The Eleusa style icon of the Madonna with the Child Jesus nestled against her face has been depicted in both the Western and the Eastern churches.[1][2]

Mariology is the theological study of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Mariology methodically presents teachings about her to other parts of the faith, such as teachings about Jesus, redemption and grace. Christian Mariology aims to connect scripture, tradition and the teachings of the Church on Mary.[3][4][5]

There exist a variety of Christian views on Mary ranging from the focus on Marian veneration in Roman Catholic Mariology to Protestant objections, with Anglican Marian theology in between. As a field of theology, in recent centuries the most substantial developments in Mariology (and the founding of specific centers devoted to its study) have taken place within Roman Catholic Mariology. Eastern Orthodox concepts of Mary have been mostly expressed in liturgy and are not subject to a central dogmatic teaching office.

A significant number of Marian publications were written in the 20th century, with theologists Raimondo Spiazzi and Gabriel Roschini achieving 2500 and 900 publications respectively. In terms of popular following, membership in Roman Catholic Marian Movements and Societies has grown significantly. Ecumenical differences continue to exist in substance and style but are more easily understood because of the existence of Mariology.


Diversity of Marian views

Key articles on
Fra Angelico 046.jpg

General perspective
Mother of Jesus

Specific views
AnglicanEastern OrthodoxLutheran • Marian veneration • Muslim • Protestant
Roman Catholic

Prayers & devotions

Hymns to MaryHail MaryRosary

Ecumenical views

This box: view · Roman Catholic Mariology has been shaped by varying forces ranging from sensus fidelium to Marian apparitions to the writings of the saints to papal encyclicals.

Anglican Marian theology varies greatly, from the Anglo-Catholic (very close to Roman Catholic views) to the more typically Protestant Evangelical views. The Anglican Church formally celebrates six Marian feasts, Annunciation (March 25), Visitation (May 31), Day of Saint Mary (Assumption or dormition) (August 15), Nativity of Mary (September 8), Our Lady of Walsingham (October 15) and Mary's Conception (December 8).[6][7] Anglicans generally share some of the fundamental Marian beliefs such as divine maternity and the virgin birth of Jesus, although there is no systematic agreed upon Mariology among the diverse parts of the Anglican Communion. However, the role of Mary as a mediator is accepted by some groups of modern Anglican theologians.[8]

Eastern Orthodox theology calls Mary the Theotokos, emphasizing her status as the mother of God incarnate in Jesus, but not the mother of God from eternity. The virginal motherhood of Mary stands at the center of Orthodox Mariology, in which the title Ever Virgin is often used. The Orthodox Mariological approach emphasizes the sublime holiness of Mary, her share in redemption and her role as a mediator of grace.[9][10]

Orthodox Marilogical thought dates as far back as Saint John Damascene who in the 8th century wrote on the mediative role of Mary and on the Dormition of the Theotokos.[11][12] In the 14th century, Orthodox Mariology began to flourish among Byzantine theologians who held a cosmic view of Mariology, placing Jesus and Mary together at the center of the cosmos and saw them as the goal of world history.[9] More recently Orthodox Mariology achieved a renewal among 20th century theologians in Russia, for whom Mary is the heart of the Church and the center of creation.[9] However, unlike the Catholic approach, Orthodox Mariology does not support the Immaculate Conception of Mary.[9] Prior to the 20th century, Orthodox Mariology was almost entirely liturgical, and had no systematic presentation similar to Roman Catholic Mariology. However, 20th century theologians such as Sergei Bulgakov began the development of a detailed systematic Orthodox Mariology.[13][14][15] Bulgakov's Mariological formulation emphasizes the close link between Mary and the Holy Spirit in the mystery of the Incarnation.[10]

Protestant views of Mary vary from denomination to denomination. They focus generally on interpretations of Mary in the Bible, the "Apostles' Creed", (which professes the Virgin Birth), and the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus, in 431, which called Mary the Mother of God. While some early Protestants created Marian art and allowed limited forms of Marian veneration,[16] Protestants today do not share the veneration of Mary practiced by Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox.[5] Martin Luther's views on Mary, John Calvin's views on Mary, Karl Barth's views on Mary and others have all contributed to modern Protestant views.

A better mutual understanding among different Christian groups regarding their Mariology has been sought in a number of ecumenical meetings which produced common documents.

Outside Christianity, the Islamic view of the Virgin Mary, known as Maryam in Arabic, is that she was an extremely pious and chaste woman who miraculously gave birth while still a virgin to the prophet Jesus, known in Arabic as Isa. Mary is the only woman specifically named in the Qur'an. The nineteenth chapter of the Qur'an, which is named after her, begins with two narrations of "miraculous birth".

Development and impact of Mariology

Statue of Santa Maria Assunta, in Attard, Malta

Over considerable resistance, the First Council of Ephesus in 431 formally sanctioned devotion to the Virgin as Theotokos, Mother of God, (more accurately translated as God bearer), sanctioning the creation of icons bearing the images of the Virgin and Child. Devotion to Mary was, however, already widespread before this point, reflected in the fresco depictions of Mother and Child in the Roman catacombs. The early Church Fathers saw Mary as the "new Eve" who said "yes" to God as Eve had said no.[17] Mary, as the first Christian Saint and Mother of Jesus, was deemed to be a compassionate mediator between suffering mankind and her son, Jesus, who was seen as King and Judge.

In the East, devotion to Mary blossomed in the sixth century under official patronage and imperial promotion at the Court of Constantinople.[18] The popularity of Mary as an individual object of devotion, however, only began in the fifth century with the appearance of apocryphal versions of her life, interest in her relics, and the first churches dedicated to her name, for example, S. Maria Maggiore in Rome.[19] A sign that the process was slower in Rome is provided by the incident during the visit of Pope Agapetus to Constantinople in 536, when he was upbraided for opposing the veneration of the theotokos and refusing to allow her icons to be displayed in Roman churches.[20] Early seventh-century examples of new Marian dedications in Rome are the dedication in 609 of the pagan Pantheon as Santa Maria ad Martyres, "Holy Mary and the Martyrs",[21] and the re-dedication of the early Christian titulus Julii et Calixtii, one of the oldest Roman churches, as Santa Maria in Trastevere.[22] The earliest Marian feasts were introduced into the Roman liturgical calendar by Pope Sergius I (687-701).[23]

Devotion to the Virgin Mary as the "new Eve" lent much to the status of women during the Middle Ages. Women who had been looked down upon as daughters of Eve, came to be looked upon as objects of veneration and inspiration. The medieval development of chivalry, with the concept of the honor of a lady and the ensuing knightly devotion to it, not only derived from the thinking about the Virgin Mary, but also contributed to it.[24] The medieval veneration of the Virgin Mary was contrasted by the fact that ordinary women, specially those outside aristocratic circles were looked down upon. Although women were at times viewed as the source of evil, it was Mary who as mediator to God was a source of refuge for man. The development of medieval Mariology and the changing attitudes towards women paralleled each other and can best be understood in a common context.[25]

Mariology as a theological discipline

Within Anglican Marian theology the Blessed Virgin Mary holds a place of honour. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, a number of traditions revolve around the Ever-Virgin Mary and the Theotokos, which are theologically paramount.

Yet, as an active theological discipline, Mariology has received the larger amount of formal attention in Roman Catholic Mariology based on four dogmas on Mary which are a part of Roman Catholic theology. The Second Vatican Council document Lumen Gentium summarized the views on Roman Catholic Mariology, the focus being on the veneration of the Mother of God. Over time, Roman Catholic Mariology also received some input from Liberation Theology, which emphasized popular Marian piety, and more recently from feminist theology, which stressed both the dignity of women and gender differences.

While systematic Marian theology is not new, Pope Pius XII is credited with promoting the independent theological study of Mary on a large scale with the creation or elevation of four papal Mariological research centres, e.g. the Marianum.[26] The papal institutes were created to foster Mariological research and to explain and support the Roman Catholic veneration of Mary. This new orientation was continued by Popes John XXIII, Paul VI and John Paul II with the additional creation of Pontifica Academia Mariana Internationale and Centro di Cultura Mariana, a pastoral center to promulgate Marian teachings of the Church, and, Societa Mariologica Italiana, an Italian mariological society with interdisciplinary orientation.

Maximalism versus minimalism

Mariology is a field of theology in which deeply felt pious beliefs of the faithful and hagiography may conflict with critical historical reviews of beliefs and practices, and scientific analysis. This conflict was recognized early on. Around the year 1300, William of Ware described the tendency of believers to attribute almost everything to Mary.[27] Bonaventura warned against Marian maximalism. “One has to be careful as to not to minimize the honour of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”[28] In the 20th century, Pope Pius XII, "the most Marian Pope in Church history”[29] warned nevertheless against both exuberant exaggerations and timid minimalism in the presentation of Mary.[30]

Mariological methodology

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A series of articles on
Roman Catholic
Virgin Mary - Diego Velazquez.jpg

General articles
MariologyVeneration of the Blessed VirginHistory of MariologyMariology of the saintsMariology of the popesEncyclicalsMarian Societies

RosaryScapularImmaculate Heart • Seven Joys • Seven Sorrows • First SaturdaysActs of Reparation • Hearts of Jesus & Mary • Consecration to Mary

Dogmas and Doctrines

Mother of God • Perpetual virginityImmaculate ConceptionAssumptionMother of the ChurchMediatrixCo-Redemptrix

Expressions of devotion
ArtHymnsMusic • Architecture

Key Marian apparitions
(approved or worthy of belief)
GuadalupeMiraculous Medal
La SaletteLourdesPontmainLausBanneuxBeauraingFátimaAkita

As a field of study, Mariology uses the sources, methods and criteria of theology, going back to official Marian pronouncements beginning with the Apostles' Creed. In Mariology the question of scriptural basis is more accentuated.[31] In Roman Catholic Mariology, the overall context of Catholic doctrines and other Church teachings are also taken into account. The Marian Chapter of the document Lumen Gentium of Vatican II includes twenty-six biblical references. They refer to the conception, birth and childhood of Jesus, Mary’s role in several events and under the cross. Of importance to Mariological methodology is a specific Vatican II statement that these reports are not allegories with symbolic value but historical revelations, a point further emphasized by Pope Benedict XVI.[32]

Organization of Mariology

The presentation of Mariology differs among theologians. Some prefer to present its historical development, while others divide Mariology by its content (dogmas, grace, role in redemption, etc.). Some theologians prefer to present Mariology only in terms of Mary's attributes (honour, titles, privileges), while others attempt to integrate Mary into their overall theology and into the salvation mystery of Jesus Christ.[33]

Some prominent theologians, such as Karl Barth and Karl Rahner in the 20th century, viewed Mariology only as a part of Christology. But differences exist even within families, e.g. Hugo Rahner, the brother of Karl Rahner, disagreed and developed a Mariology based on the writers of the early Church, such as Ambrose of Milan, Augustine of Hippo, and others.[34] He viewed Mary as the mother and model for the Church, a view later highlighted by Popes Paul VI through Benedict XVI.[35]

Relation to other theological disciplines

Mariology and Christology

While Christology has been the subject of detailed study, some Marian views, in particular in Roman Catholic Mariology, see it as an essential basis for the study of Mary. Generally, Protestant denominations do not agree with this approach.

The concept that by being the “Mother of God”, Mary has a unique role in salvation and redemption was contemplated and written about in the early Church.[36] In recent centuries, Roman Catholic Mariology has come to be viewed as a logical and necessary consequence of Christology: Mary contributes to a fuller understanding of who Christ is and what he did. In these views, Mariology can be derived from the Christocentric mysteries of Incarnation: Jesus and Mary are son and mother, redeemer and redeemed.[37][38][39]

Biblical research

Mariology participates in and benefits from biblical research, employing historical text-critical analysis and other methods employed by biblical scholarship. Like all scriptures, biblical statements on Mary were not only part of divine revelation[citation needed], but were written in a historic and socio-cultural context, which require explanation. Of special importance in this context is the application of biblical hermeneutics (the analysis of synonym words for a better understanding of their meaning). Hermeneutics assists in the analysis of the relation between biblical statements on Mary, the faith of the early Christians and the Marian tradition of the Church. Because of the mother-son relation, the historical research into the life of Jesus is of obvious interest to Mariology.[40]

Church history

Within the field of Church history, Mariology is concerned with the development of Marian teachings and the various forms of Marian culture. An important part of Church history is patristics or patrology, the teaching of the early Fathers of the Church. They give indications of the faith of the early Church and are analyzed in terms of their statements on Mary.

In the Roman Catholic context, patrology and dogmatic history have at times provided a basis for popes to justify Marian belief, veneration, and dogmas such as the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. Thus, in Fulgens Corona and Munificentissimus Deus, Pope Pius XII explained the two dogmas in terms of existing biblical references to Mary, the patristic tradition, and the strong historical faith of believers (sensus fidelium). He employed a deductive theological method.[41]

Moral theology

Some scholars do not see a direct relation of Mariology to Moral Theology. However, in the words of Pius X, as Mary is viewed as the model of virtue, virginity, and a life free of sin, her life exemplifies many moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. It is used in that way in pastoral theology and homiletics (sermons). Moral theology includes teachings on mysticism, to which Marian spirituality relates. Marian charisma, Marian apparitions and other private revelations are also subject to Catholic teachings on revelation, mysticism and canon law.

See also


  • Konrad Algermissen, Lexikon der Marienkunde, Regensburg, 1967 (Roman Catholic mariological Encyclopedia)
  • Remigius Bäumer, Marienlexikon, Eos, St. Ottilien, 1992 (Roman Catholic mariological Encyclopedia)
  • W Beinert, Lexikon der katholischen Dogmatik, Herder Freiburg, 1988 (Roman Catholic theological Encyclopedia)
  • Heinrich Kihn Encyklopaedie und Methodologie der Theologie, Freiburg, Herder, 1892(Roman Catholic theological Encyclopedia)
  • Joseph Ratzinger Introduction to Christianity, 1968 (Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI)


  1. ^ The icon handbook: a guide to understanding icons and the liturgy by David Coomler 1995 ISBN 0872432106 page 203
  2. ^ The era of Michelangelo: masterpieces from the Albertina by Achim Gnann 2004 ISBN 8837027559 page 54
  3. ^ The encyclopedia of Christianity, Volume 3 by Erwin Fahlbusch, Geoffrey William Bromiley 2003 ISBN 9004126546 pages 403-404
  4. ^ Rahner, Karl 2004 Encyclopedia of theology: a concise Sacramentum mundi ISBN 0860120066 page 901
  5. ^ a b Hillerbrand, Hans Joachim. Encyclopedia of Protestantism, Volume 3 2003. ISBN 0415924723 page 1174
  6. ^ Schroedel, Jenny The Everything Mary Book, 2006 ISBN 1593377134 page 84
  7. ^ Walsingham shrine
  8. ^ Burke, Raymond et al. Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons 2008 ISBN 9781579183554 page 590
  9. ^ a b c d Rahner, Karl 2004 Encyclopedia of theology: a concise Sacramentum mundi ISBN 0860120066 pages 393-394
  10. ^ a b The encyclopedia of Christianity, Volume 3 by Erwin Fahlbusch, Geoffrey William Bromiley 2003 ISBN 9004126546 page 409
  11. ^ Damascene, John. Homily 2 on the Dormition 14; PG 96, 741 B
  12. ^ Damascene, John. Homily 2 on the Dormition 16; PG 96, 744 D
  13. ^ The Orthodox Church by Sergei Nikolaevich Bulgakov 1997 ISBN 0881410519 page 67
  14. ^ The Celebration of Faith: The Virgin Mary by Alexander Schmemann 2001 ISBN 0881411418 pages 60-61
  15. ^ Modern Russian Theology: Ortholdox Theology In A New Key by Paul Vallierey 2000 ISBN 0567087557 pages
  16. ^ "Protestantische Marien Kunst", in Bäumer, Marienlexikon, V, pp 325-336, Marian veneration in Protestantismus, pp 336-342
  17. ^ "Mary, The New Eve". Retrieved October 8, 2008. 
  18. ^ A. Cameron, "The Theotokos in sixth-century Constantinople", Journal of Theological Studies, New Series 19 (1978:79-108).
  19. ^ John L. Osborne, "Early Medieval Painting in San Clemente, Rome: The Madonna and Child in the Niche" Gesta 20.2 (1981:299-310) and (note 9) referencing T. Klauser, "Rom under der Kult des Gottesmutter Maria", Jahrbuch für der Antike und Christentum 15 (1972:120-135).
  20. ^ M. Mundell, "Monophysite church decoration" Iconoclasm (Birmingham) 1977:72.'
  21. ^ Liber Pontificalis, I, 317.
  22. ^ First mentioned under this new dedication in the Salzburg Itinerary, undated but first half of the seventh century (Maria Andalore, "La datazione della tavola di S. Maria in Trastevere", Rivista dell'Istituto Nazionale d'Archeologia e Storia d'Arte, New Series 20 [1972-73:139-215], p. 167).
  23. ^ Liber Pontificalis, I, 376.
  24. ^ International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: K-P by Geoffrey W. Bromiley 1994 ISBN 0802837832 page 272
  25. ^ Daughters of the church 1987 by Ruth Tucker ISBN 0310457416 page 168
  26. ^ Academia Mariana Salesiana, 1950, Centro Mariano Monfortano to Rome, 1950, Pontifical University Marianum, 1950, and Collegiamento Mariano Nationale, 1958
  27. ^ C Balic, "The Marian rules of Dun Scotus", Euntes Docete, 9, 1956, 110
  28. ^ Bonaventura, Opera VI, 497
  29. ^ Bäumer, Kirchenlexikon', Pius XII
  30. ^ Encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam
  31. ^ Kihn, 63
  32. ^ Joseph Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity, 1968, in the original German version, p. 230
  33. ^ "Mariologie", in Bäumer, Lexikon der Marienkunde
  34. ^ Maria und die Kirche, Tyrolia-Verlag, 1961 (English Translation: Our Lady and the Church, Zaccheus Press, 2004)
  35. ^ Hugo Rahner in Bäumer, Lexikon der Marienkunde
  36. ^ Lexikon der kath., "Dogmatik, Mariologie", 1988
  37. ^ Saint Louis de Montfort,God Alone
  38. ^ Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, 51
  39. ^ Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi; John Henry Newman: Mariology is always christocentric, in Michael Testa, Mary: The Virgin Mary in the Life and Writings of John Henry Newman, 2001
  40. ^ H Kihn, Encyclopedie fer theologie, 1892, 102
  41. ^ Lexikon der kath. Dogmatik, Mariologie, 1988

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  • Mariology — [mer΄ēäl′ə jē, mar΄ēäl′ə jē] n. [see MARIOLATRY & LOGY] the branch of Christian theology that deals with the Virgin Mary …   English World dictionary

  • Mariology — /mair ee ol euh jee/, n. 1. the body of belief, doctrine, and opinion concerning the Virgin Mary. 2. the study of the person and nature of the Virgin Mary, esp. in reference to her role in the incarnation of God in Christ. [1855 60; MARY + O +… …   Universalium

  • Mariology — noun Date: 1857 study or doctrine relating to the Virgin Mary • Mariological adjective …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Mariology — noun The theological study of the Virgin Mary …   Wiktionary

  • Mariology — study of the Virgin Mary Ecclesiastical Terms Sciences and Studies …   Phrontistery dictionary

  • Mariology — n. study of the Virgin Mary; study of the doctrines and beliefs relating to the Virgin Mary …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Mariology — [ˌmɛ:rɪ ɒlədʒi] noun the part of Christian theology concerned with the Virgin Mary. Derivatives Mariological adjective Mariologist noun …   English new terms dictionary

  • mariology — mar·i·ol·o·gy …   English syllables

  • Mariology —  Мариология …   Вестминстерский словарь теологических терминов

  • Mariology — Mar•i•ol•o•gy [[t]ˌmɛər iˈɒl ə dʒi[/t]] n. rel the study of and beliefs concerning the Virgin Mary • Etymology: 1855–60 Mar i•ol′o•gist, n …   From formal English to slang

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