Mary, Untier of Knots

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Mary, Untier of Knots
ArtistJohann Georg Schmidtner
Yearc. 1700
TypeOil on poplar
Dimensions182 cm × 110 cm (72 in × 43 in)
LocationSt. Peter am Perlach,
Augsburg, Germany

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. Devotion to the image had been limited to certain countries in Latin America (e.g., Argentina, Brazil) but became known worldwide following the election of Pope Francis.


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 from a long ribbon 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: "I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel."[1]

Below are shown a human figure being led by an angel. This scene is often interpreted as Tobias and the Archangel Raphael traveling to ask Sara to be his wife.[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.[2] Although certain copies and reproductions show a dog accompanying the two figures, there is no dog depicted in the original painting.

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."[3]


St. Peter's Church with the Perlach-Tower

The painting was donated around 1700 by Hieronymus Ambrosius Langenmantel (1641-1718),[4], a doctor in canon law and a canon of the Monastery of Saint Peter in Augsburg. Langenmantel was a friend of the Egyptologist, alchemist and esotericist Athanasius Kircher,[5][6] as well as a member of the Fruchtbringenden Gesellschaft (Society of the Carpophores), which exerted a considerable influence on the nascent German Freemasonry.[7]

The donation is said to be connected with an event in his family. His grandfather Wolfgang Langenmantel (1586-1637) was on the verge of separation from his wife Sophia Rentz (1590-1649) and therefore sought help from Jakob Rem, the Jesuit priest in Ingolstadt. Father Rem prayed before the Mater ter admirabilis image of 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".[citation needed]

Although the tradition is that the image was painted in thanksgiving from H. A. Langenmantel for his grandparents' marriage being saved through Jakob Rem's intercession, research has been unable to prove a connection between the two events. According to Dr. Leo Hintermayr, the story associated with the image and its title, Untier of Knots, emerged during the second half of the 20th century.[8]


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.[9] The image of "Mary, Undoer of Knots" is especially venerated in Argentina and Brazil,[2] where churches have been named for her and devotion to her has become widespread and which the Guardian called a "religious craze".[10]

This devotion has become known worldwide since Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, was elected Pope.

It had been believed that then-Father Bergoglio had seen the painting in person while visiting Augsburg and brought a copy of the painting to Argentina; however, in an interview for the German newsweekly Die Zeit in 2017, Pope Francis stated that he had never been to Augsburg. It was a German nun who sent him a Christmas greeting card with the image, which aroused his interest.[11] Bergoglio sent his seminarians with copies of the image to the slums of Buenos Aires, where the faithful were overwhelmed by the depiction of Mary as a knot and problem solver. He then commissioned Barbara Klimmeck, an exchange student from Eichstätt, to document the Augsburg original with all the details so that a copy could be made.[12] In Buenos Aires, a copy was painted by the artist Ana de Betta Berti,[13] 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.[14]

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".[10] Bergoglio had this image of Mary engraved on a chalice he presented to Pope Benedict XVI[15] 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.

Knowing about Pope Francis' special devotion for this image, a new South Korean ambassador in Vatican in 2018, Baek Man Lee, presented him with a Korean painting of Our Lady Undoer of Knots.[16]

On 31 May 2021, Pope Francis crowned a copy of Mary, Untier of Knots, in the Vatican Gardens.[17]

The devotion to Mary, the Untier of Knots, can be found at numerous religious sites around the world.[9]

The feast day of Mary, Untier of Knots, is 28 September, although this is not included officially in the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church.

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
  • Dutch: Maria die de knopen ontwart
  • Sinhala: ශු. මරිය තුමිය , ගැටලිහීමේ දේවමාතාවෝ
  • German: Maria Knotenlöserin
  • Russian: Мария, развязывающая узлы (Mariya, razvyazyvajushchaya uzly)
  • French: Marie qui défait les Nœuds
  • Italian: Maria che Scioglie i Nodi
  • Polish: Maria Rozwiązująca Węzły
  • 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
  • Croatian: Marija koja razvezuje čvorove
  • Chinese: 解結聖母瑪利亞 (Pinyin: Jiějié Shèngmǔ Mǎlìyà)
  • Filipino: Maria, Tagakalag ng mga Buhol ng Buhay
  • Ido: Maria Desliganta la Nodi
  • Arabic: العذراء التي تحل العقد (ʿAḏrāʾ allatī taḥullu l-ʿuqad)
  • Tamil: துன்ப முடிச்சுக்களை அவிழ்க்கும் அன்னை
  • Malayalam: കുരുക്കുകളഴിക്കുന്ന മാതാവ് (Kurukkukal azhikunna madhavu)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Douay-Rheims Bible, 1899 Edition
  2. ^ a b c Richard Lenar. "History of the Devotion to Mary, Untier of Knots". A Dictionary of Mary. University of Dayton. Archived from the original on 13 November 2013. Retrieved 14 March 2013.
  3. ^ Irenaeus, Against Heresies, III, 22
  4. ^ Richard Lenar. "Untier of Knots". Università of Dayton.
  5. ^ "Correspondance Kircher -Langenmantel".
  6. ^ Fred Brauen (January–March 1982). "Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680)". Journal of the History of Ideas. University of Pennsylvania Press. 43 (1): 129–134. doi:10.2307/2709164. JSTOR 2709164.
  7. ^ "The society of the Carpophores" (in Italian). 7 April 2022. Retrieved 25 February 2022.
  8. ^ Kreitmeir, Klaus (24 June 2016). "Franziskus machte sie bekannt". Bistum Eichstätt (in German). Retrieved 28 September 2023.
  9. ^ a b International Fraternity of the Virgin Mary Untier of Knots, "List of Churches, Chapels and Places Archived 28 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine where the Virgin Mary, Untier of Knots is venerated [as] Maria Knotenlöserin". Retrieved 16 June 2013.
  10. ^ a b Bellos, Alex (23 December 2001). "Virgin painting ties Brazilians in knots". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 14 March 2013.
  11. ^ "Ich kenne auch die leeren Momente" Was bedeutet Glaube? Ein ZEIT-Gespräch mit Papst Franziskus". die Zeit. 6 April 2017. Archived from the original on 26 July 2017. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  12. ^ "Tausende pilgern zum "heimlichen Weltstar" nach Augsburg". Augsburger Allgemeine. 8 May 2015. Retrieved 25 April 2020.
  13. ^ (in Italian and 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.
  14. ^ (in Spanish) Facebook of the parish of San José del Talar in Buenos Aires, with the photograph of the copy of the icon there.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ "New ambassador from Korea deeply honored to present credentials to Holy Father". 16 February 2018. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  17. ^ "Pope Francis turns to Mary, Undoer of Knots, at end of rosary marathon for end to pandemic". Catholic News Agency. EWTN News. Retrieved 28 September 2023.

External links[edit]