Painting of Mary Undoer of Knots: Signification and Explanation

The painting of “Mary, Undoer of Knots” was painted in 1700 by Johann Melchior Schmidter as requested by Father Jerome Albroise von Langenmantel in memory of the miracle experienced by his grandparents almost a century before. Many reproductions of the painting have been made but the original is still in Father von Langenmantel’s church, Saint Peter am Perlack in Augsburg, Germany.  The painting was the cause of the development of a strong Marian devotion in Germany and two centuries later in South America and then worldwide due to the diffusion of the image and a novena to Mary, Undoer of Knots by Jorge Mario Bergoglio, future Pope Francis.

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Our Lady Untier of Knots
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Representation of the Virgin Mary

Mary, Woman of Revelations

In the painting, the representation of Mary corresponds to the one in Saint John’s Apocalypse:  “And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the  sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Revelation 12:1). Mary is depicted with:

  • Crowned with 12 stars : the number 12 is very present in the Bible. Twelve symbolizes the 12 patriarchs of the  tribes of Israel (original people of God) as well as the 12 Apostles (renewed people of God), placing Mary as Mother of the Church and Mother of the Children of God.
  • Clothed with a Blue Mantle : since the Middle Ages, blue has been the symbol of purity. This colour has ever since been used to depict Mary in most representations.
  • Between Heaven and Earth : Mary’s place is between God and mankind.
  • Crushing the head of serpent under her feet : In Genesis and the rest of the Bible, the serpent symbolizes Evil. By her virtue, Blessed Mary, overcomes and crushes Hell and its demons: “the demons hide and Hell trembles at the sound of this perfect name” (Blessed Alano).

Mary’s Attitude Undoing the Knots

In the painting, Mary is depicted working diligently to undo all of the knots of the ribbon. Her face and hands express tenderness and patience as she works while being attentive to all of our prayers. One can remark that her head is inclined: her right ear listens to God, while the left hears all of our supplications.

Other Symbols in the Painting

The Holy Spirit Guides Mary

Above the Virgin Mary one can observe a white dove descending upon her. It is the Holy Spirit that accompanies her and reminds us that God has chosen her to be His mother as well as the mother of all mankind. The light coming forth from the dove that envelopes Mary reminds us that it is because of the Holy Spirit that the miracle is possible.

Angels surround the Blessed Virgin

A troupe of angels surround the Blessed Virgin. The angels are beings of love and light that have received the mission to protect and accompany us in our spiritual lives. Here, they are collaborating with Mary. Two angels in particular surround Mary:

  • The Angel to the left of Mary (on the right hand side of the painting) is holding the end of the very knotted ribbon. The knots represent our sins and the difficulties that we have encountered. The angel is looking at Mary with confidence.
  • The Angel to the right of Mary is holding the smooth ribbon which has been untangled by Mary. This angel is looking at us and showing us the work Mary has done. It seems that he wants to tell us: “look, and have confidence in Mary”.

Tobie and Sarah, example of Abandon to Divine Grace

In the bottom part of the painting, a passage of the Old Testament is represented. The archangel Raphael is shown accompanying Tobie to meet his future wife Sara. This biblical story without a doubt has been chosen because it echoes the history of the origin of the miracle of Mary, Undoer of Knots. In both cases its about a couple and the necessary abandon into the arms of God, allowing Him to act, repare the sins and spread the graces.

Meditation on Eve and Mary

The image of Mary, Undoer of Knots perfectly illustrates a meditation by Saint Irénée, a bishop in Lyon who was martyred in the second century. It compares Eve and Mary : “Eve, by her disobedience, made the knot of misfortune for humanity, while Mary by her obedience, undid it.”

Pray to Mary with Hozana

With Hozana, you can discover hundreds of spiritual propositions that can help you learn to pray, nourish your prayer life or help you pray for a particular intention. You can also find many novenas dedicated to Mary who is ready to intercede for you at any time. For example, you can join My Month With Mary where everyday you receive a meditation on Mary, a reflection and a prayer, Pray a Novena to Our Lady of Lourdes or entrust your petitions to Our Lady of Fatima, who continues to transform hearts with this nine day novena.