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 since the 2013 election of Pope Francis.


The painting, executed in the Baroque style by Johann Georg Melchior Schmidtner (1625-1707), shows the Blessed Virgin Mary in as the Woman of the Apocalypse. She stands on the crescent moon (the usual way of depicting her under her title of the Immaculate Conception), her head crowned by a circle of stars. The Holy Spirit in the form of a dove hovers above, as angels surround her. She is focused on untying knots from a long ribbon, while her foot tramples the head of a "knotted" snake, representing the Devil. Her treatment of him fulfills God’s 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 a human figure being led by an angel, 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 in the original painting.

The concept of Mary untying knots is derived from a work by Saint 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, a 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 memory of this event, their grandson commissioned the painting of Mary as "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 in the second half of the 20th century.[8]


The first chapel dedicated to "Mary, Untier of Knots" was completed in 1989 in Styria, Austria, as a supplication following the Chernobyl disaster.[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 was popularised worldwide by Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, after he was elected as the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church in 2013.

It was thought that while still a younger priest, Bergoglio had seen the actual painting in Augsburg and brought a copy of it to Argentina. In a 2017 interview for the German newsweekly Die Zeit, Pope Francis stated that he had never been to Augsburg, and that a German nun once sent him a Christmas card with the image, arousing his interest.[11] Bergoglio then sent seminarians with copies of the image to the slums of Buenos Aires, where the faithful were overwhelmed by the depiction of Mary as a problem-solver. He then commissioned Barbara Klimmeck, an exchange student from Eichstätt, to document the Augsburg original with all its details so that a copy could be made.[12] This was done in Buenos Aires by the artist Ana de Betta Berti,[13] for the Church of San José del Talar, where it has been enshrined since 8 December 1996. On the eight day of each month, thousands make the pilgrimage to that church to venerate the image.[14]

The devotion reached Brazil by 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] Cardinal Bergoglio had this image of Mary engraved on a chalice he presented to then-Pope Benedict XVI.[15] Another chalice with the image, by the same silversmith, is to be presented to Pope Francis by the Argentine people.

Knowing about Pope Francis' special devotion to the image, South Korean ambassador to the Vatican Baek Man Lee in 2018 presented him with a Korean rendition of the painting.[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 on 28 September, although this is not officially listed in the present General Roman Calendar.

Title in other languages

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

See also


  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. 43 (1). University of Pennsylvania Press: 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.