How did a three hundred year old painting become one of the fastest growing Marian Devotions?
The Marian devotion entitled Mary Untier of Knots shares its name with a 300 year old painting depicting Our Lady untying the knots of a white wedding ribbon. This painting played an significant role in the history of Mary Undoer of Knots Devotion. A German nobleman, Wolfgang Langenmantel was distressed when he found his wife Sophia was planning to divorce him.
To save his marriage, Wolfgang sought counsel from the wise and pious Fr. Jakob Rem. Fr. Rem, a Jesuit priest, was known to have a strong devotion to Mary. Dedicated to his marriage Wolfgang brought Sophia to meet with Fr. Rem 4 times in 28 days. On their fourth visit on September 28, 1615, the Langenmantel’s brought their wedding ribbon. In this time period it was customary for the maid of honor to tie together the arms of the bride and groom. This uniting of arms with a ribbon symbolized their union for life.
Before an image of Our Lady of Snows, Fr. Rem took the white ribbon and untied the knots one by one. When he finished the ribbon became dazzling white. This was taken as confirmation that Mary had heard their prayers. Fortunately, the divorce was averted, and the Langenmatels remained happily married.
In 1700, more than 85 years later, Wolfgang’s grandson Fr. Heironymus Ambrosius Langenmantel donated a family altar. He commissioned Johann Melchoir Georg Schmittdner to provide a painting representative of the Langenmantel family. Schmittdner became inspired by the story of Wolfgang and Sophia, and depicted the narrative within his painting. The original Baroque painting of ‘Mary Untier of Knots’, was completed and the image came to be venerated as Mary Undoer of Knots.
The painting has survived wars and revolutions, and continues to draw people to it. Today the original still hangs over the family altar found at the Church of St. Peter am Perlach in Augsburg, Bavaria, Germany. See more about this painting and its symbolism.