Virgin Mary wearing red


In many of the beautiful Iconography, Virgin Mary is depicted wearing a dark red veil and cloak. I find Her very lovely in this dark red, often with a golden face. I think Iconography is the most beautiful art pieces depicting Christianity/ Catholicism.
Red, however, is also associated with a Scarlet (meaning a provocative woman) which Mary certainly was not. Yet it must have been all right for Her to be depicted wearing red in this artwork. Would it be unlikely that Mary might have ever worn something red in Her real life, so long ago? Would it be almost wrong or immoral for me to write about Her wearing a pretty dark red veil and cloak? My intention, of course, is not to make Her a Scarlet.


In Eastern Iconography Mary and Jesus often are depicted in red and blue - Mary with blue underneath and red on top, Jesus with red underneath and blue on top.

I have red (but don’t have an “official” source) this reason: red represents divinity (purple/red colors have the royal associations), and blue represents humanity (for some reason or another). Mary has blue underneath because she is a human, and red on top because of the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost. Jesus meanwhile has red underneath because he is Christ, and blue on top because of the human nature he assumed from Mary.

This could all be made up for all I know, but it is thought provoking. Maybe some Eastern Catholics/Orthodox could enlighten us?


Correct idea but wrong color association:
Red is for humanity (blood)
Blue is for heavens (heavenly things not of earth)
Green is life-giving, for earth and hope
Purple is for royalty
White is for purity and divinity, also for swaddling clothes and burial shrouds
Gold is for divine energies (grace, uncreated eternal life of God). Those in heaven often have gold leaf background to show they are divinized.
Brown is for man’s earthly nature
Black is for evil
OL Perpetual Help wears red garment with a blue veil/mantle adorned with 3 gold stars to signify she is Virgin before, during, and after giving birth to Christ. Christ wears green with red sash and gold mantle. Many Icons show the Theotokos (God-bearer) with heavenly blue garment and red veil of humanity with the golden stars - perpetual virginity. Mary has a heavenly and earthly role. Christ wears the same colors to signify His dual nature. Christ the Pantocrater clothed Himself in our flesh -red garment with blue mantle. Christ is often depicted in white and gold, too.


Different eras have different color associations, and different languages have different definitions of color range. That makes meaningful discussion of color symbolism a bit difficult.

So first off, I agree that when Mary wears red robes, in the West it is associated with showing her humanity, while in the East it represents nobility or royalty. (So does imperial purple (which is red or reddish-purple), which is another common color for her robes in Eastern icons.) As a queen mother of the House of David, this is Mary’s right.

And before you say that wearing red robes is a sign of being a slut, you should ask yourself why Jesus wears red robes in the Old Testament. Hint: it has something to do with blood and kingship and wine, not with Him being a slut.

But the real question you should be asking yourself is —

What color is “scarlet” in the Book of Revelation?

John uses the Greek word “kokkinon,” which is the dye color “crimson,” produced by kermes bugs when ground up into a powder. It produces a deep red with overtones of purple. This color was very prized in Roman times, though not as much as Tyrian purple (which was actually a red-purple, but I digress).

“Scarlet” is a different color, much more like an orange-red. Translators use “scarlet” for its associations in English, not because it’s an accurate translation. In John’s time, there was no such word as “scarlet;” Romans and Greeks called the color “Armenian red.”

(She really does wear “porphyroun,” though, which is the red-purple porphyry color associated with Roman and Byzantine emperors.)

And why is the harlot wearing purple and scarlet, just like she’s wearing a crown and riding on a Beast that symbolizes a bunch of kings?

Because she’s Roma Mater, the imperial city that ruled the Roman Empire in John’s time, the city that was worshipped as a goddess by emperors and common people alike. So she dresses like an empress. (Calling her “Babylon” is pretty much a giveaway, as Babylon had once been the center of a great pagan empire.)

One of the big points of Revelation is that there’s Jesus, the real King of Heaven and Earth, and then there’s the devil and the Antichrist, who are doing their darndest to usurp Jesus’ rightful place in people’s hearts and actions. Likewise, there’s the good Woman and the Bride, and then there’s Jezabel the bad teacher (in the letters to the churches) and the Great Harlot, who are trying to take their place in people’s hearts and actions.

So if you want to complain that Mary wears rich colors and so does the Great Harlot, you will also have to take into account that Heaven is full of golden vessels, just like the Great Harlot’s golden cup.

The point is that you can’t trust in earthly kings and princes and cities, even if they do have gold crowns and purple robes. You can trust in the King of Heaven, Who was royal even when His apparel included blood, a crown of thorns, nails, and a cross.


excellent post; thanks for this


Yes, different eras and cultures associate different symbolism to different colors.

But in Iconography an artist isn’t allowed to be creative. Red is for humanity, not royalty in the East. Each color has very specific purpose.
Icons are representations of the divine: windows to heaven. To write an icon is a liturgical work. The artist must pray and fast. After a sketch (usually based on pre-existing Icon) is drawn, gold leaf is applied. Then the darkest colors are placed followed by progressively lighter colors. When God created the heavens and the earth it was first dark. And then God created the light. Even the act of writing an Icon is a lesson in Theology.


i never really thought of red or red variant colors like scarlet or crimson being associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary

i’d always thought blue; along with white & gold were’t’ve’d been Mary’s favorite colors




Thank you. All colors belong to GOD, It’s man that puts meaning to them. That means so much to us. God Bless, Memaw


Lady bugs where named after Our Lady, they where sent from Mary and saved Germany from an aphid infestation. Lady bugs are red with 7 spots.


Is that serious? I never heard of it, but think it’s kind of cute. Actually, the other day I was just wondering why they are called Ladybugs, yet they are not all female.


Now I’ve got to look it up. I thought it was in France. :shrug:


Yeah, isn’t that cool? they were named after our Lady, Hence, Ladybugs. My daughter did a 4-H project on them. The old school bugs have 7 spots( for Mary’s 7 sorrows) but they are getting pretty rare, the Asian bugs have more spots and are not as red.


“Dark blue is a sign of the mystery of Divine Life and dominates in iconography.”
“Red and blue, although strongly contrasted spiritually, create a good harmony. This fact is particularly noticeable when we look at the Virgin Theotokos dressed in a red maphorian, symbol of her humanity, and a blue robe, symbol of the divine, for she is the human creature who bore in her womb the Son of God”

pp. 114-115, The Icon, Window on the Kingdom, by Michel Quenot, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, New York , 2002.


MY grandson did a paper on the State of New York, years ago, so my sister who lives there, sent him much information on that state. We were surprised to learn that the Lady Bug is their state bug. The report said that an aphid plague hit them and they prayed to Our Blessed Mother for help and hordes of Bugs moved in and took care of it. They named those bugs “Our Lady’s Bugs” and that’s how they got their name. Shortened to Ladybug. God Bless, Memaw


Here’s some more Ladybug lore…LOL
Seem like most countries in Europe all claim them as their own! :wink:


The seven spots for seven sorrows is familiar. Now I think I remember hearing about this a long time ago.


Well, if we’re talking about ‘historically’:

“Would it be unlikely that Mary might have ever worn something red in Her real life, so long ago?” I would say yes. While generally speaking, as far as we know about Jewish clothing at that time, women’s garments tended to be more colorful than men’s, one color Jewish women seem to have avoided at the time was red. The reason being that red is the color of menstrual blood (remember: a woman was considered ritually unclean during menstruation) and was associated with non-Jewish women.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit