Symbols of Our Lady of Mercy

– Anwered by Father Johann Roten, S.M.

Q: In what ways can Mary be shown as Our Lady of Mercy?

A: There is no easy answer to your question. The title of mercy applied to Mary has generated many different iconographical types from Our Lady of the Mantle, la miséricorde, to specific sanctuaries (Kevelaer) and specific patronages (Our Lady of Ransom of the Mercedarians).

Here are four ways to visually envisage Mary's mercy:

1) The original representation of Our Lady of Mercy is the typical image of Our Lady of Ransom, the patroness of the Mercedarians. She holds the Mercedarian scapular in her right hand. The left hand holds the chains, the typical attribute of Our Lady of Ransom.


2) Mercy may be understood as intercession and mediation: Mary stands with outstretched arms imploring from her son mercy and compassion. The actual picture shows Mary as the Orante reminiscent of the Immaculate Conception (moon, sickle, sextant, lily, globe) bathed in the light of the Spirit.

Sanctuary of Merciful Love
Collevalenza, Perugia, Italy

3) Still another type of Our Lady of Mercy shows the picture of the Enthroned Madonna holding on her knees the Christ child. The expression of mercy lies in the gesture of offering the redeemer to the world. The real source of mercy is God who gives himself to us in his Son.


4) A fourth way of picturing mercy is to show Our Lady as the Mantle Madonna. In this picture the idea of protection is the dominant message. As the merciful mother, Mary holds her devotees under her mantle. She gives them protection against evil and persecution.

Woven Tapestry
St. Lioba Cloister, Freiburg

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