Undoing the Knots | Project HOME

Undoing the Knots

  • Undoing the Knots

Throughout time and across all cultures, a knot has been used to symbolize tension and struggle. The undoing of a knot symbolizes freedom from these burdens - a release of pressure. In the tradition of Mary, Undoer of Knots, Pope Francis' favorite artwork, visitors of the grotto were able to add or remove knots, symbolizing their personal struggles and sharing the burdens of others.


In the end, there were over 150,000 knots submitted for the Knotted Grotto. The Grotto continued to receive extensive media coverage in the days following the Papal Visit. Media reported on the plans for the knots themselves: They will be incorporated into insulation for Project HOME’s next residential development, on 2415 North Broad Street. The Grotto Structure itself will be relocated to the grounds of Project HOME’s new development, Francis House of Peace, which was named in honor of Pope Francis.

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Inspired by Pope Francis’ favorite painting, Mary, Undoer of Knots, we envision a public art installation that draws attention to stories of those in need and provides a ritual-based gathering site to foster hope, spirituality, and collective action. “Mary, Undoer of Knots” will incorporate several elements, including a grotto, video projections and an interactive element for the public.

Grotto -  a word that evokes a place of pilgrimage, reflection, mystery and wonder. The grotto constructed for this installation will be sheltered in against the wall of the Basilica. A mural painting on cloth will flow off the wall to create an enclosure that will become the grotto. The outer wall of the grotto will be made of more cloth knotted and woven together. Many of the strips of woven cloth will be inscribed with struggles collected from the community of Philadelphia and beyond. Inside, visitors will be invited to tie their own knots of struggle, and to untie the knots of others in need. Lighting will be a significant element adding to the beauty and mystery of the grotto. The mural cloth has a translucent quality that will allow the structure to glow at night. The grotto will be constructed in August allowing the community to begin their participation before and during the Papal visit.

Video of workshop participant hands tying and untying knots will be projected on the dome of the Basilica. This unprecedented element with enormous scale and symbolism will make the basilica a beacon for the entire city and to engage all who witness it in the story of shared struggle and hope. The projection will be live during the week of the World Meeting of Families Congress.

We want to collect knots made by anyone who wishes to find solutions or share their burden, particularly those who struggle with hunger and homelessness. Small disks with a knot illustration will be tied into the installation allowing people to symbolically undo the burden of another. These tokens can serve as a reminder that the act of “untying a knot” can extend beyond the realm of the symbolic, and perhaps prompt them to take more literal action in their daily lives. For example, after untying the knot of a person who feels unacknowledged in their life, they might vow to express appreciation toward others. Through this project, we aim to create a space where we can begin to bridge the gap between the individual struggle and collective resolution.

Meg Saligman is an award winning public artist with over two decades of experience working with Philadelphia communities. She is known for her inclusive process and has collaborated extensively with Project HOME for the last four years. A major force in the mural movement in Philadelphia, Saligman is considered one of the most influential contemporary muralists in the country. She has created dozens of works nationally and internationally, including many of the largest murals in the U.S.

Check out some of her other works at megsaligman.com

“Virgin Mary, Mother of fair love, Mother who never refuses to come to the aid of a child in need, Mother whose hands never cease to serve your beloved children because they are moved by the divine love and immense mercy that exists in your heart, cast your compassionate eyes upon me and see the snarl of knots that exist in my life. You know very well how desperate I am, my pain, and how I am bound by these knots. Mary, Mother to whom God entrusted the undoing of the knots in the lives of His children, I entrust into your hands the ribbon of my life. No one, not even the Evil One himself, can take it away from your precious care. In your hands, there is no knot that cannot be undone. Powerful Mother, by your grace and intercessory power with your Son and my liberator, Jesus, take into your hands today this knot. (Mention your petition here.) I beg you to undo it for the glory of God, once for all. You are my hope. O my Lady, you are the only consolation God gives me, the fortification of my feeble strength, the enrichment of my destitution, and, with Christ, the freedom from my chains. Hear my plea. Keep me, guide me, protect me, O safe refuge.”