Queen of Heaven

From Academic Kids

"Queen of Heaven" may refer to a goddess of antiquity or to a Christian hymn.

Fertile Crescent religions

Queen of Heaven (Latin Regina Cli) is a natural title for the Great Goddess central to many religions of antiquity. In Sumer Inanna was hailed as "Queen of Heaven" in the 3rd millennium BCE. In Akkad to the north, she was worshipped later as Ishtar.

In the Sumerian Descent of Inanna, when Inanna is challenged at the outermost gates of the underworld, she replies

'I am Inanna, Queen of Heaven,
On my way to the East.'

Her cult was deeply embedded in Mesopotamia and among the Canaanites to the west. In the early 6th Century BCE, the neighbors of the Israelites still worshipped the Queen of Heaven, and the temptation for the Hebrews to follow her cult was apparently hard to resist. Jeremiah, writing ca 590-580, and speaking for Jahweh, saw that

"The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger." (Jeremiah 7:18)

Jeremiah continued (44:25)

'Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, saying: Ye and your wives have both spoken with your mouths, and fulfilled with your hand, saying, We will surely perform our vows that we have vowed, to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her: ye will surely accomplish your vows, and surely perform your vows.'

Christian Hymn

The Regina Cli (Queen of Heaven) is an anthem of the Roman Catholic Church which replaces the Angelus at Eastertide (from Holy Saturday until the Saturday after Pentecost); it is named for its opening words in Latin:

Regina coeli laetare,
Quia quem meruisti portare.
Sicut dixit,
Ora pro nobis Deum.

Of unknown authorship, the anthem was in Franciscan use in the first half of the 13th century. Together with three other Marian anthems, it was incorporated in the Minorite Roman Curia Office, which the Franciscans soon popularized everywhere, and which by order of Pope Nicholas III (1277-1280) replaced all the older breviaries in the churches of Rome.

The Marian anthems run the gamut of medieval literary styles, from the classical hexameters of the Alma Redemptoris Mater through the richly-rhymed accentual rhythm and regular strophes of the Ave Regina Coelorum, the irregular syntonic strophe of the "Regina Coeli", to the sonorous prose rhythms (with rhyming closes) of the Salve Regina. "In the 16th century, the antiphons of our Lady were employed to replace the little office at all the hours" (Baudot, The Roman Breviary, 1909, p. 71).

The authorship of the Regina Cli being unknown, a pious legend to connect it with Gregory the Great (d. 604) has the first three lines chanted by angels on a certain Easter morning in Rome while Gregory, walking barefoot in a great religious procession, followed the icon of the Virgin painted by Luke the Evangelist, and that the saint thereupon added the fourth line: "Ora pro nobis Deum. Alleluia." (See also Salve Regina).

There are plainsong melodies (a simple and an ornate form) associated with Regina Cli the official or "typical" melody being found in the Vatican Antiphonary, 1911, p. 126. The antiphonal strophes of Regina Cli were often set by polyphonic composers of the 16th century. There is a setting by the young Mozart, K. 127.


The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1912.


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