General Information

Angelus, in the Roman Catholic church, is a devotion commemorating the incarnation of Jesus Christ. It consists of several short prescribed verses, three recitations of the "Hail Mary," and a brief concluding prayer. Traditionally accompanied by the ringing of the Angelus bell, it is said three times daily, usually at 6 AM, noon, and 6 PM. The devotion takes its name from the first word of the Latin version. It is the subject of a famous painting, The Angelus by the French artist Jean François Millet; the canvas depicts farmers pausing in their field chores to pray.

BELIEVE Religious Information Source - By Alphabet Our List of 2,300 Religious Subjects


Additional Information

Although the Angelus is a specifically Catholic devotion it is in fact prayed by many other Christians in various parts of the world. It dates back to the 13th century. In 1269, St. Bonaventure recommended that Catholics should imitate the Franciscan custom of reciting three Hail Marys when the bell rang each evening for prayer. Of course the call to prayer takes place throughout the day and officially the Angelus is said by many at 6, 12 noon and 6pm.

Although the complete prayer incorporates the Hail Mary it does in fact focus on the Incarnation of Christ which is shared by all Christians and the citations in the prayer are taken from the Bible. In many ways it is akin to the Rosary where the focus is not on the words of the Hail Mary but the Blessed Mysteries.

By praying in such a way one is consecrating the day to God and His glorious plan of salvation. Many are not able to say the Divine Office which is time consuming and requires the facility of the Breviary. The Angelus is simple to learn and can be said anywhere. It can indeed be said on the move, standing or walking or even driving.

K Andrews



The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary
And she conceived of the Holy Spirit
Hail Mary..................

Behold the handmaid of the Lord
Be it done unto me according to thy Word
Hail Mary..................

And the Word was made Flesh
And dwelt among us
Hail Mary..................

Pray for us Holy Mother of God
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ
Let us pray...

Pour forth we beseech thee O Lord, thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the incarnation of Christ thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by His passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the Same Christ Our Lord, Amen.

If more than one person is praying the prayer, the leader prays the first line of the three citations while the group answer with the second. Generally the leader recites the first half of the Hail Mary while the group respond with the second. The leader announces "let us pray" and the whole group - leader et al- recite the final prayer.

K Andrews


Additional Information

The origin of the Angelus is difficult to trace with accuracy, but goes back at least as far at the 13th century, when it was prayed only in the evening. The addition of the Angelus in the morning, and then at the noon hour came later, so there is no pious tradition associated with the triple Angelus. Until the 19th century, few people had access to personal means of telling time, and they depended on the church bells to know the usual hours for Mass, for the Hours of the Office, etc., which is why the praying of the Angelus is associated with the ringing of the Angelus bell. In fact, the hours of six a.m., noon, and six p.m. are approximate. During the Middle Ages, it would have been more correct to say that the Angelus was prayed at about dawn, noon, and sunset. The praying of the Angelus was associated with the offices of Morning Prayer (Lauds) and Evensong (Vespers), which were chanted in the monasteries and cathedrals at those times. Since there was no major hour of the Office prayed at noon (Sext was but a short office and was often prayed in the fields or farms), perhaps that is why the noonday Angelus developed last.

Sister Elias


Catholic Information


The Angelus is a short practice of devotion in honour of the Incarnation repeated three times each day, morning, noon, and evening, at the sound of the bell. It consists essentially in the triple repetition of the Hail Mary, to which in later times have been added three introductory versicles and a concluding versicle and prayer. The prayer is that which belongs to the antiphon of Our Lady, "Alma Redemptoris," and its recitation is not of strict obligation in order to gain the indulgence. From the first word of the three versicles, i.e. Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariæ (The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary). the devotion derives its name. The indulgence of 100 days for each recitation, with a plenary once a month. was granted by Benedict XIII, 14 September, 1724, but the conditions prescribed have been somewhat modified by Leo XIII, 3 April, 1884. Originally it was necessary that the Angelus should be said kneeling (except on Sundays and on Saturday evenings, when the rubrics prescribe a standing posture), and also that it should be said at the sound of the bell; but more recent legislation allows these conditions to be dispensed with for any sufficient reason, provided the prayer be said approximately at the proper hours, i.e. in the early morning, or about the hour of noon, or towards evening. In this case. however, the whole Angelus as commonly printed has to be recited, but those who do not know the prayers by heart or who are unable to read them, may say five Hail Marys in their place. During paschal time the antiphon of Our Lady, "Regina cæli lætare," with versicle and prayer, is to be substituted for the Angelus. The Angelus indulgence is one of those which are not suspended during the year of Jubilee.


The history of the Angelus is by no means easy to trace with confidence, and it is well to distinguish in this matter between what is certain and what is in some measure conjectural. In the first place it is certain that the Angelus at midday and in the morning were of later introduction than the evening Angelus. Secondly it is certain that the midday Angelus, which is the most recent of the three, was not a mere development or imitation of the morning and evening devotion. Thirdly, there can be no doubt that the practice of saying three Hail Mary~ in the evening somewhere about sunset had become general throughout Europe in the first half of the fourteenth century and that it was recommended and indulgenced by Pope John XXII in 1318 and 1327. These facts are admitted by all writers on the subject, but when we try to push our investigations further we are confronted with certain difficulties. It seems needless to discuss all the problems involved. We may be content to state simply the nearly identical conclusions at which T. Esser, O.P., and the present writer have arrived, in two series of articles published about the same time quite independently of each other.


Although according to Father Esser's view we have no certain example of three Hail Marys being recited at the sound of the bell in the evening earlier than a decree of the Provincial Synod of Gran in the year 1307, still there are a good many facts which suggest that some such practice was current in the thirteenth century. Thus there is a vague and not very well confirmed tradition which ascribes to Pope Gregory IX, in 1239, an ordinance enjoining that a bell should be rung for the salutation and praises of Our Lady. Again, there is a.grant of Bishop Henry of Brixen to the church of Freins in the Tyrol, also of 1239, which concedes an indulgence for saying three Hail Marys "at the evening tolling". This, indeed, has been suspected of interpolation, but the same objection cannot apply to a decree of Franciscan General Chapter in the time of St Bonaventure (1263 or 1269), directing preachers to encourage the people to say Hail Marys when the Complin bell rang. Moreover, these indications are strongly confirmed by certain inscriptions still to be read on some few bells of the thirteenth century. Further back than this direct testimonials do not go; but on the other hand we read in the "Regularis Concordia", a monastic rule composed by St. Aethelwold of Winchester, c. 975, that certain prayers called the tres orationes, preceded by psalms, were to be said after Complin as well as before Matins and again at Prime, and although there is no express mention of a bell being rung after Complin, there is express mention of the bell being rung for the tres orationes at other hours. This practice, it seems, is confirmed by German examples (Mart ne, De Antiq. Eccles. Ritibus, IV, 39), and as time went on it became more and more definitely associated with three separate peals of the bell, more especially at Bec, at St. Denis, and in the customs of the Canon Regular of St. Augustine (e.g. at Barnwell Priory and elsewhere). We have not in these earlier examples any mention of the Hail Mary, which in England first became familiar as an antiphon in the Little Office of Our Lady about the beginning of the eleventh century (The Month, November, 1901), but it would be the most natural thing in the world that once the Hail Mary had become an everyday prayer, this should for the laity take the place of the more elaborate tres orationes recited by the monks; just as in the case of the Rosary, one hundred and fifty Hail Marys were substituted for the one hundred and fifty psalms of the Psalter. Moreover, in the Franciscan decree of St. Bonaventure's time, referred to above, this is precisely what we find, viz., that the laity in general were to be induced to say Hail Marys when the bell rang at Complin, during, or more probably after, the office of the friars. A special appropriateness for these greetings of Our Lady was found in the belief that at this very hour she was saluted by the angel. Again, it is noteworthy that some monastic customals in speaking of the tres orationes expressly prescribe the observance of the rubric about standing or kneeling according to the season, which rubric is insisted upon in the recitation of the Angelus to this day. From this we may conclude that the Angelus in its origin was an imitation of the monks' night prayers and that it had probably nothing directly to do with the curfew bell, rung as a signal for the extinction of fires and lights. The curfew, however, first meets us in Normandy in 1061 and is then spoken of as a bell which summoned the people to say their prayers, after which summons they should not again go abroad. If anything, therefore, it seems more probable that the curfew was grafted upon this primitive prayer-bell rather than vice versa. If the curfew and the Angelus coincided at a later period, as apparently they did In some cases, this was. probably accidental.


This last suggestion about the tres orationes also offers some explanation of the fact that shortly after the recital of the three Hail Marys at evening had become familiar, a custom established itself of ringing a bell in the morning and of saying the Ave thrice. The earliest mention seems to be in the chronicle of the city of Parma, 1318, though it was the town-bell which was rung in this case. Still the bishop exhorted all who heard it to say three Our Fathers and three Hail Marys for the preservation of peace, whence it was called "the peace bell". The same designation was also applied elsewhere to the evening bell. In spite of some difficulties it seems probable enough that this morning bell was also an imitation of the monastic triple peal for the tres orationes or morning prayers; for this, as noted above, was rung at the. morning office of Prime as well as at Complin. The morning Ave Maria soon became a familiar custom in all the countries of Europe, not excepting England, and was almost as generally observed as that of the evening, But while in England the evening Ave Maria is enjoined by Bishop John Stratford of Winchester as early as 1324. no formal direction. as to the morning ringing is found before the instruction of Archbishop Arundel in 1399.


This suggests a much more complicated problem which cannot be adequately discussed here. The one clear fact which seems to result alike from the statutes of several German Synods in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, as also from books of devotion of a somewhat later date, is that the midday ringing, while often spoken of as a peace bell and formally commended by Louis XI of France in 1475 for that special object, was closely associated with the veneration of the Passion of Christ. At first it appears that this midday bell, e.g. at Prague in 1386, and at Mainz in 1423, was only rung on Fridays, but the custom by degrees extended to the other days of the week. In the English Horæ and the German Hortulus Animæ of the beginning of the sixteenth century rather lengthy prayers commemorating the Passion are provided to be said at the midday tolling of the bell in addition to the ordinary three Aves. Later on (c. 1575), in sundry books of devotion (e.g. Coster's Thesaurus), while our modern Angelus versicles are printed, much as we say them now, though minus the final prayer, an alternative form commemorating our Lord's death upon the cross is suggested for the noontide ringing. These instructions, which may already be found translated in an English manuscript written in 1576 (manuscripts Hurlelan 2327), suggest that the Resurrection should be honoured in the morning, the Passion at noon, and the Incarnation in the evening, since the times correspond to the hours at which these great Mysteries actually occurred. In some prayer-books of this epoch different devotions are suggested for each of the three ringings, e.g. the Regina Cœli for the morning (see Esser, 784), Passion prayers for noon and our present versicles for sundown. To some such practice we no doubt owe the substitution of Regina Cœli for the Angelus during paschal time. This substitution was recommended by Angelo Rocca and Quarti at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Our present three versicles seem first to have made their appearance in an Italian catechism printed at Venice in 1560 (Esser, 789); but the fuller form now universally adopted cannot be traced back earlier than 1612. Be it noted that somewhat earlier than this a practice grew up in Italy of saying a "De profundis" for the holy souls immediately after the evening Angelus. Another custom, also of Italian origin, is that of adding three Glorias to the Angelus in thanksgiving to the Blessed Trinity for the privileges bestowed upon our Lady. (See also HAIL MARY.)

Publication information Written by Herbert Thurston. Transcribed by Carl Horst. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume I. Published 1907. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York

Angelus Bell

Catholic Information

The triple Hail Mary recited in the evening, which is the origin of our modern Angelus, was closely associated with the ringing of a bell. This bell seemingly belonged to Coinplin, which was theoretically said at sundown, though in practice it followed closely upon the afternoon office of Vespers. There can be little doubt that in all save a few exceptional cases, the tolling the Ave bell was distinct from the ringing of curfew (ignitegium); the former taking place at the end of Complin and perhaps coinciding with the prayers for peace, said in choir; the latter being the signal for the close of day and for the general bed-time. In many places, both in England and France, the curfew bell is still rung, and we note that not only is it rung at a relatively late hour, varying from 8 to 10, but that the actual peal lasts in most cases for a notable period of time, being prolonged for a hundred strokes or more. Where the town-bell and the bells of the principal church or monastery were distinct, the curfew was generally rung upon the town-bell. Where the church-bell served for both purposes, the Ave and the curfew were probably rung upon the same bell at different hours. There is a great lack of records containing any definite note of time regarding the ringing of the Ave bell, but there is at least one clear example in the case of Cropredy, Oxfordshire where in 1512 a bequest was made to the churchwardens on condition that they should "toll dayly the Avees bell at six of the clok in the mornyng, at xii of the clok at noone and at foure of the clok at afternoone" (North, Church Bells of Lincolnshire, 169). At the same time it seems clear that in the case of cathedral churches, etc., where the Office was said in choir, the interval between Complin and the (anticipated) Matins of the next day was not very great; at any rate. at some seasons of the year. Under these circumstances the three interrupted peals of the Ave bell probably served as a sort of introduction to the continuous tolling of the curfew which preceded Matins. This would be sufficient to account for certain clear traces of a connection in some localities between the curfew and the recital of the three evening Ayes. For instance, the poet Villon (fifteenth century) must. clearly be thinking of the curfew, when he writes:

J'oy la cloche de la Sarbonne

Qui toujours neuf heures sonne

Le salut que l'ange pr dit.

Again, if there were no such connection, it would be difficult to explain why some of the Reformation bishops like Hooper did their best to suppress the tolling of the curfew as a superstitious practice. Still the attempt was not successful. Long before this, in 1538, a Protestant Grand Jury. in Canterbury had presented the parson of St. Peter's church for superstitious practices, complaining of the "tolling of the Ave bell after evening song done" (Stahlscbmidt, Church Bells of Kent, 358), but this could hardly have been the curfew.


Many circumstances point to the conclusion that the ringing of the Angelus in the fourteenth and even in the thirteenth century must have been very general (see The Month, Jan., 1902,69-70, and Jan., 1904, 60-63). The number of bells belonging to these two centuries which still survive is relatively small, but a considerable proportion bear inscriptions which suggest that they were originally intended to serve as Ave bells. In the first place, many bear the words Ave Maria; or, as in the case of a bell at Helfta, near Eisleben, in Germany, dated 1234, the whole sentence: Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Bells with this Ave Maria inscription are also numerous in England, though in England the Angelus bells seem in a very large number of instances to have been dedicated to St. Gabriel. These Gabriel inscriptions take various forms. For example: Dulcis instar mellis campana vocor Gabrielis (I am sweet as honey, and am called Gabriel's bell). In which very common inscription the second word is often sisto, or cisto; the true reading is perhaps dulcissimi mellis. Or again: Ecce Gabrielis sonat hæc campana fidelis (Behold this bell of faithful Gabriel sounds); or Missi de coelis nomen habeo Gabrielis (I bear the name of Gabriel sent from heaven), or Missus vero pie Gabriel fert læta Mariæ (Gabriel the messenger bears joyous tidings to holy Mary). We can hardly be wrong in regarding these bells as Angelus bells, for in the Diocese of Lincoln alone we find nineteen of the surviving medieval bells bearing the name of Gabriel, while only six bear the name of Michael, a much more popular patron in other respects. In France, the Ave Maria seems to have been the ordinary label for Angelus bells; but in Germany-we find as the most common inscription of all, even in the case of many bells of the thirteenth century, the words O Rex Gloriæ Veni Cum Pace (O King of Glory, Come with Peace); as for instance, one of the bells of Freiburg in the Breisgau, dated 1258. To explain the popularity of this inscription we have to remember that according to medieval tradition the Annunciation took place at evening. It was then that the Prince of Peace took flesh and dwelt among us. Moreover in Germany, the Netherlands and in some parts of France the Angelus bell was regularly known as the "Peace bell", and pro pace schlagen (to toll for peace) was a phrase popularly used for ringing the Angelus.


With regard to the manner of ringing the Angelus it seems sufficient to note that the triple stroke repeated three times with a pause between seems to have been adopted from the very beginning. In the fifteenth-century constitutions of Syon monastery it is directed that the lay brother "shall toll the Ave bell nine strokes at three times, keeping the space of one Pater and Ave between each three tollings". Again a fifteenth century bell at Erfert bears the words Cum ter reboo, pie Christiferam ter aveto (When I ring thrice, thrice devoutly greet the Mother of Christ). Still earlier, the statutes of Wells Cathedral, in 1331, direct that "three strokes should be struck at three several times upon the great bell in quick succession", and this shortly before curfew. Slmilarly, at Lérida in Spain, in 1308, the bishop directs that "after Complin and as the shades of night are falling" the bell is to be pealed three times with intervals between (Villanueva, Viage, XVI, 323), while the faithful are directed on hearing the bell to fall on their knees and recite the Ave Maria.

Publication information Written by Herbert Thurston. Transcribed by Carl Horst. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume I. Published 1907. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York

The individual articles presented here were generally first published in the early 1980s. This subject presentation was first placed on the Internet in December 1997.

This page - - - - is at
This subject presentation was last updated on - -

Copyright Information

Send an e-mail question or comment to us: E-mail

The main BELIEVE web-page (and the index to subjects) is at: BELIEVE Religious Information Source - By Alphabet