Why is Mary dressed in blue?

Most of the artistic renderings of Mary that I’ve seen in sculpture or painting have her dressed in a blue robe. Is there some history behind the dressing of Mary in blue?

Thank you.

I believe that it is because blue is the color that has been historically associated with purity.:shrug:

If I’m not mistaken, the children at Fatima said she was dressed in blue, too.

In traditional iconography, blue symbolizes the earth, red symbolizes the heavens.

Traditionally, the Blessed Mary is pictured in a blue robe covered by a red one, to symbolize that she is an earthly creature who is clothed in the Divine (at the Incarnation).

Conversely, Christ is the heavenly body who became clothed in the earthly at the Incarnation, therefore He is traditionally pictured in a red robe (heaven) covered by a blue one (earth).

If you look to Eastern Christian Iconography, this is much more evident. In Western art, Mary’s red robe gradually got smaller and finally disappeared over the centuries. The blue robe remained, however.

Thank you so much. I always knew blue was the color associated with Mary but never knew why. I will look for this the next time I see Eastern icons.

Because blue is the color of the sky and sea, it has often symbolized divinity. God ordered a veil to cover the Ark of the Covenant be made in the colors blue and purple and Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant.

Exodus 26:31-33**
The Veil and Screen
31"You shall make **a veil of blue **and purple and scarlet material and fine twisted linen; it shall be made with cherubim, the work of a skillful workman.
32"You shall hang it on four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold, their hooks also being of gold, on four sockets of silver.

33"You shall hang up the veil under the clasps, and shall bring in the ark of the testimony there within the veil; and the veil shall serve for you as a partition between the holy place and the holy of holies.

Exodus 40:3
3"You shall place the ark of the testimony there, and you shall screen the ark with the veil.

The Israelites used an indigo-colored dye called tekhelet; this dye was likely made from snail murex trunculus. This dye was very important in both Jewish and non-Jewish cultures of this time, and was used by royalty and the upper-class in dyeing their clothing, sheets, curtains, etc. This dye is known as Tyrian purple.

In the Torah the Israelites are commanded to dye on of the threads of their tallit (prayer shawl) with tekhelet; when they look at this dye they will think of the blue sky, and of the God above them in Heaven. Tekhelet corresponds to the color of the divine revelation (Midrash Numbers Rabbah xv.) Blue in Judaism has thus had an important significance throughout the history of Jewish culture up to the present.

“Argaman” was the symbol of power, and of glory (Isa. lx. 6; Judges viii. 26), so that Alexander Balas robed Jonathan in purple (I Macc. x. 20), which was especially used to designate royal dignity (I Macc. x. 20, xi. 58).

“Tola’at” and “shani” (“scarlet,” “crimson”) symbolized blood, and thus frequently typified life, although this color often designated sin, as well as joy and happiness (Gen. xxxviii. 28; Josh. ii. 18, 21; Jer. iv. 30).

Purification from sin was also symbolized by purple (Lev. xvi. 10).

“Shesh” (white) was the symbol of physical and intellectual purity, being the true color of light, without any modification (Cant. v. 10; Dan. iv. 10, 14, 20; Zech. xiv. 5). White also symbolizes death. In some cases, it can also symbolize life.

Blue in Judaism: In the Torah, the Israelites were commanded to put fringes, tzitzit, on the corners of their garments, and to weave within these fringes a “twisted thread of blue (tekhelet)”. In ancient days, this blue thread was made from a dye extracted from a Mediterranean snail called the hilazon.

Maimonides claimed that this blue was the colour of “the clear noonday sky”; Rashi, the colour of the evening sky. According to several rabbinic sages, blue is the colour of God’s Glory.Staring at this colour aids in mediation, bringing us a glimpse of the “pavement of sapphire, like the very sky for purity”, which is a likeness of the Throne of God. (The Hebrew word for glory.)** Many items **in the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary in the wilderness, such as the menorah, many of the vessels, and the Ark of the Covenant, were covered with blue cloth when transported from place to place.

Blue and White:Like the robe of the High Priest, adorned with bands of blue threads.

White is the radiance of the priesthood.

From different sources

Thank you all for your answers to my question. I also came across this passage at one website.

*In the middle ages the blue pigment used in Christian iconography was made by grinding up a rare, semi-precious stone called Lapis Lazuli.

Perhaps one of the reasons we think of Mary being clothed in those colors is that the early artists used that expensive blue for the color of her robes, to set her apart and indicate her “divinity” to ordinary people who weren’t used to seeing that richness of color in their everyday lives.*

So what Sister Aurea taught us in second grade is fictional??? She said that blue was the color traditionally worn by young virgins at the time. When Mary continued to wear the blue after the birth of Jesus it was seen as a bit of scandal.

Of the icons I have seen, Christ is dressed in either blue or red with gold over the other color. Gold symbolizes his divinity.

In traditional Eastern iconography, the blue/red symbolism still holds. Gold likewise symbolizes the Divinity. There is no one right answer to the original question. Everything I’ve read here so far has been correct, and no doubt other correct answers will continue to be given.

Most Icons will depict Christ with the “blue over red” color scheme, unless there’s some obvious reason not to do so–like the Baptism in the Jordan, or Christ at the scourging (where He’s wearing scarlet).

In the Adoration; where only the head and shoulders of Joseph appear, and in profile, the likeness to the conventional Christ type is even more noticeable. The scene is again in the stable, showing Mary sitting on a raised bit of flooring, with the child standing on her knee, while he blesses the three kings before him. Joseph looks over the mother’s shoulder. Above, through two oblong openings, is seen a caravan winding down a mountain road. Of the three kings, the one in front, with long gray beard and ermine-trimmed cloak, is kneeling, his vase of precious ointment laid at Mary’s feet. The other two stand behind him, each bearing his gift. The three are sharply differentiated, each well individualized and subtly drawn. Mary, dressed in blue skirt, violet waist and green mantle, is in three-quarters position, her head bent forward, her eyes nearly covered by the heavy, drooped lids. Her face is ideally beautiful and exquisitely painted, the soft, waving hair falling against her neck, and the transparent border to her head-dress displaying Luini’s delicate surety of touch.

Its Gods favorite color:D

The Redemptorists have custody of the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help and are entrusted with spreading devotion. I found a website, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Roman Catholic Church, that posted the same information that was given out by the Redemptorists that I read years ago describing the significance of the icon. It says, “…Mary wears a red tunic, the color worn by virgins at the time of Christ, and a dark blue mantel, the colors worn by mothers in Palestine.”

On the Redemptorist website, this information, regarding the colors of Mary’s clothing, has changed. It now says, “…Blue, green and red were the colors of royalty. Only the Empress was allowed to wear those colors…”

:rolleyes: Well, you know, Sister Aurea was probably a familar of Mary’s. I know Sister Mary Agnes seemed old enough to have been Mary’s classmate in school, God be good to the poor woman!:rolleyes:

(Sister Mary Agnes was actually only 92 when she died.)

The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the tilma of San Juan Diego shows her in a blue-green mantle decorated with stars over a pinkish dress. It is said that the stars are in the exact position of several constellations as they would have appeared at the time of her appearances on Tepeyac hill.

From what I’ve read (none of which was about Eastern iconography), no, however I believe I’ve read that it was only the veil portion of an ancient middle-eastern virgin’s clothing that was traditionally blue.

Blue is Mary’s favourite color. It is a groovy thang.

I was told by my Art History professor that it was actually a much simpler, and better-supported answer than “it was the color of the sea” or “color of virginity” etc.

When the Roman Empire collapsed, the many dyes and ingredients to make certain colors became scarcer and much more expensive (there’s a reason Rome’s military color was red–cheap to make and easy to procure. Same goes for the British). The MOST expensive dye was cobalt–used to make cobalt blue. Specifically, Mary is not just shown in blue (historically), she is shown wearing cobalt blue. While many portraits exist showing different hues, from the Dark Ages until the High Renaissance, properly, Mary was always shown wearing cobalt blue.


She is the Mother of God, the only woman born without original sin, coredemptrix, etc. etc. I know many of the titles and dogmas we associate with her (such as original sin) were only codified much later, but the idea of her purity, grace, and holiness still pervaded the idea of Mary, herself. So what better way to exalt the Blessed Virgin than by clothing her in the most precious of colors that not even Kings were pure enough to wear–cobalt blue.

Even today, cobalt blue is one of the most expensive colors of any media one can buy. Be it pastels, oils, acrylic, what have you, if it is made with actual cobalt, it will cost you quite a pretty penny. And you won’t be wasting it. It will be used on only your most important works. (Hence why I now no longer babysit the neighbor children…they used my cobalt oil tube as “toothpaste” for their dolls)

I have on question. I have some icons of the Blessed Vigin Mary, and she usually is wearing a mantle or robe with a hood on it covering her head, and underneath it, she has a light blue thing (resembles sort of like a shower cap) that covers all her hair. So why does she have that?

Probably part of the apparel then in Galilee (and light blue indicating virginity). She is completely covering all sign of hair. I don’t know if that’s ancient Jewish custom or of that time and place.

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