Mary, Undoer of Knots - A Special Madonna of Germany

Mary, Undoer of Knots
by Johann Schmidtner (c. 1700)
I am a Mom to three sons: two who are young adults making their way in the world, and one who is a teenager, still at home.  I can’t help but wonder sometimes … how will my boys fare due to the mothering I have offered them?  Will they be o.k.?  Have my shortcomings harmed them in any way?

A Comforting Devotion
With these thoughts of doubt parked in the back of my mind, one day I overheard a friend share about a growing devotion to “Mary, Undoer of Knots,” a devotion based on the concept that Mary, the mother of Christ, is able to undo painful “knots” we have created in life by praying for us.  I felt very drawn to this notion.  So, I decided to try out a novena to Mary, Undoer of Knots, asking her to pray for my sons - that any faults I may have made as a mother might be rectified.  I must say, a curious feeling of peace came over me during the novena.  Later, I tried another novena to this Madonna, and again, I felt mysteriously calm, confident that all would be well.  I was won over. 

A Saint Irenaeus Parallel 
With an increased curiosity, I did a bit more digging and delving to learn more about the background of Mary, Undoer of Knots.  I learned that the devotion stems from a painting found in a Bavarian Catholic Church.  It was painted sometime near 1700 by the German artist, Johann Georg Schmidtner.  Schmidtner’s unique portrayal of Mary may have been inspired by some words written by Saint Irenaeus of Lyons (d. 202):

… the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary.

Saint Irenaeus of Lyons
(Against Heresies, Book III, Chapter 22)

Schmidtner's painting is very similar to this concept: the Blessed Mother is holding a long ribbon of knots, gently untying one knot at a time.  People began to appreciate this idea of Mary, through prayer, undoing painful and difficult knots in our lives.  Prayers were prayed and answered, miracles were reported, and a fondness for Mary, Undoer of Knots slowly spread.

St. Peter Am Perlach
Church of Saint Peter am Perlach
The church holding this beautiful painting is called St. Peter am Perlach.  The “am Perlach” part is in reference to a tall tower adjacent to the church (Perlach Tower).  The church is located in Augsburg, Germany, a small city about 35 miles northwest of Munich.  Although St. Peter am Perlach has not been an active parish for 200 years, there is a group of about 22 people who work to keep the church in good condition and open to visitors.  There is no official feast day of Mary, Undoer of Knots (in German, Maria Knotenl√∂serin), however, on December 8, many Catholics of Augsburg pay special honor to both the Immaculate Conception and Mary, Undoer of Knots.

No matter what uncomfortable knots you have managed to create in your life, try turning to Mary and see if her prayers will help undo your bonds.  I decided to purchase a plaque with the tender image of Mary, Undoer of Knots to hang in my home as a peaceful reminder, for I’m quite sure that I’ll be needing help with many more knots that need to be undone in the future!
Tradition of Prayer Ropes

A Novena to Mary, Undoer of Knots
There is a very pretty and elaborate novena that a Dr. Suzel Frem Bourgerie has written in honor of Mary, Undoer of Knots; however, it not a one-and-only-approved devotion.  And, it is not a novena that stems from St. Peter am Perlach. So, it is important to remember that it is not necessary to follow one formula when praying  a heartfelt plea is the most important part of prayer. If you like elegant novenas, try Dr. Suzel's!  However, if you prefer something a bit simpler, try the homemade novena idea below (or come up with your own!):  

Make (or buy) a Chaplet by threading 33 beads or tying 33 knots onto a piece of string. (33 symbolizing the age of Christ when he died.)  In your heart, share your “knot” with Jesus and Mary.  On each bead/knot of the Chaplet say:

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.
Mary, Undoer of Knots, please pray for me.

 Say this sequence of prayers once a day for nine days.

Extra ...
The Pope on Real Prayer

Martin Ziegelmayr, Administrator of St. Peter am Perlach, Augsburg, Germany