Mary Untier of Knots

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Mary Untier of Knots
"Johann Georg Schmidtner", by Johann Georg Schmidtner.jpg
Artist Johann Georg Schmidtner
Year c. 1700
Type Oil on poplar
Dimensions 182 cm × 110 cm (72 in × 43 in)
Location St. Peter am Perlach, Augsburg

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, otherwise known as the Perlach church, in Augsburg, Bavaria, Germany. Pope Francis saw the image while in Germany as a student and promoted her veneration in Latin America.


The painting, executed in the Baroque style by Johann Georg Melchior Schmidtner (1625 – 1707), shows the Blessed Virgin Mary standing on the crescent moon (the usual way of depicting Mary under her title of the Immaculate Conception), surrounded by angels and with the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove 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. The serpent represents the devil, and her treatment of him fulfills the prophecy in Genesis 3:15: "[thy seed] shall bruise the serpent’s head".

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.[1]

The concept of Mary untying knots is derived from a work by St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Adversus haereses (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."[2]

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 in Ingolstadt.[1]


The painting was donated around 1700 by Hieronymus Ambrosius Langenmantel (1641 – 1718),[3] a canon of the Monastery of Saint Peter in Augsburg. The donation is said to be connected with an event in his family. His grandfather Wolfgang Langenmantel (1586 – 1637) was on the verge of the separation from his wife Sophia Rentz (1590 – 1649) and therefore sought help from Jakob Rem, the Jesuit priest in Ingolstadt. Father Rem prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary and said: “In diesem religiösen Akt erhebe ich das Band der Ehe, löse alle Knoten und glätte es [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 first Chapel to be named "Mary Untier of Knots" was completed in 1989 in Styria, Austria, inspired as a supplication in response to the Chernobyl Nuclear Tragedy.[4] The image of "Mary Undoer of Knots" is especially venerated in Argentina and Brazil,[1] where churches have been named for her and devotion to her has become widespread and which the Guardian called a "religious craze".[5]

This Catholic devotion has grown since Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J. ( Pope Francis), brought a postcard of the painting to Argentina in the 1980s after seeing the original while studying in Germany.[6][7][8] The devotion reached Brazil near the end of the 20th century. According to Regina Novaes, of the Institute of Religious Studies in Rio de Janeiro, Mary Untier of Knots "attracts people with small problems".[5] Bergoglio 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.[6]

In Buenos Aires, a copy of the icon was made and left by the artist, Dr. Ana de Betta Berti,[9] for the Church of San José del Talar, which has had it since 8 December 1996. On the 8th of each month, thousands of people make the pilgrimage to this church.[10]

Churches and Chapels[edit]

There are many religious buildings where Mary, the Untier of Knots, can be found:[4]

The Title in Other Languages[edit]

Mary, Untier of Knots, has different names in other languages:

  • English : Mary Untier of Knots, Mary Undoer of Knots, Mary who Unties the Knots
  • German : Maria Knotenlöserin
  • French : Marie qui défait les Nœuds
  • Italian : Maria che Scioglie i Nodi
  • Polish : Maria Rozwiązująca Supełki
  • Portuguese : Maria Desatadora dos Nós, Nossa Senhora Desatadora dos Nós
  • Spanish : María Desatanudos, María Desatadora de Nudos, María, la que Desata los Nudos
  • Hungarian : A csomókat feloldó Mária

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Richard Lenar. "History of the Devotion to Mary, Untier of Knots". A Dictionary of Mary. University of Dayton. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  2. ^ Irenaeus, Against Heresies, III, 22
  3. ^ (German) “Hieronymus Ambrosius Langenmantel”, Wikipedia: Die freie Enzyklopädie. Retrieved 16 June 2013.
  4. ^ a b International Fraternity of the Virgin Mary Untier of Knots, “List of Churches, Chapels and Places where the Virgin Mary Untier of Knots is venerated [as] Maria Knotenlöserin”. Retrieved 16 June 2013.
  5. ^ a b Bellos, Alex (23 December 2001). "Virgin painting ties Brazilians in knots". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Jiménez, Pablo (14 March 2013). "The Pope's chalice: silver-made, austere and featuring Our Lady of Luján". Buenos Aires Herald. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  7. ^ "El Santuario" (in Spanish). Parroquia San José del Talar. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  8. ^ (German) Bergoglio studierte einst in Frankfurt am Main [Bergoglio once studied in Frankfurt am Main”] - (Die Welt, 14 March 2013, Online Edition).
  9. ^ (Italian) (German) Falasca, Stefania. “Nessun groviglio è senza uscita - Kein Problem (Verwicklung) endet in einer Sackgasse [Italian & German, “No Tangle is a Dead End”]”, Avvenire, 14 April 2013.
  10. ^ (Spanish) Facebook of the parish of San José del Talar in Buenos Aires, with the photograph of the copy of the icon there.
  11. ^ “Franz Weiss”, Wikipedia: Die freie Enzyklopädie. Retrieved 16 June 2013.
This article incorporates information from the German Wikipedia.

External links[edit]