ASK FATHER: What is the “Ave Maria” on Roman Curia calendars?

From a reader:

A friend who was in Rome gave me a curial calendar. What does the “Ave Maria,” which usually occurs about half an hour after sundown, signify? My understanding is that a bell is wrung. Is a particular prayer, such as the Angelus, supposed to be said at that point?

Okay… what’s up with that?   First, a view of the calendar and the indication of the “Ave Maria”.


The “Ave Maria” indicates the time of the ringing of the Ave Maria Bell.

This is a relic of time calculation from when accurate clocks were not simply everywhere.

The Ave Maria sounded a single bell struck 3 times, then 4 times, 5 times, and then 1 time.

You know that the Angelus or Regina Caeli is to be rung at 0600, 1200, and 1800.

The “Ave Maria” indicates the change of the religious day from day to night.

The Ave Maria is rung half an hour after sunset. If the Ave Maria is rung at 1730, as it is from 14-27 January and therefore is today, then 1630 is 23rd hour of the day and 1830 is the 1st hour of the next day.

When there were large religious communities in Roman churches and chapters of canons, Vespers would be sung an hour before the Ave Maria Bell. Today, for example, they would be sung at 1630.  However, in the Roman Curia, Cardinals and other officials would still receive people in audience for the hour after the Ave Maria Bell rang. An hour after the Ave Maria, a single bell would toll, thus ending all business for the day, since it was the first hour of night.

Thus, the Roman Ave Maria Bell.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Traductora says:

    Thank you. That was very interesting. When I was growing up in New York, they still rang the angelus and people used to stop for it. Of course, in those days, men used to remove their hats and women would bless themselves when the bus they were on passed by a Catholic church.

    The minions,of course, say thank you to Vatican II – for destroying these awful practices and giving us the enlightened master Francis.

  2. Well, who knew? Thanks Fr. Z.
    Around here, and worldwide I guess, bell ringing is generally forbidden, considered disruptive to neighborhoods. So not only do we not hear bells around here, I don’t know of religious communities that would even do this. Thus the spread of ignorance and loss of something once so common. Sigh.

    The devil hates the ringing of blessed bells because when rung, the blessing is spread upon the hearer.

  3. WYMiriam says:

    Fascinating!! Thank you for the education!

  4. Semper Gumby says:

    Fr. Z’s entry and the comments raise a good point about ordering one’s day and a pause for recollection and reverence.

    At the Marine Corps bases where I was stationed reveille was around 0500 depending on each particular unit’s “plan of the day.” Morning Colors for the entire base was always 0800 and Evening Colors always at sunset. A call to Attention, usually bugle over loudspeaker, preceded Colors, which was the raising or lowering of the flag to the National Anthem. At the first note of the Anthem, one rendered a hand salute and faced the flag if visible. Vehicles on the base stopped in the road for the duration of the Anthem until the “Carry On” bugle note.

    One occasionally noticed a young Marine or sailor hurrying indoors at the sounding of Attention, not once did I ever see a NCO such as a corporal, nor an officer, avoid Colors. Maybe it is something about life experience and personal discipline that heightens appreciation for observing a traditional ordering of the day- calling one to moments of recollection and reverence.

  5. frjim4321 says:

    The neighbors here would scream if we rang the Angelus at 600 … we do 1200 and 1800 though. The Ave Maria would be hard to program since it shifts around.

  6. kurtmasur says:

    @Traductora, where I grew up we would always make the sign of the cross when passing in front of a church, both men and women. And it is still mostly done to this day. However, I haven’t seen this practice outside of my region, so I have mostly assumed it was a regional thing that only we do.

    Regarding church bells, it seems that the church in my vicinity rings the angelus bell at 12h and 15h only. I’ve always assumed it had something do with the minor hours of sext and none, especially the 15h bell, but it’s just my speculatoin.

  7. jilly4life says:

    That is probably true Fr. Jim. Interestingly enough, I have recently started working in a new building in a downtown area. It is close to a Catholic church and in sightline to the city hall. One of those buildings rings the bells at 7:00AM and at noon. I am not sure which. I am not downtown early enough to know if any bells ring at 6:00AM.

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