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Understanding the Mary Untier of Knots Painting Symbolism

Feb 03, 2014 By Laura Jean Rabiipour | 25 Comments
The Devotion to Mary Untier of Knots has become one of the fastest growing Marian devotions. Devotion to Our Lady under this title is not new but through the promotion of Pope Francis, it has recently grown in popularity.  

Pope Francis, the then Fr. Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was studying in Germany when he came across an image of Mary Undoer of Knots. Struck by the painting, Fr. Jorge Mario Bergolio brought a picture of the painting and the devotion back to Germany.

Included in the history of Mary Undoer of Knots, master painter Johann Melchoir Georg Schmittdner was inspired by a German family’s story of marital discord, Mary’s intercession, and resolution. The painting is a representation of how Mary unties the spiritual knots that we create on earth. 

In the Mary Untier of Knots painting,  Mary is suspended between heaven and earth, gleaming with light. The brightness that surrounds her in heaven contrasts the ground and its earthly struggles.  Through her intercession Mary works on our behalf to smooth out the problems we face. The original painting contains many symbols which may be overlooked at first glance.

MUK Painting

There is a dove above Mary’s head. The Dove in Catholic art is a representation of the Holy Trinity coming down upon someone.  Through the grace of the Holy Spirit Mary became the Mother of God and it is through Him that she receives His grace and favor.

   Dove

Mary’s feet are crushing a serpent. Mary is often depicted standing on the head of a serpent. As you may recall the devil appeared to Eve as a serpent. Mary is often considered the “New Eve” as she, unlike Eve, was able to defeat Satan. Her feet crush the head of the serpent indicating her part in the victory over Satan with her lack of original sin.

Snake

A Halo of 12 Stars surround Mary’s head.  The number 12 holds biblical significance, to include the 12 tribes of the Old Testament and the twelve apostles in the New Testament. Here the crown of stars signifies her Queenship of the Apostles. This common element in Marian art, comes directly from Revelation of St. John, Ch 12, where the visionary sees, “A woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”

Crown

The two figures at the bottom represent Wolfgang and his guardian angel. Beneath the action taking place in heaven, the guardian angel is helping Wolfgang through his time of marital discord. Other interpret the figures at the bottom to be St. Raphael the archangel and Tobias from the Bible. Where Tobias is guided to Sarah so he can ask her to be his wife.

 Wolfgang

Two angels assist Mary at her task. Mary is surrounded by angels above her head, denoting her status as Queen of Angels. One angel presents each knots in our life to Our Lady, who careful takes each one into her hands. Once the ribbon is freed from knots Mary feeds it to the angel on her right.

Angels

Mary is wearing symbolic colors. Mary is dressed in crimson and wrapped with a deep blue flowing mantel. These colors are representative of her glory as Queen of the Universe.  The color red has classically been utilized to display nobility and an elevated status. Her mantle of blue is also illustrative of royalty, peace, and nature. So, it makes sense that Mary is portrayed in these colors because she is the Queen of Heaven and Earth.

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Laura Jean Rabiipour Laura Jean Rabiipour

Laura Jean is a cradle Catholic who grew up in the frozen tundra of Minneapolis, MN. Searching for warmer weather she flew south and attended Belmont Abbey College. There, she cultivated a deeper love for Our Mother Mary, southern life, and a boy named Nicholas who will soon be her husband. She was instructed by her loving folks to grow her faith and when possible to share it, a mission she is now working to accomplish at The Catholic Company.

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