What is Pie Jesu?

Pie Jesu is in fact the final couplet, or pair of lines, from the hymn Dies irae. The latter is a description of the Last Judgment: originally a Medieval poem, it has been set to music many times.

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Pie Jesu, for its part, is often included in musical settings of the Requiem Mass - a service offered for the repose of those who have passed on. The phrase means 'Pious Jesus' (or 'Merciful Jesus') in Latin.

Pie Jesu in classical music

Various composers have set the Requiem Mass to music, and have included a Pie Jesu section within their setting. Famous Requiems to feature a Pie Jesu include those by Luigi Cherubini, Antonin Dvořák, Maurice Duruflé and John Rutter.

The most famous Pie Jesu, however, must be the one from the Requiem by French composer Gabriel Fauré (pictured above), which is breathtaking in its beauty and unadorned eloquence. Fellow French composer Camille Saint-Saëns famously remarked: 'Just as Mozart's is the only Ave verum corpus, this is the only Pie Jesu.'

More recently, Andrew Lloyd Webber included a setting of Pie Jesu in his 1985 Requiem. That particular setting has been widely recorded, by performers including Sarah Brightman, Charlotte Church, and Anna Netrebko.

Pie Jesu lyrics

Pie Jesu original Latin lyrics

The phrase Pie Jesu means 'Pious Jesus', or 'Merciful Jesus', in Latin. The full text of the Pie Jesu is:

Pie Jesu Domine,
Dona eis requiem. (sung twice)

Pie Jesu Domine,
Dona eis requiem sempiternam.

Pie Jesu English lyrics

The English translation of the Pie Jesu runs as follows:

Pious Jesus (or Merciful Jesus),
Grant them rest. (sung twice)

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Pious Jesus (or Merciful Jesus),
Grant them everlasting rest.

Authors

Steve Wright
Steve WrightMulti-Platform Content Producer, BBC Music Magazine

Steve has been an avid listener of classical music since childhood, and now contributes a variety of features to BBC Music’s magazine and website. He started writing about music as Arts Editor of an Oxford University student newspaper and has continued ever since, serving as Arts Editor on various magazines.