What are the lyrics to ‘Panis Angelicus’, and who wrote it?

12 October 2018, 11:16 | Updated: 18 September 2023, 16:35

Panis Angelicus - King's College, Cambridge

Andrea Bocelli performed this beautiful miniature at the royal wedding of Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank. But who composed ‘Panis Angelicus’, and what do the lyrics mean?

‘Panis Angelicus’ (which translates as ‘Bread of Angels’) is a verse from the hymn ‘Sacris solemniis’, which was written by Saint Thomas Aquinas for the Feast of Corpus Christi in the 13th century.

The verse – also referred to as a ‘strophe’ – later became famous in its own right, and has often been set to music separately from the rest of the piece.

César Franck composed a beautiful Mass (Messe à trois voix) dating from 1861 that incorporates ‘Panis Angelicus’. The text was also set as a motet by Camille Saint-Saëns in 1898.

Panis Angelicus

Who has performed it?

‘Panis Angelicus’ has been performed by star tenors Andrea Bocelli and Luciano Pavarotti along with the late soprano Jessye Norman and operatic pop group Il Volo.

The piece has also been sung in honour of two US senators. On 8 June 1968, the verse was performed at the Requiem Mass for the late US senator and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy.

Plácido Domingo and Yo-Yo Ma also performed the piece to honour Robert’s brother, Senator Edward Kennedy, at his Requiem Mass on 29 August 2009.

What are the lyrics and translation of ‘Panis Angelicus’?

Panis angelicus
Fit panis hominum
Dat panis coelicus
Figuris terminum
O res mirabilis
Manducat dominum
Pauper, pauper
Servus et humilis

May the Bread of Angels
Become bread for mankind;
The Bread of Heaven puts
All foreshadowings to an end;
Oh, thing miraculous!
The body of the Lord will nourish
the poor, the poor,
the servile, and the humble.