LISTEN to King's College Choir Sing a Famous Heavenly Song which was Forbidden to be Copied and Only Allowed in the Sistine Chapel - It Will Touch Your Soul!
Miserere mei, Deus, Latin for "Have mercy on me, O God," is a setting of Psalm 51 (Psalm 50 in Septuagint numbering) by Italian composer Gregorio Allegri. It was composed during the reign of Pope Urban VIII, probably during the 1630s, for the exclusive use of the Sistine Chapel during the Tenebrae services of Holy Week. It is written for two choirs, of five and four voices respectively. At some point, it became forbidden to transcribe the music and it was allowed to be performed only at those particular services at the Sistine Chapel, thus adding to the mystery surrounding it.
According to legend (backed by a letter written by Leopold Mozart, Wolfgang’s father, to his wife on April 14 1770), at fourteen years of age Mozart was visiting Rome when he first heard the piece during the Wednesday service. Later that day, he wrote it down entirely from memory, returning to the Chapel that Friday to make minor corrections.
FULL Lyrics (English below): The original translation of the psalm used for the piece was in Latin:
Miserere mei, Deus: secundum magnam misericordiam tuam. Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum, dele iniquitatem meam. Amplius lava me ab iniquitate mea: et a peccato meo munda me. Quoniam iniquitatem meam ego cognosco: et peccatum meum contra me est semper. Tibi soli peccavi, et malum coram te feci: ut justificeris in sermonibus tuis, et vincas cum judicaris. Ecce enim in iniquitatibus conceptus sum: et in peccatis concepit me mater mea. Ecce enim veritatem dilexisti: incerta et occulta sapientiae tuae manifestasti mihi. Asperges me hyssopo, et mundabor: lavabis me, et super nivem dealbabor. Auditui meo dabis gaudium et laetitiam: et exsultabunt ossa humiliata. Averte faciem tuam a peccatis meis: et omnes iniquitates meas dele. Cor mundum crea in me, Deus: et spiritum rectum innova in visceribus meis. Ne proiicias me a facie tua: et spiritum sanctum tuum ne auferas a me. Redde mihi laetitiam salutaris tui: et spiritu principali confirma me. Docebo iniquos vias tuas: et impii ad te convertentur. Libera me de sanguinibus, Deus, Deus salutis meae: et exsultabit lingua mea justitiam tuam. Domine, labia mea aperies: et os meum annuntiabit laudem tuam. Quoniam si voluisses sacrificium, dedissem utique: holocaustis non delectaberis. Sacrificium Deo spiritus contribulatus: cor contritum, et humiliatum, Deus, non despicies. Benigne fac, Domine, in bona voluntate tua Sion: ut aedificentur muri Ierusalem. Tunc acceptabis sacrificium justitiae, oblationes, et holocausta: tunc imponent super altare tuum vitulos.
English translation This translation is from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer : Have mercy upon me, O God: after Thy great goodness. According to the multitude of Thy mercies, do away mine offences. Wash me thoroughly from my wickedness: and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my faults: and my sin is ever before me. Against Thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that Thou mightest be justified in Thy saying, and clear when Thou art judged. Behold, I was shapen in wickedness: and in sin hath my mother conceived me. But lo, Thou requirest truth in the inward parts: and shalt make me to understand wisdom secretly. Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Thou shalt make me hear of joy and gladness: that the bones which Thou hast broken may rejoice. Turn Thy face from my sins: and put out all my misdeeds. Make me a clean heart, O God: and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence: and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. O give me the comfort of Thy help again: and stablish me with Thy free Spirit. Then shall I teach Thy ways unto the wicked: and sinners shall be converted unto Thee. Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, Thou that art the God of my health: and my tongue shall sing of Thy righteousness. Thou shalt open my lips, O Lord: and my mouth shall shew [show] Thy praise. For Thou desirest no sacrifice, else would I give it Thee: but Thou delightest not in burnt-offerings. The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, shalt Thou not despise. O be favourable and gracious unto Sion: build Thou the walls of Jerusalem. Then shalt Thou be pleased with the sacrifice of righteousness, with the burnt-offerings and oblations: then shall they offer young bullocks upon Thine altar.