The Day of Judgement from the centre panel of the Memling Triptych in Gdańsk.

Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) is a famous thirteenth century Latin hymn thought to be written by Thomas of Celano.[1] It is a medieval Latin poem characterized by its accentual stress and its rhymed lines. The metre is trochaic. The poem describes the day of judgment, the last trumpet summoning souls before the throne of God, where the saved will be delivered and the unsaved cast into eternal flames.

The hymn is best known from its use as a sequence in the Roman Catholic Requiem Mass. It was removed from the ordinary form of the Catholic Eucharistic liturgy in the liturgical reform of 1969-1970, but was retained as a hymn of the Divine Office [disambiguation needed]. It can also still be heard when the extraordinary form of the Mass is used. An English version of it is found in various missals used in the Anglican Communion.

Use in the Catholic liturgy

Those familiar with musical settings of the Requiem Mass—such as those by Mozart or Verdi—will be aware of the important place Dies Iræ held in the liturgy. Nevertheless the "Consilium for the Implementation of the Constitution on the Liturgy" - the Vatican body charged with drafting and implementing reforms to the Catholic Liturgy ordered by the Second Vatican Council - felt the funeral rite was in need of reform and eliminated the sequence from the ordinary rite. The architect of these reforms, Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, explains the mind of the members of the Consilium:

They got rid of texts that smacked of a negative spirituality inherited from the Middle Ages. Thus they removed such familiar and even beloved texts as the Libera me, Domine, the Dies Iræ, and others that overemphasized judgment, fear, and despair. These they replaced with texts urging Christian hope and arguably giving more effective expression to faith in the resurrection.[2]

It remained as the sequence for the Requiem Mass in the Roman Missal of 1962 (the last edition before the Second Vatican Council) and so is still heard in churches where the Tridentine Latin liturgy is celebrated.

The "Dies Irae" is still suggested in the Liturgy of the Hours during last week before Advent as the opening hymn for the Office of Readings, Lauds and Vespers (divided into three parts).[3]

The poem

The Latin text below is taken from the Requiem Mass in the 1962 Roman Missal. The first English version below, translated by William Josiah Irons in 1849,[4] replicates the rhyme and metre of the original. The second English version is a more literal translation.

Dies iræ! dies illa
Solvet sæclum in favilla:
Teste David cum Sibylla!

Quantus tremor est futurus,
Quando iudex est venturus,
Cuncta stricte discussurus!

Tuba, mirum spargens sonum
Per sepulchra regionum,
Coget omnes ante thronum.

Mors stupebit, et natura,
Cum resurget creatura,
Iudicanti responsura.

Liber scriptus proferetur,
In quo totum continetur,
Unde mundus iudicetur.

Iudex ergo cum sedebit,
Quidquid latet, apparebit:
Nil inultum remanebit.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus?
Quem patronum rogaturus,
Cum vix iustus sit securus?

Rex tremendæ maiestatis,
Qui salvandos salvas gratis,
Salva me, fons pietatis.

Recordare, Iesu pie,
Quod sum causa tuæ viæ:
Ne me perdas illa die.

Quærens me, sedisti lassus:
Redemisti Crucem passus:
Tantus labor non sit cassus.

Iuste iudex ultionis,
Donum fac remissionis
Ante diem rationis.

Ingemisco, tamquam reus:
Culpa rubet vultus meus:
Supplicanti parce, Deus.

Qui Mariam absolvisti,
Et latronem exaudisti,
Mihi quoque spem dedisti.

Preces meæ non sunt dignæ:
Sed tu bonus fac benigne,
Ne perenni cremer igne.

Inter oves locum præsta,
Et ab hædis me sequestra,
Statuens in parte dextra.

Confutatis maledictis,
Flammis acribus addictis:
Voca me cum benedictis.

Oro supplex et acclinis,
Cor contritum quasi cinis:
Gere curam mei finis.

Lacrimosa dies illa,
qua resurget ex favilla
iudicandus homo reus.
Huic ergo parce, Deus:

Pie Jesu Domine,
dona eis requiem. Amen.

Day of wrath! O day of mourning!
See fulfilled the prophets' warning,
Heaven and earth in ashes burning!

Oh, what fear man's bosom rendeth,
when from heaven the Judge descendeth,
on whose sentence all dependeth.

Wondrous sound the trumpet flingeth;
through earth's sepulchers it ringeth;
all before the throne it bringeth.

Death is struck, and nature quaking,
all creation is awaking,
to its Judge an answer making.

Lo! the book, exactly worded,
wherein all hath been recorded:
thence shall judgment be awarded.

When the Judge his seat attaineth,
and each hidden deed arraigneth,
nothing unavenged remaineth.

What shall I, frail man, be pleading?
Who for me be interceding,
when the just are mercy needing?

King of Majesty tremendous,
who dost free salvation send us,
Fount of pity, then befriend us!

Think, good Jesus, my salvation
cost thy wondrous Incarnation;
leave me not to reprobation!

Faint and weary, thou hast sought me,
on the cross of suffering bought me.
shall such grace be vainly brought me?

Righteous Judge! for sin's pollution
grant thy gift of absolution,
ere the day of retribution.

Guilty, now I pour my moaning,
all my shame with anguish owning;
spare, O God, thy suppliant groaning!

Thou the sinful woman savedst;
thou the dying thief forgavest;
and to me a hope vouchsafest.

Worthless are my prayers and sighing,
yet, good Lord, in grace complying,
rescue me from fires undying!

With thy favored sheep O place me;
nor among the goats abase me;
but to thy right hand upraise me.

While the wicked are confounded,
doomed to flames of woe unbounded
call me with thy saints surrounded.

Low I kneel, with heart submission,
see, like ashes, my contrition;
help me in my last condition.

Ah! that day of tears and mourning!
From the dust of earth returning
man for judgment must prepare him;
Spare, O God, in mercy spare him!

Lord, all pitying, Jesus blest,
grant them thine eternal rest. Amen.

Day of wrath, that day
Will dissolve the world in ashes
With witness David and the sibyl!

How much tremor there will be,
when the judge will come,
investigating everything strictly!

The trumpet, scattering a wondrous sound
through the sepulchres of the regions,
will collect all before the throne.

Death and nature will marvel,
when the creature resurrects,
about to answer the judging one.

The written book will be brought forth,
in which all is contained,
from which the world shall be judged.

When therefore the judge will sit,
whatever hides will appear:
nothing will remain unpunished.

What am I, miserable, then to say?
Which patron to ask,
when [even] the just may [only] hardly be sure?

King of tremendous majesty,
who freely savest those that have to be saved,
save me, source of piety.

Remember, pious Jesus,
that I am the cause of thy way:
lest thou lose me in that day.

Seeking me, thou sat tired:
thou redeemed [me] having suffered the Cross:
let not so much hardship be lost.

Just judge of revenge,
give the gift of remission
before the day of reckoning.

I sigh, like a guilty:
my face reddens in guilt:
Spare the supplicating one, God.

Thou who absolved Mary,
and heardest the robber,
gavest hope to me, too.

My prayers are not worthy:
however, thou, Good [Lord], do good,
lest I am burned up by eternal fire.

Grant me a place among the sheep,
and take me out from among the goats,
setting me on the right side.

Once the cursed have been rebuked,
sentenced to rancorous flames:
Call thou me with the blessed.

I meekly and humbly pray,
[my] heart is as crushed as the ashes:
perform the healing of mine end.

That tearful day,
by which from the ashes resurrects
the guilty man who is to be judged.
Spare him therefore, God.

Pious Lord Jesus,
grant them rest. Amen.

Because the last two stanzas differ markedly in structure from the preceding stanzas, some scholars consider them to be an addition made in order to suit the great poem for liturgical use. The penultimate stanza discards the consistent scheme of rhyming triplets in favor of a pair of rhyming couplets. The last stanza abandons rhyme for assonance, and, moreover, its lines are catalectic.

In 1970, the Dies Iræ was removed from the Missal and since 1971 has been proposed ad libitum as a hymn for the Liturgy of the Hours at the Office of Readings, Lauds and Vespers. For this purpose stanza 19 was deleted and the poem divided into three sections: 1-6 (for the Office of Readings), 7-12 (for Lauds) and 13-18 (for Vespers). In addition Qui Mariam absolvisti in stanza 13 was replaced by Peccatricem qui solvisti so that that line would now mean, "You who freed/absolved the sinful woman". In addition a doxology is given after stanzas 6, 12 and 18:[3]

O tu, Deus majestatis,
alme candor Trinitatis
nos coniunge cum beatis. Amen.

O God of majesty
nourishing light of the Trinity
join us with the blessed. Amen.

O thou, God of majesty,
gracious splendour of the Trinity
conjoin us with the blessed. Amen.

Inspiration and other translations

A major inspiration of the hymn seems to have come from the Vulgate translation of Zephaniah 1:15–16:

Dies iræ, dies illa, dies tribulationis et angustiæ, dies calamitatis et miseriæ, dies tenebrarum et caliginis, dies nebulæ et turbinis, dies tubæ et clangoris super civitates munitas et super angulos excelsos.
That day is a day of wrath, a day of tribulation and distress, a day of calamity and misery, a day of darkness and obscurity, a day of clouds and whirlwinds, a day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high bulwarks. (Douai Bible)

Other images come from Revelation 20:11–15 (the book from which the world will be judged), Matthew 25:31–46 (sheep and goats, right hand, contrast between the blessed and the accursed doomed to flames), 1 Thessalonians 4:16 (trumpet), 2 Peter 3:7 (heaven and earth burnt by fire), Luke 21:26–27 ("men fainting with fear ... they will see the Son of Man coming"), etc.

From the Jewish liturgy, the prayer Unetanneh Tokef also appears to have been a source: "We shall ascribe holiness to this day, For it is awesome and terrible"; "the great trumpet is sounded", etc.

A number of English translations of the poem have been written and proposed for liturgical use. A Franciscan version can be read here. A very loose Protestant version was made by John Newton; it opens:

Day of judgment! Day of wonders!
Hark! the trumpet's awful sound,
Louder than a thousand thunders,
Shakes the vast creation round!
How the summons wilt the sinner's heart confound!

Jan Kasprowicz, a Polish poet, wrote a hymn entitled Dies irae which describes the Judgement day. The first six lines (two stanzas) follow the original hymn's metre and rhyme structure, and the first stanza translates to "The trumpet will cast a wondrous sound".

The American writer Ambrose Bierce published a satiric version of the poem in his 1903 book Shapes of Clay, preserving the original metre but using humorous and sardonic language; for example, the second verse is rendered:

Ah! what terror shall be shaping
When the Judge the truth's undraping -
Cats from every bag escaping!

Manuscript sources

The oldest text of the sequence is found, with slight verbal variations, in a 13th century manuscript in the Biblioteca Nazionale at Naples. It is a Franciscan calendar missal that must date between 1253–1255 for it does not contain the name of Clare of Assisi, who was canonized in 1255, and whose name would have been inserted if the manuscript were of later date.

Musical settings

The hymn music, with the words of the first stanza, is provided here:

Dies Irae Treble

The words have often been set to music as part of the Requiem service, originally as a sombre plainchant. It also formed part of the traditional Catholic liturgy of All Souls' Day. Music for the Requiem Mass has been composed by many composers, including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as well as Hector Berlioz, Giuseppe Verdi, and Igor Stravinsky.

The traditional Gregorian melody has also been used as a musical quotation in a number of other classical compositions, among them:

Literary references

  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe used the first, the sixth and the seventh stanza of the hymn in the scene "Cathedral" in the first part of his drama Faust (1808).
  • Italian poet Giuseppe Giusti composed in 1835 the satirical poem Il "Dies iræ" on the occasion of the death of Francis II, Emperor of Austria.
  • Oscar Wilde composed a Sonnet on Hearing the Dies Irae Sung in the Sistine Chapel, contrasting the "terrors of red flame and thundering" depicted in the hymn with images of "life and love".
  • In Gaston Leroux's 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera, Erik (the Phantom) has the chant displayed on the wall of his funereal bedroom.
  • Kurt Vonnegut wrote Stones, Time, & Elements - A Humanist Requiem in opposition to the classical Requiem and in particular to the "Dies Irae", which he found "vengeful and sadistic" (and mistakenly reputed a "piece of poetry by committee from the Council of Trent"). His Requiem was set to music by Edgar David Grana.
  • Dies Irae was a title D. H. Lawrence considered for the novel that became Women in Love.
  • In Anne Rice's The Vampire Armand , when Amadeo, Marius de Romanus, and other apprentices were captured by the Santino's satanic coven of vampires, they would mock Armand by singing this hymn.
  • “Dies irae, dies illa when the absent shall be present and the present albums, in desk drawers, this picture and thousands like it have subtly matured, metamorphosed.” The Age of Iron by J.M. Coetzee
  • In Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, Adso has a dream or vision based on the Coena Cypriani while the monks around him chant the "Dies Irae."

References in popular culture

The melody has also been referenced in popular culture, often being used in soundtracks to horror films.

Mozart's Requiem, especially the first two stanzas (Requiem, 2nd movement), is often heard in the scores of movies and the musical "beds" of commercials (e.g. X2: X-Men United).

A version of "Dies Irae" was used in WWE/WWF's WrestleMania XIV during the video package to promote the buildup to The Undertaker and Kane's historic first match against one another.

The musical The Demon Barber of Fleet Street by Stephen Sondheim contains several variations of the Dies Irae throughout its score, most notably in the recurrent "Ballad of Sweeney Todd",[6] and as part of the underscoring in the climactic "Epiphany".

"Lacrimosa" by singer/songwriter Regina Spektor centers around the eighteenth stanza of the poem. The song is written from the point of view of Icarus, the son of Daedalus from Greek mythology, as he is falling to the earth.

A version of Dies Irae named Requiem Nitachou K.626 is used for Wolfgang Krauser in the Fatal Fury series by SNK,now SNK Playmore.

In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the last stanza (Pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem) is chanted by monks hitting themselves with boards.

Death Note features Dies Irae's first two stanzas as the lyrics of the theme of the Death Note with orchestral music in the background.

Two songs in The Nightmare Before Christmas (soundtrack), Making Christmas and Sally's Song are based on the Dies Irae melody. The melody also serves as a basis for the theme of the films "End of Days" starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, "Parfum - The Story of a Murderer" and most notably, "The Shining".

The Heroes of Might and Magic series frequently uses variations of Dies Irae. The Necromancer theme in Heroes of Might and Magic III and the Title and Haven themes from Heroes of Might and Magic V for example.

In Trauma Center: Under the Knife, the theme "Judgement Day" is merely a variation upon Dies Irae.

In The Dark Spire, the lyrics to the Sixth and Seventh Floor's music are from Dies Irae.

In Onimusha 3 Demon Siege, theme of Guildenstern

In warhammer 40k Horus Heresy: galaxy in flames, it refers to the titan class destroyer

The melody is incorporated as a theme in some songs of the MMORPG EverQuest II.

Dies Irae appears in the soundtrack for Zombies Ate My Neighbors by LucasArts Games.

Black metal bands Sigh and Bathory both have recorded songs entitled "Dies Irae."

Wendy Carlos used the main subject in her composition "Country Lane" from the album entitled "A Clockwork Orange: Wendy Carlos's Complete Original Score"


This page uses content from the English Wikisource. The original article was at Dies Irae. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with the Religion wiki, the text of Wikisource is available under the CC-BY-SA.
  1. Wikisource-logo.svg "Dies Iræ". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  2. Annibale Bugnini, The Reform of the Liturgy : 1948–1975, (The Liturgical Press, 1990), Chap. 46.II.1, p. 773.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Liturgia Horarum IV, (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2000), p. 489.
  4. This translation appears in the English Missal and also The Hymnal 1940 of the Episcopal Church in the USA.
  5. Simmons, Walter. Voices in the Wilderness: Six American Neo-romantic Composers. Scarecrow Press, 2004. ISBN 0810848848,
  6. Zadan, Craig (1989). Sondheim & Co. 2nd edition. Perennial Library. pp. 248. ISBN 0-06-091400-9. 

External links

la:Dies irae lt:Dies irae hu:Dies iraeja:怒りの日 no:Dies irae nn:Dies iraept:Dies Irae ru:Судный день (гимн) sl:Dies irae fi:Dies irae sv:Vredens stora dag uk:Dies irae

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