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The St Magnus Hymn, or Nobilis Humilis
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The St Magnus Hymn, or Nobilis Humilis

"The St Magnus Hymn, or "Nobilis humilis" is a piece of music which celebrates St Magnus of Orkney. The hymn can be dated to at least the thirteenth century and may be from the twelfth century.

If the hymn dates from the twelfth century then it is especially relevant to the cathedral as it would be contemporary with the construction of the cathedral. The hymn is written in Latin and comprises of seven stanzas which are repeated to the same piece of music.

The hymn can be found in a thirteenth century manuscript owned by the Uppsala University."

And you can hear it by clicking here
Picture added on 18 August 2005
Where to find transcription of the text?
Send to me [email protected]
Added by Petur on 25 June 2008
I found the following:


Superba namque colla gentilium
Virtute Sancti Spiritus humiliavit

Nobilis humilis, magne martyr stabilis
Serva carnis fragilis mole positos

Praeditus, caelitus, dono sancti spiritus
Vivere temere summo caves opere
Carnis motus premere, studes penitus
Ut carnis in carcere, regnet spiritus

Turbidus, invidus, hostis Haco callidus
Sternere, terere, tua sibi subdere
Te cupit et perdere, doli spiculo
Luncto fraudis federe, pacis osculo

English Translation:

Indeed he has laid low the proud necks of the gentiles
By the strength of the Holy Spirit

Oh noble, humble, great and steadfast martyr
Placed beneath the burden of frail flesh

Well-favored, heavenly, by the gift of the Holy Spirit
With the greatest effort you beware of living rashly
You endeavor deep within yourself to suppress the motions of the flesh
So that the spirit may reaign in the prison of flesh

Hakon the turbulent, envious and cunning adversary
Desires to scatter what is yours, to crush and subject it to himself
And to destroy you by the barb of treachery
By the compact of treason joined, by the kiss of peace.

Given that my Latin runs little further than 'Cave Canem' or 'Carpe Diem', I'm going to assume the translation is good!
Added by Mike Dunster on 27 June 2008
That text does not fit into the score.
Added by Petur on 28 June 2008
See also picture #12409
Added by Sandy on 29 June 2008
Whoops! My mistake - the version I was quoting from (by Anuna) has a bit of a psalm at the start - the first 2 lines, I would assume ("Superba namque colla gentilium/Virtute Sancti Spiritus humiliavit") - which throws the thing out.
Added by Mike Dunster on 01 July 2008
There is a YouTube video of a group from St Petersburg who use what are (perhaps) original instruments. The group is called Laterna Magica. Do a Googel search for The St Magnus Hymn. It is not a good recording but the instruments are interesting!
Added by Christopher Soames on 05 April 2012
thanks for these...very useful as only one verse is in H.A.M!
Added by Gerald Place on 23 June 2012
Found this hymn on Spotify, performed by Trio Mediaeval - really beautiful!!
Added by Ludvig Lindblom on 02 October 2021
Nobilis, humilis, Magne, martyr stabilis,
Habilis, utilis, comes venerabilis
Et tutor laudabilis tuos subditos
Serva carnis fragilis mole positos.
Præditus, cælitus, dono sancti spiritus.
Vivere temere summo caves opere
Carnis motus premere, studes penitus,
Ut carnis in carcere, regnet spiritus.
Socia regia tibi viri nescia
Traditur subditur casta casto jungitur
Nam neuter illuditur sic decennio
Rubente non comburitur in incendio.
Turbidus, invidus, hostis Haco callidus,
Sternere, terere, tua sibi subdere
Te cupit et perdere, doli spiculo.
Iuncto fraudis federe, pacis osculo
Gravia, tedia, ferens pro justicia,
Raperis, terreris, donec ictu funeris
Abymis extolleris ad cœlestia
Sic Christo conjungeris per supplicia.
Pura gloria, signorum frequencia
Canitur, agitur, Christus benedicitur,
Et tibi laus redditur in Ecclesia
O quam felix cernitur hinc Orchadia.
Gentibus laudibus tuis insistentibus
Graciam veniam et eternam gemmam
Precuum per instanciam pater optime
Hanc salvans familiam a discrimine.
Added by Cattia Salto on 26 November 2022
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