Monday, June 23, 2014


The original painting
MARY UNTIER of KNOTS (or Mary Undoer of Knots) is the name of both a Marian devotion and a Baroque painting (German: Wallfahrtsbild or Gnadenbild) which represents that devotion. The painting by Johann Georg Melchior Schmidtner, of around 1700, is in the Catholic pilgrimage church of St. Peter am Perlach in Augsburg, Bavaria, Germany. Pope Francis saw the image while in Germany as a student and promoted her veneration in Latin America.

The concept of Mary untying knots is derived from a work by St. Irenaeus of Lyons "Against Heresies". In Book III, Chapter 22, he presents a parallel between Eve and Mary, describing how "the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith."

I came across this image weeks ago when looking for art for Eastertide.  Amazing!  Who do we turn to when in distress to "bail us out"  but our mother, and how more appropriate to ask our Heavenly Mother to undo our messes!

The painting, executed in the Baroque style  shows the Blessed Virgin Mary standing on the crescent moon surrounded by angels and with the Holy Spirit hovering above her circle of stars as she unties knots into a long strip and at the same time rests her foot on the head of a "knotted" snake.

Below are shown a human figure and his dog accompanying a much smaller angel. This scene is often interpreted as Tobias with his dog and the Archangel Raphael traveling to ask Sara to be his wife. The two small figures have also been interpreted as a representation of Wolfgang Langenmantel, the grandfather of the benefactor, guided in his distress by a guardian angel to Father Jakob Rem, S.J.  in Ingolstadt.  Wolfgang was on the verge of separation from his wife Sophia Rentz  and therefore sought help. Father Rem prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary and said: “In this religious act, I raise the bonds of matrimony, to untie all knots and smoothen them”. Immediately peace was restored between the husband and wife, and the separation did not happen. In the memory of this event, their grandson commissioned the painting of the “Untier of Knots”.

The image of "Mary Undoer of Knots" is especially venerated in Argentina and Brazil.This devotion has grown since Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J. (later Pope Francis), brought a postcard of the painting to Argentina in the 1980s after seeing the original while studying in Germany. The devotion reached Brazil near the end of the 20th century.  The Holy Father had this image of Mary engraved on a chalice he presented to Pope Benedict XVI and another chalice bearing her image, the work of the same silversmith, is to be presented to Pope Francis on behalf of the Argentine people.

No comments:

Post a Comment