Ave Maris Stella: from hymn to Acadian National Anthem

Ave Maris Stella is a plainsong hymn (un “cantique”) to the Virgin Mary, from a group of hymns called Marian hymns; its origin is unknown but it can be dated back to at least the eighth century. It became very popular during the Middle Ages and was used by many composers as the basis of other compositions.

The Latin hymn Ave Maris Stella was chosen as the Acadian national anthem at the 1884 second National Acadian Convention held at Miscouche, Prince Edward Island. It was proposed by Pascal Poirier and enthusiastically adopted by the assembly, most likely due to the high degree of devotion the Acadians have to the Virgin Mary, Patron Saint of the Acadians.

The hymn was sung in its original Latin version until French lyrics were composed in 1994. You can listen to a short version here, featuring one verse in Latin followed by one verse in French.

In 1994, the Société Nationale de l’Acadie launched a contest throughout the Maritimes, inviting the public to submit French lyrics for the Ave Maris Stella. A journalist from Mont-Carmel, Prince Edward Island, working for La Voix Acadienne, won the contest. Thus, the French lyrics are attributed to Jacinthe Laforest. Her version was first sung at the closing concert of the first Acadian National Congress (CMA 1994) by singer songwriter Lina Boudreau.

Out of respect for the original hymn, the first verse is normally sung in Latin. An English version of the words has also been written Star of the Sea, we hail Thee.

Following are the Latin/French words to the hymn, in its entirety.

Ave Maris Stella,
Dei Mater Alma,
Atque Semper Virgo
Felix Coeli Porta (bis)

Acadie ma patrie
À ton nom, je me lie,
Ma vie, ma foi sont à toi
Tu me protégeras. (bis)

Acadie ma patrie (mon pays)
Ma terre et mon défi
De près, de loin tu me tiens
Mon coeur est acadien (bis)

Acadie, ma patrie
Ton histoire, je la vis
La fierté, je te la dois
En l’avenir, je crois (bis)

Ave Marie Stella,
Dei Mater Alma,
Atque Semper Virgo
Felix Coeli Porta (bis)