The Shrine of the Holy House

EDITORIAL The Lauretan Litanies

p. Giuseppe Santarelli

Throughout the whole Catholic world, for centuries the Lauretan Litanies are recited or at the end of the rosary or as a prayer in itself. It is known that they did not originate in the shrine of the Holy  House,  because  they  are  the  result  of  ancient formularies,  some  going  back  to  the  XII  century,  but that in the shrine of Loreto have found a definitive redaction, that from there has spread everywhere. Infact, the pilgrims who at Loreto, on Saturday, heard sung the Marian Litanies, would bring them back to their homelands, making them known to a vast circle of faithful. And so they took the title of «Lauretan Litanies».
In  the  XVI  century  one  assisted  to  the  phenomenon of a proliferation of Marian litanic formulations, among which exceled the one elaborated in the very Shrine of Loreto with the name “modern Litanies” - to distinguish them from the others, called “ancient” or “biblical”  because  the  single  invocations  were  taken up from the texts of the Old Testament, with accommodating reference to some aspect of the life or of a virtue of the Virgin. Yet the attention of the Popes always went to the ancient text of the Lauretan Litanies who’s first print was in 1572. Gregory XIII in 1584 and Sixtus V in 1587, for example, granted some indulgences to special categories of faithful who would have recited them. With  the  decree  Quoniam  multi  of  September  6, 1601 Clement VIII tried to put a limit to the proliferation of the litanic formularies, not only marian, and ordered  that  «preserved  the  ancient  and  common litanies that are within the breviaries, missals, pontifical books and rituals, so also the litanies that are traditionally sung in the Holy House of Loreto», all the others should be presented to the Congregation for Rites for approval. In such a way the Lauretan Litanies became official in the Church. In a lunette of the vault of the Chapel of the Assumption, or American chapel,  Beppe  Steffanina,  figured  Clement  VIII  in  the act of emitting this decree. Throughout  the  centuries  other  invocations  were added  by  the  popes  to  the  classic  formulary  of  the Lauretan  Litanies:  Pius  V,  after  the  battle  of  Lepanto (1571) added “Help of the Christians”; after the dogmatic proclamation of the Immaculate, done by Pius IX in 1854, the addition “Queen conceived without sin” was made official; Leo XIII, in 1883 willed to add to it “Queen of the Rosary” and in 1903 “Mother of Good Counsel”; Benedict XV in 1917, during the first world war, disposed that “Queen of peace” be added; Pius XII,  in  1950  wanted  that  “Queen  assumed  into  heaven” be  added;  Paul  VI,  in  1964,  established  that  “Mother  of the  Church”  be  added;  and  John  Paul  II,  at  the  conclusion  of  the  VII  “Lauretan  Centenary”,  in  1995, added  “Queen  of  the  Family”,  with  reference  to  the Holy House of Nazareth. These authoritative pontifical interventions confirm the officiality of the Lauretan 
Litanies  and  their  diffusion  in  the  Catholic  Church.
During the centuries, they have been set to music by valiant musicians, among which excel Pierluigi da Palestrina, Orlando di Lasso, Wolfgang A. Mozart and Lorenzo Perosi. The  art  of  the  shrine  of  Loreto  has  exalted  them with the splendid frescoes painted by Cesare Maccari between 1890 and 1895 in the top of the dome of the basilica, where are depicted some invocations which, in the vast lunettes, are referred to Mary the Queen.