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The Hail Mary, or Ave Maria, is a short prayer, elegant in its simplicity.

Hail Mary,
Full of Grace,
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit
of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary,
Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now,
and at the hour of death.

(From EWTN)

Perhaps, that is why I assumed that it had always existed in its present form—except the faithful would’ve used Latin. So I had my eighth century characters reciting it in its entirety. Little did I know I was risking the attention of the history police.

But I was rescued. Before the prayer made it into print, my excellent editor, Jessica Knauss, pointed out that it was much, much shorter in the Dark Ages, just the first two lines, like this snippet from The Cross and the Dragon:

Milo again was racked by a coughing fit so bad he had to stop his horse.

Mother of God, please let me be wrong. Making the sign of the cross, Alda mouthed, “Ave Maria, gratia plena.

During my research for my post about the Ave Maria for English Historical Fiction Authors, I found out the prayer’s current form took centuries.

Scenes with the Virgin Mary

14th century scenes with the Virgin Mary (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)