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Master of Frankfurt : Madonna and Child
Theotókos at the Romanesque west portal of the Moosburg Kastulusmünster

The title of the Mother of God ( Gr. Θεοτόκος Theotókos , Latin Dei Genitrix or Deipara ), German also Mother of God , Mother of God or Mother of God ( Mater Dei ), is an honorary title for Mary , mother of Jesus Christ . It refers to the Christian belief that Jesus Christ is true God and true man.

About the terms Theotokos and Mother of God

The term Theotókos , which comes from profane Greek, is first recorded in Christian usage in Alexander of Alexandria around 322. The use of this title in the Sub tuum praesidium , the oldest Marian prayer in Christianity (found on a papyrus dating back to the 3rd century is dated), points to an even earlier usage and already to its importance for the Christian life of faith and prayer.

The title Theotokos is linked to those passages in the New Testament in which Mary is the mother of Jesus or the mother of the Lord (e.g. Mt 1.18  EU ; Mt 2.11  EU ; Lk 1.43  EU ; Lk 2.34  EU ; Joh 2,1  EU ) is called. It is related to theological reflections on how the divine and human natures are united in the person of Jesus Christ ( doctrine of two natures ).

The Council of Ephesus in 431 confirmed the use of the term Theotokos against Nestorius , who taught that the divine and human nature in Jesus Christ are largely divided and unmixed. Mary should not be described as the Theotokos, but as the Theotokos.

Catholic dogmatics sees the term Mother of God as a more catchy synonym for the term Theotokos . Conversely, she considers the thesis “Mary gave birth to God but is not his mother”, which she discovered behind the above-mentioned sensation, to be a more recent formulation of precisely what the council once wanted to condemn. Nevertheless, Dei genetrix is by no means uncommon in the Latin texts , while mater Dei occurs mainly, albeit prominently, in the Ave Maria ; it is often a question of translation.


Our Lady is represented in the iconography of the image of Mary as Mary with the child , often referred to as the Madonna and Child .

Byzantine early forms

The following main types of representation can be distinguished from the early Byzantine forms:

  • The type of Nicopoia ("victory-bringing") or Kyriotissa ("mistress", "mother of the Lord"). Mary is shown seated on a throne while the baby Jesus sits in the center of her lap. Another name of this type is Sedes sapientiae ("throne of wisdom").
  • The type of Hodegetria ("signpost"). The baby Jesus is depicted on Mary's left arm or thigh, while Mary points to the child with her other arm. Variations are the type Dexiokratusa ("holding on with the right") in which the child sits on the right side and the type Tricherusa ("three-handed") in which a third hand is shown.
  • The type of Eleousa ("Merciful") or Glykophilousa ("Caressing"). Maria is shown facing the child while their faces are touching.
  • The type of Galaktotrophousa (“milk feeders”, “breastfeeding women”). Mary is shown breastfeeding the child. Another name of this type is Maria lactans .
  • The type of Panhagia ("All Saints") or Platytera ("Others"). Mary is shown with her arms outstretched in prayer, the baby Jesus in a medallion over her breast. Other names of this type are Virgo orans ("praying virgin") and Maria orans ("praying Maria").

Since the 3rd century at the latest, with the emergence of the prayer We have been fleeing under your protection and umbrella, O holy Theotokos , there is also the Madonna of the Protective Cloak .


Madonna and Child ( Bastogne , FR)

In heraldry , various representations of this heraldic figure have emerged as a common figure . A distinction can be made between a standing and a seated saint. A further distinction is made between the arm with which the baby Jesus is held. Whether the boy is held or carried on the right or left arm is only important for describing the coat of arms and should always be mentioned. A symbolic peculiarity is not hidden behind it, although this is sometimes claimed in interpretations. Both figures, mother and child, are depicted with a halo around their heads, Mary often with a mandorla . These attributes of saints are executed simply or radiantly in gold. Mary in the coat of arms can often be recognized by the occasional real white lilies . This flower represents virginity. The background of many coats of arms is enhanced by an altar. Mary and child are placed as human figures in silver or gold and with many details in the coat of arms. The hair color is not set to blonde (gold). Additions are crown , staff with lily or other religious insignia . In many cases, other heraldic figures are also placed in the heraldic field .

Marian festival on January 1st

The feast of Our Lady is celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church on January 1st , the octave day of Christmas. Until the calendar reform of 1969 , she celebrated the feast of the motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary on October 11th. In the Greek Orthodox Church this festival is celebrated on Boxing Day ( December 26th ).


Historically, the rejection of the title of the Mother of God for Mary has always been closely related to the rejection of the doctrine of incarnation . The Jehovah's Witnesses , who do not consider Jesus to be of the same nature as God ( Arianism ), also reject the title of the Mother of God. Adoptionists too , like Rudolf Steiner in recent times , consider the designation of the mother of Jesus as the Mother of God to be wrong, since Jesus only became Christ when he was baptized in the Jordan ( Jn 1.28–34  EU ).

See also


  • Hermann Lemperle : Madonnas: The Madonna in German sculpture , 1965
  • Alois Müller, Dorothea Sattler: Mariology . In: Theodor Schneider (Ed.): Handbuch der Dogmatik. Volume 2, Patmos, Düsseldorf 2000, ISBN 3-491-69024-2 , pp. 155-187.
  • Marco-Alexander Zentler: King's Mother - Mother of God: To the ancient Egyptian backgrounds of the Theotókos in the Coptic Church. In: Bible, Byzantium and Christian Orient . Festschrift for Stephen Gerö on his 65th birthday (= Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 187), Peeters, Leuven 2011, pp. 231–238.

Web links

Commons : Madonna and Child  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Theodoret of Cyrus reproduces a letter from Bishop Alexander of Alexandria to Bishop Alexander of Constantinople in his church history . In: Library of the Church Fathers 51, p. 23: "Our Lord Jesus Christ ... [has] in truth and not just in appearance accepted a body from Mary the Mother of God."
  2. Maren Kuhn Refus: Das Bistum Konstanz , Volume 3, Walter de Gruyter & Co, Berlin 1992, ISBN 978-3-11013-449-0 , p. OA
  3. Milan Buben: Heraldik , Albatros Prag, 1986, p. OA
  4. Mary - The Mother of God?, accessed May 11, 2018.
  5. Hans-Werner Schroeder: The cosmic Christ , Urachhaus Vlg., Stuttgart 1995, p. 142.