Stabat Mater or, better, the Mater Dolorosa, to distinguish it from the Mater Speciosa (q.v.), is the celebrated Passion hymn of Jacopone de Benedictis. Its proper name is Planctus Beatoe Virginis, or Sequentia de Septem Doloribus B. Virginis, or De Compassione Beatoe Virginis. This hymn has been regarded by universal consent as the most pathetic and touching of Latin Church lyrics, and inferior only to the Dies Iroe (q.v.), which stands alone in its glory and overpowering effect. It was spread all over Europe by the Flagellants, or Brethren of the Cross (Crucifratres), and Cross bearers (Cruciferi), "penitents who, in the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries, went about in procession day and night, traveling everywhere, naked to the waist, with heads covered with a white, Cap, or hood (whence they received, likewise, the appellation of Dealbatores), singing penitential psalms, and whipping themselves until the blood flowed. By their means it was that the knowledge of this hymn was first carried to almost every country in Europe." Once sung in penitential processions, it gradually found a place in almost every breviary or missal. For "it breathes the spirit of profound repentance and glowing love, such as can be kindled only by long and intense contemplation of the mystery of the cross — the most amazing and affecting spectacle ever presented to the gaze of heaven and earth. The agony of Mary at the cross, and the sword which then pierced through her soul, according to the prophecy of Simon (Lu 2:35), never found a more perfect expression. It surpasses in effect the Mater- Dolorosas of the greatest painters." The keynote of the hymn is contained in the first two lines, and is suggested by the brief but pregnant sentence of John as found in the Latin version, "Stabat juxta crucem mater ejus" (19:25), which has given rise to some of the most magnificent works of art.
I. Text. — In its received form it reads as follows:
Stabat mater dolorosa Juxta crucem lacrymosa, Dum* pendebat Filius; Cujus animam gementem, Contristatam† ac dolentem, Pertransivit gladius.
O quam tristis et afflicta Fuit illa benedicta Mater Unigeniti! Quae moerebat et dolebat Er tremebat, cum‡ videbat Nati poenas inclyti!
Quis est homo qui non fleret Matrem Christi§ si videret In tanto supplicio? Quis non posset contristari Piam matrem contemplari Dolentelm cum Filio?
Pro peccatis suae gentis Vidit Jesum in tormentis Et flagellis subditum; Vidit suum dulcem Natum Morientem, || desolatum Dum emisit spiritum.
Pia¶ mater, fous amoris! Me sentire vim doloris Fac, ut tecum lugeam. Fac ut ardeat cor meum In amando Christum Deum, Ut sibi complaceam.
Sancta mater, istud agas, Crucifixi fige plagas Cordi neo valide.** Tui Nati vulnerati, Tam dignati pro me pati Poenas mecum divide.
Fac me vere tecum†† flere, Crucifixo condolere, Donec ego vixero. Juxta crucem tecum stare, Meque tibi sociare‡‡ In planctu desidero.
Various readings: * qua; † contristantem; ‡ dum; § Christi matrem; || moriendo; ¶ eja; ** vivide; †† tecum vere, tecum pie; ‡‡ et me tibi sociare, or te libenter, or tibi me consociare.
Virgo virginum praeclara, Mihi tam* non sis amara Fac me tecum plangere; Fac ut portem Christi mortem, Passionis fac consortem, Et plagast recolere. ‡
Fac me plagis vulnerari, Cruce hac inebriari§ Ob amorem|| Filii. Inflammatus est accensus, Per te, Virgo, sim defensus, In die judicii.
Fac me cruce custodiri Morte Christi praemuniri, Confoveri gratia. Quando corpus morietur, Fac ut animae donetur Paradisi gloria.**
Various readings: * jam; † poenam; ‡ plagis te recolere; § cruce fac me hac beari; || et cruore; ¶ flammis urar ne (ne urar) succensus; ** gratia.
II. Authorship. — In the case of this hymn, as in that of the Dies Iroe, it has been a matter, of dispute who was the writer. The Stabat Mater has been variously ascribed to pope Innocent III, but without any proof; for although Ebert (in the Allgemeinen bibliographischen Lexicon, 1, 874) mentions this fact, yet he rejects the opinion as to the authorship of Innocent. The Florentine historian Antonius tells us that, according to some, one of the Gregories was the author of the hymn; but we are not told whether it was Gregory IX, X, or XI. The Genoese chancellor and historian Georgius Stella ascribes the hymn to pope John XXII (1316- 1334), an opinion adopted by the famous historians Johann and Johann Georg Muller. Others have referred its paternity, contrary to all probability, to St. Bernard. Dismissing all these as conjectures unsupported by proof, it is now generally conceded, on the authority of Luke Wadding, the Irish historian of the Franciscan Order, and himself one of the number, that the author of this hymn is Giacomo da Todi, better known as Giacopone, or Jacopone. His proper name was Jacobus de Benedictis, or Giacomo de Benedetti, he being a descendant of the noble family of the Benedetti of Todi (Tuder, Tudertum; hence he is also called Jacoponus Tudertinus), in Umbria, Italy. He successfully studied and practiced law; but was converted in consequence of the sudden death of his wife in a theater, sold his goods for the benefit of the poor, and united himself to the Order of the Franciscans. This Order, founded by St. Francis of Assisi, was then in the fervor of its first love, and carried away many of the noblest and most enthusiastic youths. "Its ruling idea and aim was the literal imitation of the poor and humble life of Christ. St. Francis died of the wounds of Christ, which are said to have impressed themselves on his hands and side through the plastic power of an imagination drunk with the contemplation and love of the crucified Redeemer." Animated by the same spirit, Giacopone went to fanatical extremes hi his zeal for ascetic holiness and spiritual martyrdom. He endeavored to atone, by self sought tortures, for his own sins, and "to fill up that which is behind in the afflictions of Christ," for the good of others. He was subject, as Wadding expressly states, to fits of insanity, leading him at one time to enter the public marketplace naked, with a saddle on his back and a bridle in his mouth, walking on all fours like a horse; and at another, after anointing himself with oil and rolling himself in feathers of various colors, to make his appearance suddenly, in this unseemly and hideous guise, in the midst of a gay assembly gathered together at the house of his brother on the occasion of his daughter's marriage; and this, too, in disregard of previous precautionary entreaties of friends who, apprehensive, it seems, at the time they invited him, that he might be guilty of some crazy manifestation or other, had begged him not to do anything to disturb the wedding festivities, but to behave as an ordinary citizen. "He was called Giacopone, or the Great Jacob, at first in derision, perhaps, also, to distinguish him from the many Jacobs among the Franciscans. For the syllabic suffix; one in Italian indicates greatness or elevation; as alberone, great tree, from albero; cappellone, from cappello, hat; portone, from porta, door; salone, from sala, saloon" (Schaff). For ten years he carried on these ascetic excesses; and when at the end of this time he desired to be received by the Minorites, and they hesitated on account of his reputed insanity, their scruples were overcome by reading his work On Contempt of the World, conceiving that it was impossible that an insane man could write so excellent a book.
As a Minorite he was not willing to become a priest, but only a lay brother. "Very severe against himself he was," says Wadding, " always full of desire to imitate Christ and suffer for him. In an ecstasy he imagined, at times, that he saw him with his bodily eyes. Very often he was seen sighing, sometimes weeping, sometimes singing, sometimes embracing trees, and exclaiming, 'O sweet Jesus! O gracious Jesus! O beloved Jesus,' Often he conversed with his Savior, who called him dearest Jacob. Once when weeping loudly, on being asked the cause, he answered, 'Because Love is not loved.'" That Jacopone was in deep earnest with his ascetic life is beyond all doubt. For determining the genuineness of love he gives these searching tests: "Although I cannot know positively that I love, yet I have some good marks of it. Among others it is a sign of love to God when I ask the Lord for something, and he does it not, and I love him, notwithstanding, more than before. If he does contrary to that which I seek for in my prayer, and I love him twofold more than before, it is a sign of right love. Of love to my neighbor I have this sign, namely, that when he injures me I love him not less than before. Did I love him less, it would prove that I had loved not him previously, but myself." On the subjugation of the senses he allegorizes in this wise: "A very beautiful virgin had five brothers, and all were very poor; and the virgin had a precious jewel of great worth. One of her brethren was a guitar player, the second a painter, the third a cook, the fourth a spice dealer, the fifth a pimp; each desired the jewel. The first was willing to play, and so on; but she said, What shall I do when the music has ceased? In short, she remained firm and kept the jewel. At last a great king came, who was willing to make her his bride aid give her eternal life if she would give up to him the jewel, She replied: How can I, O my beloved, to such grace refuse the stone? and so she gave it to him." It is plain that by the five brethren are meant the five senses; by the virgin, the soul; and by the precious jewel, the will. With such severe principles and severer ascetic life, Jacopone could not fail to earnestly denounce the corruptions of his time in general, and especially the licentious manners, wickedness, and debaucheries of the priesthood, and the deeply sunken condition of the Church. He was especially severe on pope Boniface VIII, who punished him by excommunication and hard imprisonment. Boniface, one day passing the cell where Jacopone was, asked mockingly, "When will you come out?" He answered, "When you come in." After the death of this bad pope, in 1303, Jacopone was set free, and closed his earthly pilgrimage at an advanced age, Dec. 25, 1306, and was buried at Toai. "He died," says Wadding, "like a swan, having composed several hymns just before his death." The inscription on his grave tells the story of his life:
"Ossa B. Jacoponi de Benedictis Tudertini, Fr. Ordinis Minorum Qui stultus propter Christum Nova Mundum arte delusit, Et Coelum rapuit. Obdormivit in Domino Die xxv Decembris, Anno MCCLXXXXVI."
The year 1296 is not correct; hence Wadding calls this date a crassus error.
The Mater Dolorosa has furnished the text to some of the noblest musical compositions by Palestrina, Pergolesi, Astorga, Haydn, Bellini, Rossini, Neukomm. That of Palestrina is still annually performed in the Sistine Chapel during the Passion week; that of Pergolesi, the last and most celebrated of his works, has never been surpassed, if equaled, in the estimation of critics of Pergolesi's compositions. Tieck, in his Phantasus (ed. 1812, 2, 384 sq.), expresses himself in the following manner: "The loveliness of sorrow in the depth of pain, this smiling in pain, this childlikeness which touches the highest heaven, had to me never before risen so bright in the soul. I had to turn away to conceal my tears, especially, at the place 'Vidit suum dulcem Natum.' How significant that the Amen, after all is concluded, still sounds and plays in itself, and, in tender emotion, can find no end, as if it were afraid to dry up the tears and would still fill itself with sobbings! The hymn itself is touching and profoundly penetrating. Surely the poet sang these rhymes, 'Quae moerebat et dolebat cum videbat,' with a moved mind." It is a tradition that the great impression which the Stabat Mater of the young artist (Pergolesi) made on its first performance inflamed another musician with such furious envy that he stabbed the young man as he left the church., This tradition was long ago disproved; but as Pergolesi died at an early age, it may, as some one remarks, be permitted to the poet to refer to this story, and allow him to fall as a victim of his art and inspiration.
III. Translations. — Like the Dies Iroe this hymn has challenged and defied the skill of the best translators and imitators. Thus Lisco mentions about eighty German translations and four Dutch. The earliest German translation is that by Herman of Salzburg (Maria stuend in swinden smerczen). Of other translators we mention L. Tieck, De la Motte Fouque, A.L. Follen, Wessenberg, Daniel, Lisco, Königsfeldt, A. Knapp, etc. Of English translations we mention that of E. Caswall, in Hymns and Poems, "At the cross her station keeping;" that of lord Lindsay, in The Seven. Great Hymnis of the Medioeval Church (N.Y. 1866), p. 98:
"By the cross sad vigil keeping, Stood the mournful mother weeping, While on it the Savior hung."
By Mant, in Ancient Hymns, p. 96:
"By the cross sad vigil keeping, "Stood the mother, doleful, weeping, Where her son extended hung."
By Benedict, in Hymns of Hildebert, p. 65:
"Weeping stood his mother, sighing By the cross where Jesus, dying, Hang aloft on Calvary."
But the best translation is undoubtedly that of Dr. Coles, of Newark, N.J., which runs thus:
"Stood th' afflicted mother weeping, Near the cross her station keeping, Whereon hung her Son and Lord; Through whose spirit sympathizing, Sorrowing and agonizing, Also passed the cruel sword.
"Oh! how mournful and distressed Was that favored and most blessed Mother of the Only Son! Trembling, grieving, bosom heaving, While perceiving, scarce believing, Pains of that Illustrious One.
"Who the man who, called a brother, Would not weep saw he Christ's mother In such deep distress and wild? Who could not sad tribute render Witnessing that mother tender Agonizing with her Child?
"For his people's sins atoning, Him she saw in torments groaning, Given to the scourger's rod; Saw her darling offspring dying, Desolate, forsaken, crying, Yield his spirit up to God.
Make me feel thy sorrow's power, That with thee I tears may shower, Tender mother, fount of love! Make my heart with love unceasing Burn towards Christ the Lord, that pleasing I may be to him above.
"Holy mother, this be granted, That the slain One's wounds be planted Firmly in my heart to bide. Of him wounded, all astounded Depths unbounded for me sounded, All the pangs with me divide.
"Make me weep with thee in union; With the Crucified communion In his grief and suffering give. Near the cross with tears unfailing I would join thee in thy wailing Here as long as I shall live.
"Maid of maidens, all excelling! Be not bitter, me repelling, Make thou me a mourner too; Make me bear about Christ's dying Share his passion, shame defying, All his wounds in me renew.
"Wound for wound be there created; With the cross intoxicated For thy Son's dear sake, I pray May I, fired with pure affection, Virgin, have through thee protection In the solemn judgment day.
"Let me by the cross be warded, By the death of Christ be guarded, Nourished by divine supplies. When the body death hath riven, Grant that to the soul be given Glories bright of Paradise."
IV. Criticism. — As to the character of this hymn, Dr. Coles says: "No admiration of the lyric excellence of the Stabat Mater should be allowed to blind the reader to those objectionable features which must always suffice, as they have hitherto done, to exclude it from every hymnarium of Protestant. Christendom. For not only is Mary made the object of religious worship, but the incommunicable attributes of the Deity are freely ascribed to her. Her agency is invoked as if she were the third person of the Trinity, or had powers coordinate and equal. Plainly it is the province of the Holy Ghost, and not of any creature; to work in us to will and to do; to effect spiritual changes; to take of the things of Christ and show them unto us; and yet these are the very things. which she herself is asked to accomplish for the suppliant." True as this is, yet the remark of Dr. Schaff is worthy of consideration: "But we should make allowance for the irresistible influence of the spirit of the times, and not overlook the truth which underlies almost every error of the Roman Church, and gives it such power over the pious feelings of her members."
V. Literature. — On the author's life, see Wadding, Annales Minorum seu. Trium Ordinum a S. Francisco Institutorum (2d ed. Rome, 1731 sq. [21 vols. in all]), 4, 407 sq.; 5, 606 sq.; 6, 76 sq. The best monograph is still Lisco's Stabat Mater (Berlin, 1843), to which may be added Dr. Coles's Latin Hymns (N.Y. 1868), mainly based on Lisco's work. Dr. Schaff published an article on the two Stabat Maters in the Hours at Home for May, 1867, p. 50-58. There is also a collection of Dutch translations of this hymn, published in the Belgisch Museum voor de nederduitsche Tael- en Letterkunde en de Geschiedenis des Vaderlands, uitgegeven door J.F. Willems. Te Gent, bij Gyselinck (1839), p. 443-472. See also Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 14, 718-720; Theolog. Universal-Lexikon, s.v.; Daniel, Thesaurus Hymnol. 2, 114; Ozanam, Les Poetes Franciscains en Italie au Treizieme Siecle, avec un Choix des Petites Fleurs de St. Francois, traduits de l'Italien (Paris, 1852; Germ. transl. by N.H. Julius, Munster, 1853). SEE MATER DOLOROSA. (B.P.)