The above title is Latin for “Have mercy on me, O God,” a phrase from Psalm 51.
It is also the title of a stunningly beautiful piece of music composed by Gregorio Allegri sometime around the 1630’s. It was intended for exclusive use in the Sistine Chapel during the morning services of Holy Week. These services typically began around 3:00 AM, and during the rituals, candles would be extinguished until only one remained.
At some point, it became forbidden to transcribe this music and was allowed to be performed only at the services described above, adding to the mystery surrounding it. However, in 1770, a fourteen-year-old Mozart was visiting Rome. Hearing the piece for the first time during the Wednesday morning service, he left the chapel to write it down from memory. It is said that he returned on Friday for a second listen to make some minor revisions. He published the piece a year later, effectively ending the “ban” and earning him surprising praise from the Pope, who was understandably astounded at the musical genius before him.
When your schedule today will fifteen minutes of listening, press “play” on the video below and be blessed by this once mysterious, ever-majestic creation, dedicated to the Creator and Redeemer of all.