Mary Untier of Knots

mary untier of knots  

When he returned to Argentina following his doctoral studies in Germany, Jorge Mario Bergoglio SJ, now Pope Francis, took with him a particular fondness for a Marian devotion that he had encountered in Bavaria. Hedwig Lewis SJ introduces us to the increasingly popular devotion to ‘Mary Untier of Knots’.

‘Mary Untier of Knots, pray for us’ would be a strange-sounding invocation in the Litany to Our Lady to which we are so accustomed. In fact, devotion to the Blessed Virgin under this title has been common in parts of Germany for centuries. Recently, however, the world’s attention was drawn to it when Vatican Radio revealed that Pope Francis had championed the devotion decades ago in Argentina.

In the 1980s, while doing his doctoral studies in theology in Freiburg, Germany, as a Jesuit priest, Jorge Bergoglio saw a painting in a church in Augsburg entitled ‘Mary Untier of Knots’. He was so impressed by its stark symbolism that he took postcards of the image back with him to his home province of Argentina. He used to enclose copies in every letter he sent out. An Argentinian artist-friend of his made an oil-on-canvas miniature painting of the picture, which was hung in the chapel of Colegio del Salvador in Buenos Aires where Bergoglio was posted.

The college staff was so attracted by it that they persuaded the local pastor to get a larger copy made. This was displayed in the parish church of San José del Talar, in 1996. Eventually, devotion to Mary under the title ‘Untier of Knots’ spread across Latin America.

Shortly after Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope, as Benedict XVI, the then-Cardinal Bergoglio presented the German-born pope with a silver chalice engraved with the image of Mary Untier of Knots along with that of Our Lady of Luján, a popular Marian devotion in Argentina.

The painting

The original Baroque painting of ‘Mary Untier of Knots’, by Johann George Melchior Schmidtner, dating from around 1700, is found in the church of St Peter am Perlach, in Augsburg, Bavaria, Germany. It measures six feet in height and almost four feet in width.


The painting depicts Mary suspended between heaven and earth, resplendent with light. The Holy Spirit in the form of a dove is above her head, reminding us that she became Mother of God and full of grace by virtue of the third person of the Trinity. She is dressed resplendently in crimson, and a deep blue mantle representing her glory as Queen of the Universe. A crown of twelve stars adorning her head signifies her Queenship of the Apostles. Her feet crush the head of the serpent indicating her part in the victory over Satan. She is surrounded by angels, signifying her position as Queen of the Angels and Queen of Heaven. In her hands is a knotted white ribbon, which she is serenely untying. Assisting her at the task are two angels: one presents the knots of our lives to her, while another angel presents the ribbon, freed from knots, to us.

The history

A German nobleman, Wolfgang Langenmantel (1568-1637) was distraught when his wife Sophia was planning to divorce him. To save the marriage, Wolfgang sought counsel from Fr Jakob Rem, a Jesuit priest, respected for his wisdom and piety, at the University of Ingolstadt. On his fourth visit there on 28 September 1615, Wolfgang brought his ‘wedding ribbon’ to Fr Rem. In the marriage ceremony of that time and place, the maid-of-honour joined together the arms of the bride and groom with a ribbon to symbolise their union for life. Fr Rem, in a solemn ritual act, raised the ribbon before the image of ‘Our Lady of the Snows’, while at the same time untying its knots one by one. As he smoothed out the ribbon, it became dazzling white. This was taken as confirmation that their prayers were heard. Consequently, the divorce was averted, and Wolfgang remained happily married!

To commemorate the turn of the century in the year 1700, Wolfgang’s grandson, Fr Hieronymus Langenmantel, Canon of St Peter am Perlach, installed a family altar in the church, as was customary then. He commissioned Johann Schmidtner to provide a painting to be placed over the altar. Schmidtner was inspired by the story of Wolfgang and Fr Rem, and so based his painting on that event. The image came to be venerated as Mary Untier of Knots. The painting has survived wars, revolutions and secular opposition, and continues to draw people to it.

In the 18th century the devotion to Mary Untier of Knots was localised to Germany. The devotion was augmented during the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster (1986), when victims sought help through the intercession of Mary Untier of Knots. The first chapel to be named ‘Mary Untier of Knots’ was constructed in 1989 in Styria, Austria. The image of Mary Untier of Knots at the main altar of the chapel was created by painter Franz Weiss, using the technique of painting under glass. It differed from the original, because the artist took as his theme the Chernobyl tragedy.

On 8 December 2000, a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary Untier of Knots was inaugurated in Formosa, Argentina. Since 1998, the devotion has been spreading in South America thanks to the booklet Mary, Undoer of Knots Novena, published with ecclesiastical permission by Denis and Dr Suzel Frem Bourgerie. It has been translated into twenty languages. The couple founded the National Sanctuary of the Virgin Mary Untier of Knots in Campinas (Sao Paulo), Brazil, in 2006.


‘Untie the knots’


An inspiring prayer that opens the above-mentioned novena sums up the role of the Virgin Mary Untier of Knots:

Holy Mary, full of God’s presence during the days of your life, you accepted with full humility the Father’s will, and the Devil was never capable to tie you around with his confusion. Once with your son you interceded for our difficulties, and, full of kindness and patience you gave us example of how to untie the knots of our life. And by remaining forever Our Mother, you put in order, and make clearer the ties that link us to the Lord. Holy Mother, Mother of God, and our Mother, to you, who untie with motherly heart the knots of our life, we pray to you to receive in your hands [name of person], and to free him/her of the knots and confusion with which our enemy attacks. Through your grace, your intercession, and your example, deliver us from all evil, Our Lady, and untie the knots that prevent us from being united with God, so that we, free from sin and error, may find Him in all things, may have our hearts placed in Him, and may serve Him always in our brothers and sisters. Amen.

துன்ப முடிச்சுக்களை அவிழ்க்கும் அன்னையிடம் ஜெபம்

கன்னிமரியே அழகு அன்புதாயே
மன்றாடும் குழந்தையை
ஒருபோதும் புறக்கணியாத அன்னையே
உமது திரு இதயத்திலிருந்து
பெருக்கெடுத்து வழியும் அன்பினாலும்
முடிவில்லாத இரக்கத்தினாலும்
குழந்தைகள் எமக்காய் அயராது உழைக்கும்
திருக்கரங்கள் கொண்ட திருவே
உமது கருணைப் பார்வையை எம்மீது திருப்பி
எனது வாழ்வை திணறவைக்கும்
முடிச்சுகளை கண்ணோக்கியருளும்
எனது துன்பம் வலி
செயலிழக்கச் செய்யும் துன்பமுடிச்சுக்கள்
அனைத்தையும் நீர் அறிவீர்
எங்கள் வாழ்க்கை நூலில் விழும் முடிச்சுகளை அவிழ்க்க
கடவுளிடமிருந்து பொறுப்பு பெற்றதாயே
உமது திருக்கரங்களில் என் வாழ்வை ஒப்படைக்கின்றேன்
உமது இரக்கப் பெருக்கை ஒரு போதும் ஒருவரும்
நிறுத்த முடியாதென்றும் உம்மால் அவிழ்க்க முடியாத முடிச்சு
உலகில் ஒன்றுமில்லை என்றும் நம்புகிறேன்
வல்லமையின் தாயே ஆண்டவர் இயேசுவிடம்
பரிந்து பேசும் உமது பலத்தினால் என்னை வாட்டி வதைக்கும்
இந்த சிக்கலான முடிச்சுகளை

(அமைதியாக ஒரு நிமிடம் துன்ப முடிச்சுகளை மனக்கண் முன்
கொண்டு வரவும்)

உமது தூய திருக்கரங்களில் பெற்றுக் கொள்ளும்
தந்தையாம் கடவுளின் உன்னத மகிமை வெளிப்படும்படி
எனது துன்ப முடிச்சுகளை இப்போதும்
என்றென்றைக்கும் அவிழ்த்துப்போடும்
எனக்கு ஆறுதல் வழங்க கடவுளால் அருளப்பட்டவர் நீர்
எனது பலவீனத்தில் என் வலிமை நீர்
உம் திருமகன் இயேசுவிடமிருந்து
என்னைப் பிரிக்கும் சக்திகளை அழிப்பவரும் நீரே
அம்மா எனக்குப் பதில் தாரும் பாதுகாத்தருளும்
வழி நடத்தும் காப்பாற்றும்
ஏனெனில் நீரே என் உறுதியான அடைக்கலம்
உம்மீது என் நம்பிக்கையை வைக்கின்றேன் - ஆமென்

எங்கள் துன்ப முடிச்சுக்களை அவிழ்க்கும் அன்னையே
எங்களுக்காக வெண்டிக் கொள்ளும்


Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love, who never
refuses to come to the aid of a child in need, Mother
whose hands never cease to serve your beloved
children, because they are moved by the divine love
and immense mercy that exists in your heart, cast
your compassionate eyes upon me and see the knots
that exist in my life.

You know very well how desperate I am, my pain and
how I am bound by these knots.
Mary, mother to whom God entrusted the undoing of
the knots in the lives of his children, I entrusted into your
hands the ribbon of my life.

No one, not even the evil one himself, can take it away
from your precious care. In your hands there is no knot
that cannot be undone.

Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory
power with Your Son and My Liberator, Jesus, take
into your hands today this knot..

(Mention the many knots that suffocate your life)

I beg you to unto it for the glory of God, once for all.
You are my hope.

O my Lady, you are the only consolation God gives
me , the fortification of my feeble strength, the
enrichment of my destitution and with Christ the
freedom from my chairs.

Hear my Plea.

keep me, guide me, protect me, O safe refuge! - Amen

Mary, Untier of Knots
Pray for us