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Liszt - Christus-Oratorio - 03 2 Stabat mater



Type of Spiritual Experience


Christus (S.3, composed 1862-1866) is an oratorio by the Hungarian composer and pianist Franz Liszt. The oratorio takes the traditional plot of Jesus Christ's life from his birth to his passion and resurrection, using Bible texts.

When Liszt, after his prolific Weimar years, moved to Rome in 1861, the majority of his works for the next ten years would be religious music for choir. The composition of his most famous oratorio, Christus, occupied Liszt from 1862 to 1866, with shorter or longer pauses. He finished the score by the end of September 1866, but he wished to make some revisions and corrections, and therefore the work was not completed until the December of that year. 'Christus' was published in 1872 and premiered in the Protestant church at Weimar on 29 May 1873.

The oratorio is of around three hours in duration and requires significant orchestral and vocal forces, which makes it rather a rarity in concert halls of today, and despite this most of the work is of almost chamber proportions and quite personal in mood. For the text Liszt uses the Bible, the Catholic liturgy and some ancient Latin hymns. It is of note that the role of the orchestra in the oratorio is really more significant than that of the chorus, the orchestra being the moving force of growth and development. This is unlike earlier, baroque and classical oratorios, where the chorus prevails, and the orchestra simply acts as a commentary, providing harmonic texture. The oratorio lacks recitative sections, although the score is periodically annotated with Latin passages as though explaining what the music is depicting, or the underlying emotional or religious relevance. It is unclear whether or not these passages are meant to be spoken by a narrator during the music. Some performances have done this to great effect, although the majority omit them.

The work consists of three parts:

  • Part One: Christmas Oratorio (of five movements)
  • Part Two: After Epiphany (of five movements)
  • Part Three: Passion and Resurrection (of four movements)


Part Three: Passion and Resurrection

XI. Tristis est anima mea ('Sad is my soul')
XII. Stabat Mater dolorosa ('Stood the grievous Mother')
XIII. O filii et filiae ('O sons and daughters')
XIV. Resurrexit! ('He has risen!')

The 'Stabat Mater dolorosa' is an ancient Latin hymn, doleful and gloomy. This is the longest single movement of the entire work (approx. 30 mins.), and employs all the orchestra and vocal forces, but in a mood quite opposite to many usual oratorios where using all the vocals heralds glory and joy. The movement is in fact a long, painful lament of Mary's fate - to see the death of her son. Yet towards the end the music gathers strength, becomes at some places furious, passionate and victorious in tone. This, of course, anticipates Christ's resurrection, the victory of life over death.


A description of the experience

F. Liszt, Christus, S. 3 (1862-66) - 3. Stabat mater speciosa (with english and french subtitles)

The Stabat Mater is a 13th-century Catholic hymn to Mary, which portrays her suffering as Jesus Christ's mother during his crucifixion.

Hungarian State Orchestra with the Hungarian Radio & TV Choir and Nyíregyháza Children's Choir. Dir Antal Dorati

Stabat mater dolorósa
juxta Crucem lacrimósa,
dum pendébat Fílius.

Cuius ánimam geméntem,
contristátam et doléntem
pertransívit gládius.

O quam tristis et afflícta
fuit illa benedícta,
mater Unigéniti!

Quae mœrébat et dolébat,
pia Mater, dum vidébat
nati pœnas ínclyti.

Quis est homo qui non fleret,
matrem Christi si vidéret
in tanto supplício?

Quis non posset contristári
Christi Matrem contemplári
doléntem cum Fílio?

Pro peccátis suæ gentis
vidit Iésum in torméntis,
et flagéllis súbditum.

Vidit suum dulcem Natum
moriéndo desolátum,
dum emísit spíritum.

Eia, Mater, fons amóris
me sentíre vim dolóris
fac, ut tecum lúgeam.

Fac, ut árdeat cor meum
in amándo Christum Deum
ut sibi compláceam.

Sancta Mater, istud agas,
crucifíxi fige plagas
cordi meo válide.

Tui Nati vulneráti,
tam dignáti pro me pati,
pœnas mecum dívide.

Fac me tecum pie flere,
crucifíxo condolére,
donec ego víxero.

Juxta Crucem tecum stare,
et me tibi sociáre
in planctu desídero.

Virgo vírginum præclára,
mihi iam non sis amára,
fac me tecum plángere.

Fac, ut portem Christi mortem,
passiónis fac consórtem,
et plagas recólere.

Fac me plagis vulnerári,
fac me Cruce inebriári,
et cruóre Fílii.

Flammis ne urar succénsus,
per te, Virgo, sim defénsus
in die iudícii.

Christe, cum sit hinc exíre,
da per Matrem me veníre
ad palmam victóriæ.

Quando corpus moriétur,
fac, ut ánimæ donétur
paradísi glória.


At the Cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to her Son to the last.

Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
all His bitter anguish bearing,
now at length the sword has passed.

O how sad and sore distressed
was that Mother, highly blest,
of the sole-begotten One.

Christ above in torment hangs,
she beneath beholds the pangs
of her dying glorious Son.

Is there one who would not weep,
whelmed in miseries so deep,
Christ's dear Mother to behold?

Can the human heart refrain
from partaking in her pain,
in that Mother's pain untold?

For the sins of His own nation,
She saw Jesus wracked with torment,
All with scourges rent:

She beheld her tender Child,
Saw Him hang in desolation,
Till His spirit forth He sent.

O thou Mother! fount of love!
Touch my spirit from above,
make my heart with thine accord:

Make me feel as thou hast felt;
make my soul to glow and melt
with the love of Christ my Lord.

Holy Mother! pierce me through,
in my heart each wound renew
of my Savior crucified:

Let me share with thee His pain,
who for all my sins was slain,
who for me in torments died.

Let me mingle tears with thee,
mourning Him who mourned for me,
all the days that I may live:

By the Cross with thee to stay,
there with thee to weep and pray,
is all I ask of thee to give.

Virgin of all virgins blest!,
Listen to my fond request:
let me share thy grief divine;

Let me, to my latest breath,
in my body bear the death
of that dying Son of thine.

Wounded with His every wound,
steep my soul till it hath swooned,
in His very Blood away;

Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
lest in flames I burn and die,
in His awful Judgment Day.

Christ, when Thou shalt call me hence,
be Thy Mother my defense,
be Thy Cross my victory;

While my body here decays,
may my soul Thy goodness praise,
Safe in Paradise with Thee.

Translation by Edward Caswall, Lyra Catholica (1849)

The source of the experience

Liszt, Franz

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps