the orignal 172 are preserved. The book has been dated (in the past) to the year 1327; but the terminus post quem has to be advanced at least to 1397 as a consequence of the miracles mentioned in the text that bear this date. The present opinion considers the oldest part of the codex having been copied in the year 1399 because of the indication on folio 56, where, in speaking of the sixth age of the world inaugurated by the incarnation of Jesus Christ, it is said that it has already lasted 1,399 years. The fact that the texts mention very close dates, such as the years 1382 and 1397 - three times - makes this assumption quite convincing. Moreover, it was probably finished in the year 1400, the year in which the new privilege of Pope Boniface IX allowed the possibility of acquiring the indulgence of the Portiuncula during the whole octave of the patron saint's feast of Montserrat on the 8th of September, privilege granted on 3rd of August of the eleventh year of his pontificate - that is to say, in 1400. This corresponds to the privilege (mutilated) on f. 41, referring to the previous concession of the Portiuncula to Montserrat. It is preceded by the heading Privilegium pro indulgentiis impetrandis.