Mariology: see Mary.
Mariology is the theological study of Mary, which methodically presents teachings about her to other parts of the faith, such as teachings about Jesus Christ, redemption and grace. Christian Mariology aims to connect scripture, tradition and the teachings of the Church on Mary.

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, as Orthodox views on Mary have been mostly expressed in liturgy and are not subject to a central dogmatic teaching office.

A significant number of Marian publications were made 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 easier understood because of the very existence of Mariology.

Diversity of Marian views

A wide range of views on Mary exist at multiple levels of differentiation within distinct Christian belief systems. And in many cases, the views held at any point in history have continued to be challenged and transformed.

Over the centuries, 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 within itself, from the Anglo-Catholic (very close to Roman Catholic views) to the far more typically Protestant Evangelical views.

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.

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, calling Mary the Mother of God. While some early Protestants created Marian art and allowed limited forms of Marian veneration, Protestants today do not share the veneration of Mary practiced by Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox. Martin Luther's views on Mary, John Calvin's views on Mary, Karl Barth's views on Mary and others have all formed 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 and the nineteenth chapter of the Qur'an, which is named after her, begins with two narrations of "miraculous birth", although she is not considered divine by Muslims.

Mariology as a theological discipline

Within Anglican Marian theology the Blessed Virgin Mary holds a place of honour, and in the Eastern Orthodox Church, a number of traditions revolve around the Ever-Virgin Mary, 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 emphasizes popular Marian piety, and more recently from feminist theology, stressing 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. 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 conflict often with scientific analysis and critical historical reviews of beliefs and practices. This conflict has been recognized early on. Around the year 1300 William of Ware described the tendency to attribute almost everything to Mary Bonaventura warned against Marian maximalism and minimalism. “One has to be careful as to not to minimize the honour of our Lord, Jesus Christ” In the 20th century, Pope Pius XII, "the most Marian Pope in Church history” warned nevertheless against both exuberant exaggerations and timid minimalism in the presentation of Mary.

Mariological methodology

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, except that in Mariology the question of scriptural basis is more accentuated. 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.

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.

Some prominent theologians such as Karl Barth or 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. He sees in Mary the mother and model for the Church, a view later highlighted by the Popes Paul VI through Benedict XVI. The Wikipedia articles (listed in the template on the right) use a mainly historical approach.

Relation to other theological disciplines

Mariology and Christology

While Christology in its own right 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, but Protestant views 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. 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.

Biblical research

Mariology participates in and benefits from biblical research, employing historical text-critical analysis and the other methods employed by biblical scholarship. Like all scriptures, biblical statements on Mary are not only a part of divine revelation, 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 Life of Jesus Research is of obvious interest to Mariology.

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 like the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. Thus, in Fulgens Corona and Munificentissimus Deus Pope Pius XII explained these two dogmas in terms of existing biblical references to Mary, the patristic tradition, and, the strong historical faith (sensus fidelium). He employed a deductive theological method.

Moral theology

There seems to be at first sight no 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 and is used 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 subject to Catholic teachings on revelation, mysticism and canon law.


  • 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)


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