Revisioning and researching Our Lady, Undoer of Knots

'Through Mary, all the knots of our heart can be undone'

Helen Byrom, an Art teacher from St Bede's Catholic High School, Ormskirk, took on a commission to paint a modern icon of Our Lady, Undoer of Knots. Prayer cards for the school and wider community were also created, and the icon was blessed and dedicated by Father Godric Timney OSB, the school chaplain.
Miss Byrom explained: 'When I was first asked to paint "Our Lady of Knots" I knew very little about the background or story or how I was going to approach a painting of such importance. I have since learnt that the history of the Undoer of Knots is around 300 years old and became more widely known after Pope Francis spoke about her while he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires – "Through Mary, all the knots of our heart, every knot of our conscience can be undone". It is believed that one can turn to the Blessed Mother for any 'knot' we need to have untied or untangled as Mary's faith unties the knot of sin.
'When researching paintings of "Our Lady of Knots" a common theme is that Mary is often wearing her signature blue cloak with a red chemise underneath. The blue represents the Virgin's purity, and emphasises her royal status; the red garment signifies traits connected with motherhood, including love, passion and devotion, which I felt imperative to this painting. Choosing the colour gold for the background of the portrait was a traditional choice taken from the history of icon paintings: gold represents the royal glory of the Divine and symbolises the shining light of God.
'When I composed the painting, I decided to position Our Lady with her head lowered. Mary is often portrayed with her head bowed down, often looking at Jesus. Her bowed head shows her respect for the guidance from Our Lord above, while also showing dedication to what her eyes are focused upon. In my composition, I wanted the viewer's gaze to follow Mary's eyes to her hands and to focus on the action of untying.
'In life, we often hear expressions such as "my stomach is in knots" – those moments can make us feel that life is hopeless and that we don’t know where to turn or how to tackle the problems we face. I believe that the message portrayed by Mary, Untier of Knots has real relevance today and will be comforting to those who may be suffering from the stresses and strains of modern-day life.
'I hope that they can look upon the image of Our Lady symbolically dealing with the untangling of such problems; and for this to offer reassurance that all problems can be tackled and dealt with, with faith and the help of God and his Holy Mother.'