Franz Schubert wrote his Ave Maria in 1825. It is the third of three song settings from Sir Walter Scott’s poem The Lady of the Lake, itself written in 1810. It’s proper title is Ellen’s Song, named after the heroine of Scott’s poem, Ellen Douglas.
It has been suggested that the opening two words of the original song may have led to the idea of it being arranged from the full text of the Roman Catholic Prayer. It is now most often performed in this latter adaptation, thus leading to the misconception that it was originally set with the prayer in mind.
Even in Schubert’s own brief lifetime, he was only thirty-one when he died, this song was considered a masterpiece. It acquired greater popularity when it was used in the 1940 Walt Disney film Fantasia where its beauty and simplicity offered calm and respite following the tempestuous strains of Mussorgsky’s A Night on Bare Mountain.