The Stabat Mater reflects in its stanzas the doctrine and spirituality of coredemption and calls the faithful to enter into this mystery with, in, and through the Mother who stood and offered.

One who could write a hymn full of tenderness towards the Blessed Virgin Mary must have lived a life of ardent devotion to her. It seems as though he lived with the eyes of Mary, in the heart of Mary, and spoke the unspoken words of Our Lady at the foot of the Cross: “I weep because Love is not loved!”[1]

How beautifully this poem expresses what it means to have a devotion to Our Lady’s Sorrows and a coredemptive love for souls.

The Poet

Our poet was an Italian Franciscan Friar from the Umbrian region of Italy who wrote many “lauds” and dramatized Gospel passages for early Italian theatre.[2]

Jacopone da Todi was born around 1230[3] to the aristocratic Benedetti family. Although he studied law in Bologna, he also pursued his interest in poetry. Returning to Todi, he established a law practice and, around 1267, married Vanna di Bernardino di Guidone. Tragically, his wife died in an accident a year later. Jacopone, having discovered that she had been wearing a hair-shirt as a penance for his sins, abandoned his worldly pursuits.

Like St. Francis of Assisi, Jacopone distributed his possessions among the poor. Clothed in rags, he walked the streets for ten years, mocked and despised by those who had admired him as a learned and prominent man.

In 1278, four years after the death of St. Bonaventure, Jacopone asked to become a Friar Minor.[4]  It was a time when two factions had developed within the Franciscan Order—the Spirituals and the Conventuals—and when there was a deterioration of society.[5]

In 1294, Celestine V was elected Pope. The Spirituals, including Jacopone, looked to him for protection from the Conventuals. However, Pope Celestine, feeling himself unequal to the demands of the papal office, abdicated after only five months.[6] In December 1294, Pope Boniface VIII, of a very different character than his predecessor, was elected.

In an act of rebellion against Boniface VIII, the Spirituals signed the Longhezza Manifesto of 1297, which contested the legitimacy of his election to the papacy. In so doing, Jacopone separated himself from the Franciscan vow of obedience to the legitimate Church authority. In less than two years, Boniface crushed the rebellion, and Jacopone was excommunicated and condemned to life imprisonment in an underground dungeon in Todi. Jacopone’s requests for a pardon were ignored by Boniface VIII. It wasn’t until 1303, when Pope Benedict XI was elected to the papacy, that Jacopone was pardoned and the excommunication lifted.

Having borne the hardships of imprisonment in the spirit of penance, Jacopone spent the last three years of his life among the Franciscan Friars at the Convent of San Lorenzo in Collazzone. Jacopone wept continuously: “I weep because Love is not loved.”[7] Suffering crushing defeat,[8] Jacopone’s poetry rose to a Franciscan height,[9] at which time he probably wrote the Stabat Mater.

On Christmas Eve, 1306, Jacopone knew that it was time to welcome Sister Death. After his friend, John of La Verna, administered the Last Sacraments, Jacopone sang one of his favorite poems: “Jesus, in Thee is all our trust, high hope of every heart.”[10] Just as the priest who was celebrating the Midnight Mass intoned the Gloria in Excelsis Deo, Jacopone closed his eyes.

History of the Poem

Because the Stabat Mater was written in Latin, the language of the Church, Jacopone probably wrote it for his Franciscan community, for use in the liturgy and in promoting devotion to Christ’s Passion and Our Lady’s sufferings.

Because this poem has rhyme and meter, it quickly became a chant used in the flagellants’[11] penitential processions of the late 14th century, when the horrors of the “Black Death” plague and scandals swept across Europe. Because these processions traveled from town to town,[12] the Stabat Mater became well-known throughout Italy and Europe.

Although the flagellant practice was condemned by Pope Clement VI, disappearing after the 15th century, the Stabat Mater already had found its place in the Franciscan Missal of the 14th century and in European Missals of the 15th century. It was first used liturgically as a Sequence in the late 15th century[13]—one of many sequences in the liturgy of local dioceses and religious orders, not yet having received papal approval for use in the universal Church.[14]

As a result of the liturgical reforms promulgated by the Council of Trent (1545-1563), all but four sequences were suppressed, including the Stabat Mater. However, the Stabat Mater had already drawn the interest of famous composers, such as Palestrina, who set it to music for Pope Gregory XIV.[15]

Liturgy of the Church

In 1727, Pope Benedict XIII extended the Feast of the Compassion of Mary (1482) to the Universal Church, under the title “Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary” (renamed the “Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows” after the Church calendar was revised). The Stabat Mater was designated as the Sequence[16] and was placed into the Roman Missal and the Divine Office.[17]


The sequence began as a genre of poetry around the 9th century, when Roman chant was flourishing throughout Europe.  As the sequence for the Mass of Our Lady of Sorrows, the Stabat Mater reflects the Alleluia verse, “Blessed are you, O Virgin Mary… beneath the Cross of the Lord,”  pointing the Church’s gaze deeply into the mystery of Marian coredemption.

A Commentary

Reflection on the coredemptive mission of the Mother was and is an important teaching of the Franciscan Order and of the universal Church. Thus, Our Lady was increasingly honored and invoked since the 13th century, such as in Jacopone’s Stabat Mater.

The Stabat Mater contains three movements, within which we are invited to “come and see,”[19] to be transported to Calvary and stand with the Mother as coredeemers with her. What will we witness? What did she endure on our behalf? What sorrows and sufferings of the Mother, in connection with her Son’s Sorrows and Passion for the salvation of mankind, will we share in?

That scene on Calvary, of those present at the Foot of the Cross, is presented briefly in John’s Gospel (19:25-27). Only over time has the Church come to know and comprehend the greatness of the Mother who stood at the Foot of the Cross. Through the writings of mystics such as Jacopone da Todi—and later, in greater detail, Venerable Mary of Agreda and St. Veronica Giuliani (as dictated by Our Lady)— we are able to experience and to share in what Our Lady endured on our behalf.


Movement I:  In Stanzas 1-8, Jacopone poetically describes the Mother standing at the Foot of the Cross.

The sorrowful Mother was standing tearful near the cross while her Son was hanging [there] (Stanza 1).

Whose sighing, saddened and grieving soul a sword pierced[20] (Stanza 2).

Who is the person who would not weep[21] if he would look upon the Mother of Christ in so great a torment? (Stanza 5).

Who could not be saddened to contemplate the Mother of Christ sorrowing with her Son? (Stanza 6).

The Mother… suffered all the torments of her Most Holy Son in exact duplication… For in her most ardent love she would have considered it incomparably more painful to see her divine Son suffer and die without being allowed to share in His torments.[22]

The same sword pierced both Hearts; with only this difference, that Christ suffered as God-man and sole Redeemer of mankind, while the most holy Mary suffered as a creature and as Coadjutrix of her Most Holy Son.[23]

Via love, she was thus sharer in the consent which the Word gave to the opprobrium, to the scourging, to the thorns, to the nails, and to the Cross; and as His companion [support] in our redemption, she offered herself on our behalf in suffering with Him all that her Most Holy Son had to suffer.[24]

The bodily pains so changed and disfigured her that Saint John and the holy women failed to find in her any resemblance of herself.[25]

The lance-thrust… was cruel and very painful only to me… It was a great affliction; but whoever meets with this mysterious favor will find it a great relief and consolation in His sorrows… Through this Wound look upon the Heart of Christ and upon me, sweetly and ardently loving in It thy enemies and all creatures.”[26]

Movement II

As is typical of Franciscan poetry, Jacopone switches focus in the second part of his poem.[27] In Stanzas 9-18, we ask the Mother to let us feel her pain and sorrow and that of her Son.

Make my heart burn in loving Christ [my] God so that I may be pleasing to Him (Stanza 10).

Holy Mother, may you do this, strongly affix the wounds of the Crucified in my heart (Stanza 11).

Share with me the punishment of your wounded Child who so deigned to suffer for me (Stanza 12).

I desire to stand near the cross with you, to associate with you willingly in grieving (Stanza 14).

O sinners… come to Jesus’ Heart; come to be cleansed by His Most Precious Blood…. He awaits you with open arms to embrace you.[28]

I saw five radiant rays issue from His Most Holy Wounds. In four of them were the nails; and in one was the spear… and it went straight through my heart, from one side to the other… and the nails pierced my hands and feet.[29]

At that very moment the essence of the two joys was revealed. One was love, the other suffering: love burned like a ball of fire, and in the midst of the fire could be seen the other lovely joy of suffering… All this the Lord made me understand, and He brought me such a yearning to suffer, that I could ask for nothing else.[30]

When he had elevated the All Holy Host, Mary Most Holy had me make that offering which I so often make of myself, in union with that made by Jesus for us on the Altar of the Cross.[31]

Concluding Movement

After having stood with the Mother, sharing her grief and pain, in Stanzas 19-20, we petition our Redeemer, through His Mother, that we share in the palm of victory that He has won for us.


O Christ, when it is necessary to go from this place, grant through Your Mother that I arrive at the palm of victory (Stanza 19).

Jesus said to His Mother at the Wedding Feast of Cana, “What to Me, to thee.”[32]

Just so, “The same, which happened in the Head, Christ the Lord and Son of God, must happen to all members of His Mystical Body.”[33]

My Most Holy Son took me into glory and declared me Mother of Mercy and Help of the whole world, in virtue of that most sacred Passion which my Son and I had suffered together.[34]

Just as she cooperated in His Passion and offered herself as a victim for the human race, so the same Lord made her a participant in His dignity of Redeemer and placed her in charge of the merits and fruits of the Redemption, so that she might distribute them, and that by her hand alone they might be communicated to the redeemed.[35]

Importance of Devotion to Our Lady’s Sorrows

Our Lord says that “the tears which you shed in compassion for My sufferings are pleasing to Me, but bear in mind that on account of My infinite love for My Mother, the tears you shed in compassion for her sufferings are still more precious.”[36]

How can we show our gratitude to the Mother for what she suffered on our behalf, in union with her Son? How can we console her? “By at least meditating frequently upon, and daily consoling her in, her Sorrows.”[37]

In these evil times, and in order that you may not be included in the perdition of so many souls, bewail it in the bitterness of your heart, never forgetting the mysteries of the Incarnation, Passion and Death of my Divine Son. I desire you to give thanks in compensation for the great number of those who forget it. [I] assure you that the mere memory and contemplation of these mysteries are terrible to hell.[38]

Meditating on the Stabat Mater fosters a deep devotion to Our Lady’s Sorrows because it allows us to be present to the Mother standing at the Foot of the Cross, suffering with her who is suffering with her Son, our Redeemer. Devotion to Our Lady’s Sorrows is part of the larger devotion to Our Lord’s Passion. There are two well-known devotions that focus our contemplation on both Our Lord’s Passion and Our Lady’s Compassion.

The Stations of the Cross evolved over time, beginning around the 12th century. Within the Franciscan tradition, the Stations became part of the Lenten devotional soon after St. Francis’ return from the Holy Land in 1221, and actively promoted by the Franciscans beginning in the 14th century. By the 19th century,[39] the Stations of the Cross became a permanent and universal part of Lenten prayers.[40]

The meditations written by St. Alphonsus Liguori[41] include singing the Stabat Mater as one processes from Station to Station,[42] calling to mind that “two hung upon one cross.”[43]

Our Lady’s Seven Sorrows became a devotion in the Church around the 14th century. Our Lady’s Sorrows spanned her lifetime, “from the moment the Incarnation took place at the Annunciation.”[44] “A martyrdom of love beyond human definition or imagination began to unfold… That torture upon the Son would likewise be asked of and laid upon the Mother who had given Him birth in her blood so that she might give birth now to us, in His Blood.”[45]

In this devotion to her Sorrows, Our Lady revealed seven graces to souls who honor her daily by meditating on her sorrows.

Coredeemers With Our Lady

St. Veronica Giuliani’s last words—“I have found Love, Love has let Himself be seen!”[46]—invite the Church to be coredeemers for the sake of mankind’s salvation:

My God, I ask you for nothing other than the salvation of poor sinners. Convert them all to you… Set me as a go-between between you and sinners. Let torments come. Love will endure everything. Love has conquered, and Love Himself has been conquered.[47]

Such is the beauty and power of the Stabat Mater to move us toward a greater devotion to Our Lady’s Sorrows and a coredemptive love for souls.[48]


When a dogma is proclaimed by the Church the theologians conduct careful research to show that the proposed dogma is part of the divine Revelation and, hence, is contained in Sacred Scripture and Tradition. The latter includes the writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, the liturgical texts of the various ancient rites of the Catholic Church, papal and magisterial documents such as encyclicals, and the writings of the Saints and Blesseds of the Church.

The Stabat Mater is testimony to the fact that the Coredemption was already so deeply embedded in the teaching and devotional life of the Church that it does not question whether Our Lady is Coredemptrix, but accepts it as reality and exercises the devotion without shame or hesitation. The Stabat Mater also gives testimony to a devotion that began in the heart of the Church as an oral tradition which then passed into writing. This devotion to Our Lady as Coredemptrix, as mentioned in Part 1 of this series, goes back to the Foot of the Cross.[49] The Stabat Mater beautifully illustrates how the Church has continually pondered the saving events that took place on Calvary and the significance of the Woman standing at the Foot of the Cross, to whom Our Lord bequeathed His inheritance.

The Stabat Mater is also testimony to the Franciscan axiom that knowledge is not for the sake of knowledge, but in order to grow in charity, and that a truth of the Faith has reached its perfection when it is assimilated in the heart and expressed in devotion. Jacopone da Todi and the Seraphic Father, Saint Francis, as they were approaching the end of their lives, both wept as they considered that “Love is not loved.” How did this sentiment arise in their hearts? They received this grace from that Immaculate Heart, from the one who suffered at the Foot of the Cross because “Love is not loved.”

Let us take to heart the moving words of the Stabat Mater and enter into our Sorrowful Mother’s suffering, because “Love is not loved.” Let us learn from Our Mother Coredemptrix in this way how to be conformed more perfectly to Christ and to Him Crucified. And may the rest of her children, as prophesied in the Book of the Apocalypse,[50] finally give her the remaining and crowning glory that is due to the Woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet, by recognizing and praying to hasten the moment when the Church will proclaim what has come to be called the fifth Marian dogma—the Coredemption—which St. Maximilian Kolbe and others have recognized as the final golden thread to be pulled through this Marian tapestry that her Divine Son has been weaving from all eternity. 


[1]     Deacon John., accessed September 8, 2019.


[2], accessed August 18, 2019.


[3]     Note: St. Francis died in 1226.


[4]     Jacopone knew Br. Leo, an early ompanion of St. Francis. Through their friendship, Jacopone learned about St. Francis and Franciscan spirituality and theology.


[5]     Ozanam, Frederick. The Franciscan Poets of the 13th Century, Ch. IV: “The Blessed Jacopone da Todi.” New York: Charles Scribner’s, 1914, p. 187.


[6]     Celestine V is one of only two popes to abdicate—the other being Benedict XVI in 2013.


[7]     Note: St. Francis cried out “Love is not love!” as he traveled the countryside inviting people to love Jesus Christ more.


[8]     Note: Many great works were written at a “point of defeat”—for example, “Messiah” arose from Handel’s darkness.


[9]     Jacopone da Todi: Lauds, Foreword, p. xxi.


[10]    Habig, Marion, O.F.M. The Franciscan Book of Saints, quoted on, accessed May 5, 2019.


[11], Georgius Stella, Chancellor († 1420). Accessed August 30, 2019.


[12], accessed August 5, 2019.


[13]    Ibid.


[14]    Fr. Dwight Campbell, J.D., S.T.D., in an email, dated August 23, 2019.


[15], accessed August 25, 2019.


[16]    Dictionary of Mary. “Stabat Mater,” by Anthony Buono, Catholic Publishing: New York, 1985.


[17]    H. T. Henry, S.V. “Stabat Mater,” The Catholic Encyclopedia: an international work of reference on the constitution, doctrine, discipline and history of the Catholic Church (New York:  Robert Appleton Co., 1907-1912), 14:239.


[18]    Newsletter, July 2012, Committee on Divine Worship, p. 26-27,, accessed August 20, 2019.


[19]    cf. Jn 1:46.


[20]    cf. Lk 2:34-35.


[21]    cf. Lam 1:12.


[22]    Ven. Mary of Agreda, Mystical City of God, Vol. III: 508.


[23]    Ibid., Vol. III, Book II, Ch. 17: 576.


[24]    St. Veronica Giuliani, Diary III: 962.


[25]    Mystical City of God. Vol. III: 630.


[26]    Ibid., Vol. III: 740; cf. JN 19:37; Zech. 12:10.


[27]    Moorman, John. A History of the Franciscan Order: From Its Origins to the Year 1517. Franciscan Herald Press: June 15, 1988, p. 269.


[28]    Diary II: 16-17.


[29]    Diary I: 897; St. Francis received the Stigmata in 1224.


[30]    Diary I: 437.


[31]    Diary IV: 114.


[32]    Jn 2:4.


[33]    Mystical City of God, Vol. III: 641; cf. Stanza 16.


[34]    Diary IV: 453.


[35]    Mystical City of God, Vol. I, Book I, Ch. 18: 278.


[36]    The Friar Servants of Mary, “The Seven Sorrows of our Blessed Mother,”, accessed September 15, 2019.


[37]    Liguori, St. Alphonsus (1696-1787), The Glories of Mary.


[38]    Mystical City of God. Vol. III: 724; cf. GN 3:15.


[39]    In 1731, Pope Clement XII extended to all churches the right to have the stations. St. Leonard of Port Maurice, “preacher of the way of the cross,” erected 571 sets of stations between 1731 and 1751. The number of stations was fixed at 14.


[40], accessed August 15, 2019.


[41]    St. Alphonsus devotes many pages in The Glories of Mary, to the Sorrowful Mother who “stood” beneath the Cross.


[42], accessed August 25, 2019.


[43]    St. Alphonsus Liguori, quoted at, accessed August 31, 2019.


[44]    cf. Lk 1: 26-38.


[45]    “Come and See If There Be Any Sorrow Like Unto My Sorrow.”, accessed September 1, 2019.


[46]    Pope Benedict XVI, “St. Veronica Giuliani,”, accessed September 8, 2019.


[47], accessed September 8, 2019.


[48]    cf. Col 1:24.


[49]    In this sense, Our Lady and the Apostle, St. John, standing at the Foot of the Cross, can be understood to represent the entire Church, born from the side of Christ.


[50]    Rev 11:19; 12:1-6; 13-17.