The creation of the original hymn has been attributed to several people, including Bernard of Clairvaux (12th century), Saint Venantius Fortunatus (6th century) and Hermannus Contractus (11th century). The text is found in 9th-century manuscripts, kept in Vienna and in the Abbey of Saint Gall. Its frequent occurrence in the Divine Office made it popular in the Middle Ages, many other hymns being founded upon it. The "Ave maris stella" was highly influential in presenting Mary as a merciful and loving Mother. "Much of its charm is due to its simplicity". The title, "Star of the Sea" is one of the oldest and most widespread titles applied to Mary. The hymn is frequently used as a prayer for safe-conduct for travelers.
The melody is found in the Irish plainsong "Gabhaim Molta Bríde", a piece in praise of St. Bridget. The popular modern hymn Hail Queen of Heaven, the Ocean Star, is loosely based on this plainsong original.