Salve Festa Dies

Five-verse arrangement of the processional hymn Hail thee festival day, translated by Maurice Bell in The English Hymnal.

The tune was composed for this 6th C. text, as it has been refined over the centuries, by Ralph Vaughan Williams

  • Organ score 8 ½ x 14 (Landscape)
  • Instrumental parts 8 ½ x 11
  • Choral Part 8 ½ x 11 (descants to two refrains)


The hymn SALVE FESTA DIES, was written by Venantius Fortunatus, a 6th C monk and eventually bishop of Poitiers. Due to the geographic latitude of the land in which he ministered, his poem Tempora florigero pairs the fair beauty of earth from the death of the winter arising with the Resurrection and victory over death. Hymnologist Ruth Ellis Messenger notes that he likely was the first to do this. In addition to the Easter text - drawn from the original - there are anonymous 12th C. variants for Ascension and Pentecost, each ending with the antiphon 'Hail thee, festival day' (L., Salve festa dies); there were also variants produced for feasts of the VIrgin, Corpus Christi, the Trinity, and All Saints (and for particular saints).

It was immediately used as a liturgical procession, to what music we may never know. Though everal versions have appeared in both chant and hymn version, Ralph Vaughan Williams upped the game - perhaps for all time - with this, one of his four original hymn tunes in The English Hymnal. It is characterized by an energetic rhythm with a pronounced forward motion.