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E06850: Hymn in honour of *Stephen the First Martyr (S00030) composed in Latin in Spain possibly in the 7th century.

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posted on 2018-10-12, 00:00 authored by mszada
Hymnodia Hispanica, Hymn 171

First two strophes of this vesperal hymn are addressed to Christ who came to the world in order to defeat death by his death (it is an allusion to Christmas celebrated just day before the feast of Stephen, see E05172). Stephen is presented as the first follower of Christ who offered his life sentenced to death because of false testimonies (strophes 3–4). His prayer for his persecutors is mentioned and his death by stoning assisted by *Paul, the Apostle (strophes 5–8).

(9) Quesumus flentes, benedicte prime
martyr et ciues sociate iustis,
35 celitus clare regionis heres,
inclite pollens,
(10) Promtus hic nostrum facinus remitte,
tolle langorem, tribue salutem,
confodi hostem, releua merorem
40 morte subacta.

'(9) We ask you crying, bless us, o First Martyr and fellowman of the just, heir of the shining country of heaven, famous and powerful,

(10) dismiss quickly our crime, take away pain, give us salvation, strike down the enemy, remove sorrow, as the death has been overcome.'

Here follows the strophe praising the Trinity (the doxology).

Text: Sánchez 2010, 626–629. Summary and translation M. Szada.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Stephen, the First Martyr : S00030

Saint Name in Source

Stephanus, primus martyr

Type of Evidence

Liturgical texts - Hymns Literary - Poems


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Iberian Peninsula

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Osset Osset Osen (castrum) Osser castrum

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Service for the Saint

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs



The hymn is written in rhythmic, quantitative sapphic stanzas and has been dated to the 7th century by Pérez de Urbel (1926: 122). This dating was accepted by Diaz y Diaz 1958: 347 and Szöverffy 1998, 35. Its Hispanic origin is not entirely certain because the hymn is known to us also from non-Hispanic manuscripts (see Blume 1897, 244; Sanchez 2010, 846). The hymn is transmitted in the following manuscripts of Hispanic provenance: Psalmi Cantica et Hymni, Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid, ms. 10001 (the 9th–11th c.), Emilianensis, Biblioteca de la Real Academia de la Historia, ms. 30 (the 10th c.), Psalmi Cantica et Hymni, British Library in London, ms. 30851 (the 11th c.). Pérez de Urbel's method of dating hymns: Josef Pérez de Urbel's method is based on two preliminary assumptions: a) that the bulk of the Hispanic liturgy was composed in the 7th century, the 'golden age' of the Hispanic Church, and that important intellectual figures of this period (Braulio of Saragossa, Isidore of Seville, Eugenius of Toledo, et al.) participated in its creation; b) that the liturgy was, nevertheless, still developing and changing in the period after the Arab invasion, and therefore, many texts which we find in 9th, 10th, and 11th century liturgical manuscripts might be of more recent date. Some hymns can be dated to the period after 711, for instance if they mention 'hagaric oppression' or if they are in honour of saints whose cult was imported later to Spain (they do not feature in earlier literary and epigraphic evidence, nor are attested in the oldest liturgical book from Hispania, the Orationale Visigothicum). It is more difficult to identify the hymns which are certainly from before 711. To this group Pérez de Urbell usually attributed hymns with a probable attribution to an author from the 7th century (like Braulio of Saragossa or Quiricius of Barcelona), and those which were stylistically close to the poetry of Eugenius of Toledo from the 7th century. Pérez de Urbell then compared two groups of the hymns and noticed the following: a) late hymns contain 'barbarisms' and solecisms, while early ones are written in correct classical Latin; b) late hymns are composed in rhythmic metres, early ones are frequently in the correct classical metres; that, up until the end of the 7th century, people still could compose in e.g. hexameters is confirmed by epigraphical evidence; these metric inscriptions disappear from the 8th century onwards; the 8th and 9th century authors who make attempts at writing in classical (quantitative) metres, always make mistakes; c) some rhythmical poetry could nevertheless be early; d) although both early and late hymns sometimes have rhymes, perfect rhymes occur only in late hymns. In the absence of any certain indications for dating, Pérez de Urbell assumed that a hymn is early if at least two requirements were met: the Latin is 'correct' and there are no perfect rhymes. He also considered early every hymn composed in a quantitative metre.


Edition: Castro Sánchez, J., Hymnodia hispanica (Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 167; Turnhout: Brepols, 2010). Castro Sánchez, J. (trans.), Hymnodia hispánica (Corpus Christianorum in Translation 19; Turnhout: Brepols, 2014). Spanish translation. Further reading: Blume, C., Die Mozarabischen Hymnen des alt-spanischen Ritus, (Leipzig, 1897). Diaz y Diaz, M.C., Códices visigóticos en la monarquía leonesa (León: Centro de Estudios e Investigación "San Isidoro", 1958). Fábrega Grau, Á., Pasionario hispánico (Madrid, Barcelona: Atenas A.G., 1953). Férotin, M., Le Liber Mozarabicus sacramentorum et les manuscrits mozarabes (Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1912). Norberg, D., An Introduction to the Study of Medieval Latin Versification (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2004). Pérez de Urbel, J., "Origen de los himnos mozárabes," Bulletin Hispanique 28 (1926), 5-21, 113-139, 209-245, 305-320. Pinell, J. M., "Fragmentos de códices del antiguo Rito hispánico,” Hispania Sacra 17 (1964), 195-229. Szövérffy, J., Iberian Latin Hymnody: Survey and Problems (Turnhout: Brepols, 1998).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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