Illumina le tenebre


Francis of Assisi (1182-1226)

This is one of the oldest prayers of St. Francis. It has been handed down in the original Umbrian dialect, as well as in Latin. Many manuscripts indicate that it was composed as Francis prayed before the large painted icon crucifix in the church of San Damiano, near Assisi. Francis often visited this abandoned, dilapidated chapel in the early days of his conversion. The story goes that one day while praying there, he heard a voice saying,“Francis, go repair my church which is falling into ruins.” So he began to gather stones to rebuild the chapel (which he did, eventually) though Francis later understood that he was being called to renew the living Church. While visiting Assisi in the summer of 2005, I had the opportunity to view the San Damiano crucifix which now hangs in a side chapel in the Basilica of St. Clare. As I knelt before the crucifix, I read and copied down this prayer, which was displayed. I composed this setting for the Chamber Choir of First Unitarian Church in Portland while serving as interim director in 2008.  - Joan Szymko


Item Voicing/Instrumentation Duration Price Audio View Score Quantity
SBMP 861 SATB, a cappella 4:30 $2.05 Santa Barbara Music Press
Publisher Link
SBMP 955 SSAA, a cappella 4:30 $1.95 Santa Barbara Music Press
Publisher Link

Audio Credits: 

The Choir Project, Daniel Hughes, director



Preghiera al Crocifisso (Prayer before the Crucifix)

O alto e glorioso Dio

illumina le tenebre del cuore mio.

Dammi una fede retta,speranza certa,

caritá perfetta e umiltà profunda.

Dammi Signore

senno e discernitmento

per compiere la tua vera e santa voluntá


All highest, glorious God

cast your light into the darkness of my heart.

Give me right faith, firm hope,

perfect charity and profound humility.

Lord, give me

wisdom and perception

so that I may do what is truly your holy will.


Illumina le tenebre [SSAA] by Joan Szymko