Titles of Mary
Mary is known by many different titles (Blessed Mother, Madonna, Our Lady), epithets (Star of the Sea, Queen of Heaven, Cause of Our Joy), invocations (Panagia, Mother of Mercy) and names associated with places, (Our Lady of Loreto, Our Lady of Guadalupe).
All of these titles refer to the same individual named Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ (in the New Testament) and are used variably by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and some Anglicans. (Note: Mary Magdalene, Mary of Clopas, and Mary Salome are different women.)
Some descriptives of Mary are properly titles, dogmatic in nature, some of them are invocations. Other descriptives are poetic or allegorical or have lesser or no canonical status, but form part of popular piety, with varying degrees of acceptance by Church authorities. There is another class of titles which refer to depictions of Mary in Catholic Marian art and in art generally. A rich range of Marian titles also belong to musical settings.
Historical and cultural context
See also: History of Roman Catholic Mariology
There are several stories on the significance of the relatively large number of titles given to Mary. Some titles grew due to geographic and cultural reasons, e.g. through the veneration of specific icons. Others were related to Marian apparitions.
Mary’s help is sought for a large spectrum of human needs in varied situations. This led to the formulation of many of her titles (good counsel, help of the sick, etc.). Moreover, meditations and devotions on the different aspects of the Virgin Mary’s role within the life of Jesus led to additional titles such as Our Lady of Sorrows. Still further titles have been derived from dogmas and doctrines, such as the Immaculate Conception.
Mary’s cultus or “devotional cult” consolidated in the year 431 when, at the Council of Ephesus, the Theotokos, or Mary as bearer (or mother) of God, was declared dogma. Henceforth Marian devotion—which centered on the subtle and complex relationship between Mary, Jesus, and the Church—would flourish, first in the East and later in the West.
The Reformation diminished Mary’s role in many parts of Northern Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Council of Trent and Counter Reformation would intensify Marian devotion in the West. Around the same period, Mary would become an instrument of evangelization in the Americas and parts of Asia and Africa, e.g. via the apparitions at Our Lady of Guadalupe which resulted in a large number of conversions to Christianity in Mexico.
Following the Reformation, as of the 17th century, the baroque literature on Mary experienced unforeseen growth with over 500 pages of Mariological writings during the 17th century alone. During the Age of Enlightenment, the emphasis on scientific progress and rationalism put Catholic theology and Mariology often on the defensive in the later parts of the 18th century, to the extent that books such as The Glories of Mary(by Alphonsus Liguori) were written in defense of Mariology.
- Mother of God: The Council of Ephesus decreed in 431 that Mary is Theotokos because her son Jesus is both God and man: one Divine Person with two natures (Divine and human). This name was translated in the West as “Mater Dei” or Mother of God. From this derives the title “Blessed Mother”.
- Virgin Mary: The doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary developed early in Christianity and was taught by the early Fathers, such as Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and others. In the fourth century “ever-virgin” became a popular title for Mary. Variations on this include the “Virgin Mary”, the “Blessed Virgin”, the “Blessed Virgin Mary”, and “Spouse of the Holy Spirit”. The perpetual virginity of Mary was declared a dogma by the Lateran Council of 649.
- Immaculate Conception: The dogma that Mary was conceived without original sin was defined in 1854, by Pope Pius IX’s apostolic constitution Ineffabilis Deus. This gave rise to the titles of “Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception” and “Queen Conceived Without Original Sin”. The Immaculate Conception is also honored under the titles of Our Lady of Caysasay (Philippines), Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn in Vilnius, Our Lady of Guidance, and Our Lady of Salambao, also in the Philippines.
- Assumption: The belief that the Virgin Mary having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heaven was declared a dogma in 1950 by Pope Pius XII in the apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus. The titles “Our Lady of Assumption” and “Queen Assumed Into Heaven” derive from this. This dogma is also reflected in devotion to Our Lady of Ta’ Pinu on Malta.
Early titles of Mary
“Our Lady” is a common title to give to Mary as a sign of respect and honor. In French she is called “Notre Dame” and in Spanish she is “Nuestra Señora”.
- Mary was identified as the “New Eve” as early as the later half of the Second Century. Justin Martyr (100–165) draws the connection in his Dialogue with Trypho. This idea is later expanded by Irenaeus.
- John Chrysostom, in 345, was the first person to use the Marian title Mary Help of Christians as a devotion to the Virgin Mary. Don Bosco promoted devotion to Mary under this title.
- Stella Maris or Our Lady, Star of the Sea is an ancient title for the Virgin Mary, used to emphasize her role as a sign of hope and a guiding star for Christians. It is attributed to Jerome and cited by Paschasius Radbertus.
|Mary||Maria||Mariam (Μαριάμ), Maria (Μαρία)||Arabic: Maryām (مريم), Chinese: (瑪利亞), Coptic: Maria, French: Marie, German: Maria, Italian: Maria, Judeo-Aramaic: Maryām (מרים), Maltese: Marija, Portuguese: Maria, Russian: Marija (Мария), Spanish: María, Syriac: Mariam, Vietnamese: Maria|
|“Full of Grace”, “Blessed”, “Most Blessed”||Gratia plena, Beata, Beatissima||kecharitomene (κεχαριτωμένη)||from the angel’s greeting to Mary in Luke 1:28;|
|“Virgin”, “the Virgin”||Virgo||Parthenos (Παρθένος)||Greek parthenos used in Matthew 1:22; Ignatius of Antioch refers to Mary’s virginity and motherhood (ca. 110);|
|“Cause of our Salvation”||causa salutis||according to Irenaeus of Lyons (150–202);|
|“Mother of God”||Mater Dei||Meter Theou(Μήτηρ Θεοῦ)||often abbr. ΜΡ ΘΥ in Greek iconography;|
|“God-bearer”||Deipara, Dei genitrix||Theotokos (Θεοτόκος)||lit. “one who bears the One who is God”; a common title in Eastern Christianity with christological implications; adopted officially during Council of Ephesus (431) in response to Nestorianism, which questioned the Church’s teaching that Jesus Christ‘s nature was unified;|
|“Ever-virgin”||semper virgo||aei-parthenos (ἀειπάρθενος)|
|“Holy Mary”, “Saint Mary”||Sancta Maria||Hagia Maria (Ἁγία Μαρία)||Greek invocation is infrequent in contemporary Eastern Christianity;|
|“Most Holy”||Sanctissima, tota Sancta||Panagia (Παναγία)|
|“Lady”, “Mistress”||Domina||Despoina (Δέσποινα)||related, “Madonna” (Italian: Madonna, from ma “my” + donna “lady”; from Latin domina); also, “Notre Dame” (French: Notre Dame, lit. “our lady”);|
|“Queen of Heaven”||Regina Coeli, Regina Caeli||Mary is identified with the figure in Revelation 12:1;|
- After the Battle of Lepanto in 1521, Pope Pius V instituted the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mother of Victory.
- During World War I, Pope Benedict XV added the invocation Mary Queen of Peace to the Litany of Loreto.
- In 1960 Pope John XXIII changed the title of the “Feast of the Holy Rosary” (formerly the “Feast of Our Lady of Victory”) to the “Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.”
|Image Type||Typical Art Style||Description|
“She Who Shows the Way”
|Byzantine||Mary holds Christ in her left hand and with her right hand she “shows the way” by pointing to Him;|
“Throne of Wisdom”
|Romanesque||Christ is seated in His mother Mary’s lap, symbolically the “Throne of Wisdom”;|
|“Gothic Madonna“||Gothic||Based loosely on Byzantine Hodegetria iconography; typically depicts a standing, smiling Mary and playful Christ Child; considered one of the earliest depictions of Mary that is strictly Western;|
“Our Lady Nursing”
|Gothic and Renaissance||The Virgin is depicted breastfeeding the Holy Infant. One of the earliest depictions (if not the earliest depiction) of Mary, is Our Lady nursing, as painted in the Catacomb of Priscilla in Rome, c. A.D. 250; Discouraged by the Council of Trent and rare subsequently.|
“Virgin/Mother of Mercy”
|Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque||A regal, celestial Mary is depicted covering the faithful in her protective mantle; first arose in the late 13th century in Central Europe and Italy; depiction is commonly associated with plaguemonuments.|
|Gothic||Mary is seated in majesty, holding the Christ Child; based on Byzantine Nikopoia iconography;|
|Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque||Mary cradles the dead body of Jesus Christ after his crucifixion; this type emerged first in the 13th century in Germany as an Andachtsbild or devotional icon relating to grief; Italian Pietàs appeared in the 14th century; Michelangelo’s Pietà (1498–1499) is considered a masterpiece;|
|Renaissance, Baroque||Iconic Western depiction with many variations; based loosely on Byzantine Glykophilousa (“sweet kisses”) iconography; Mary turns her gaze away from the Christ Child as she contemplates His future Passion; Renaissance emphasis on classical ideal types, realistic human anatomy, and linear perspective are evident;|
In the Loreto Litanies Mary’s prayers are invoked under more than fifty separate titles, such as “Mother Most Pure”, “Virgin Most Prudent”, and “Cause of Our Joy”.
Other devotional titles include:
Titles associated with devotional images
See also: Black Madonna
- A “Black Madonna” (or Vierges Noires) is a type of statue or painting, generally of the 12th to 15th centuries, in which Mary, and oftentimes the infant Jesus are depicted with dark features. There are over 450 Black Madonnas in Europe. The title given to Mary, usually reflects the location of the image. The Black Madonna of Częstochowa, the Virgin of Candelaria, and Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage are noted examples.
- Mother of Good Counsel (Latin: Mater boni consilii) is a title given to the Blessed Virgin Mary, after a painting said to be miraculous, now found in the thirteenth century Augustinian church at Genazzano, near Rome, Italy.
- Mother Thrice Admirable refers to Mary depicted in a painting as Our Lady Refuge of Sinners. Devotion to Mary as Mother Thrice Admirable is significant in the Schoenstatt Movement.
Other titles related to images include:
Titles associated with apparitions
A number of titles of Mary found in Latin America pertain to cultic images of her represented in iconography identified with a particular already existent title adapted to a particular place. Our Lady of Luján in Argentina refers to a small terracotta image made in Brazil and sent to Argentina in May, 1630. Its appearance seems to have been inspired by Murillo’s Immaculates. Our Lady of Copacabana (Bolivia): is a figure related to devotion to Mary under the title “Most Blessed Virgin de la Candelaria, Our Lady of Copacabana”. About four feet in height, the statue was made by Francisco Tito Yupanqui around 1583 and is garbed in the colors and dress of an Inca princess.
- Field Marshal of the Army of Paraguay
- Nossa Senhora dos Aflitos (Our Lady of the Troubled), Brazil
- Nuestra Señora de la Anunciación (Our Lady of the Annunciation)
- Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Our Lady of the Assumption)
- Our Lady of Aparecida
- Our Lady of Carmel of the Maipú
- Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquirá
- Our Lady of the Rosary of San Nicolás, Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles (Our Lady of the Angels), Costa Rica
- Virgin of Suyapa (Honduras)
- Virgin of the Thirty-Three
Titles in the Orthodox Church
Theotokos means “God-bearer” and is translated as “Mother of God”. This title was given to Mary at the Third Ecumenical Council in Ephesus in 431 AD.(cf. Luke 1:43).
- Life-giving Spring
- Our Mother the Holy Virgin (John 19:27)
- Our Lady of Kazan
- Our Lady of St. Theodore
- The Queen Who is by the Right Side of the King (from Ps.45:9)
- Theotokos of Vladimir
Titles of Mary in Islam
The Qur’an refers to Mary (Arabic: مريم, translit. Maryām) by the following titles:
- Ma’suma – “She who never sinned”
- Mustafia – “She who is chosen”
- Nur – “Light”. She has also been called Umm Nur (“Mother of one who was Light”), in reference to ‘Isa
- Qānitah – the term implies constant submission to Allah, as well as absorption in prayer and invocation.
- Rāki’ah – “She who bows down to Allah in worship”
- Sa’imah – “She who fasts”
- Sājidah – “She who prostrates to Allah in worship”
- Siddiqah – “She who accepts as true”, “She who has faith”, or “She who believes sincerely totally”
- Tāhirah – “She who was purified”
- “Why does Mary have So Many Different Titles?”All About Mary, International Marian Research Institute, University of Dayton.
- Tavard, George Henry, The thousand faces of the Virgin Mary 1996 ISBN0-8146-5914-4 p. 95
- Roskovany, A., conceptu immacolata ex monumentis omnium seculrorum demonstrate III, Budapest 1873
- by Braaten, Carl E. and Jenson, Robert W., Mary, Mother of God, 2004 ISBN0802822665 p. 84
- Maas, Anthony. “Virgin Birth of Christ.” The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 10 April 2016
- Wuerl, Donald W. and Stubna, Kris D., The Teaching of Christ: A Catholic Catechism for Adults, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, 2004, ISBN9781592760947
- “In Honor of Nuestra Señora de Guia”, De AnDA (2009-11-22),
- Hargett, Malea. “Marian titles chosen for one out of four churches in diocese”,Arkansas Catholic, Diocese of Arkansas, May 20, 2006
- Mauriello, Matthew R., “Mary the New Eve,”Frei Francisco.
- “…Byzantine inscriptions from Palestine…in the sixth [century]….fourteen inscriptions invoke “Holy Mary” (Hagia Maria), eleven more hail her as Theotokos; others add the attribution of “Immaculate” (Akeratos), “Most Blessed” (Kecharitomene), “Mistress” (Despoina), “Virgin” or “Ever-Virgin” (Aei-Parthenos).” (Frend 1984, p. 836)
- Frend 1984, p. 836.
- “Blue Letter Bible” lexicon results for parthenos Retrieved December 19, 2007.
- Irenaeus of Lyons (Adversus Haereses 3.22.4).
- The Titles of Saints, Orthodox Holiness, December 18, 2005
- “Universität Mannheim”. www.uni-mannheim.de. 3 January 2019.
- Madonna. (2008). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved February 17, 2008, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: 
- Jeep 2001, p. 393.
- Watts, Barbara. “Pietà”. Grove Art Online. Oxford University Press, Retrieved February 17, 2008, http://www.groveart.com/
- “The Loreto Litanies”. The Holy See. Retrieved 2011-11-07.
- Duricy, Michael P., “Black Madonnas: Origin, History, Controversy,”All About Mary, International Marian Research Institute, University of Dayton.
- “Titles of Mary”, Regis University
- “Latin American Titles of Mary,”All About Mary, International Marian Research Institute, University of Dayton.
- Paraguay: South America’s Lewis Carroll world
- “Titles of the Holy Theotokos, Saint Mary”, Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Diocese of Los Angeles
Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia