The practice of devotion to Our Lady Undoer of Knots originated with events that led to the painting of the image you see pictured here; whereas the theology of the devotion actually goes back to the second century. At that time, Saint Irenaeus wrote that, “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by the obedience of Mary.”
The painting was donated in the early eighteenth century by Hieronymus Ambrosius Langenmantel (1641-1718), a canon of the Monastery of Saint Peter in Augsburg.
The donation is said to be connected with something that happened in his family that would resonate with families up to the twenty-first century.
His grandfather Wolfgang Langenmantel (1586-1637) was on the verge of separation from his wife Sophia Rentz (1590-1649) and therefore sought help from Father Jacob Rem, the Jesuit priest in Ingolstadt.
Consequently, on 28 September 1615, in a solemn ritual act, Father Rem prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary and said: “In this religious act, I raise the bonds of matrimony, to untie all knots and smoothen them,” elevating the wedding ribbon1 and untying the knots one by one. While smoothing the ribbon out, the white ribbon attained such an intense brightness, that not even the palette of any painter could have reproduced it.
Immediately peace was restored between the husband and wife, and the separation did not happen. In thanksgiving and to keep alive the memory of this event, their grandson commissioned the painting of the “Untier of Knots.”
The original Baroque painting of Mary Untier of Knots, by Johann George Melchior Schmidtner, 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 has survived wars, revolutions, and secular opposition, and continues to draw people to it.
In the eighteenth century the devotion to Mary Untier of Knots was localized 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.
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.
Devotion to Our Lady Undoer of Knots
The image of Our Lady Undoer of Knots 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 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.
Mary’s faith unties the knot of sin; but what are these knots we may ask?
They are the problems and struggles we face for which we do not see any solution… knots of discord in our family, lack of understanding between parents and children, disrespect, violence, the knots of deep hurts between husband and wife, the absence of peace and joy at home.
There are also the knots of anguish and despair of separated couples, the dissolution of the family, the knots of a drug addicted son or daughter, sick or separated from home or God, knots of alcoholism, the practice of abortion, depression, unemployment, fear, solitude; all the knots of our life that suffocate the soul, beat us down and betray the heart’s joy and separate us from God.
It is like when a ball of yarn gets tangled, and it is impossible to untangle because of our impatience; it is as difficult to solve as a “Gordian knot.”2 In many cases the solving of the puzzle is so difficult that is destroyed.
The first thing we need to do is to place ourselves under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, our help, our advocate and our intercessor. Through prayer and meditation, we will be able to see how those knots were “made” and the reason why they were made.
With Our Lady’s maternal assistance, one by one you will untie every knot. Start with the simplest knots, so that you may have more clarity until you reach the main ones. This is why patience is so necessary. We need to use self-examination, analyse ourselves and pray. Prayer is what will give us the determination to continue and never give up.
1. The ribbon was placed by the maid of honor to represent an invisible union of the bride and the groom for the rest of their life. Their arms were joined together during the wedding ceremony.
2. The origins of the “Gordian knot,” a term commonly used to describe a complex or unsolvable problem, can be traced back to a legendary event in the life of Alexander the Great.