Of the many titles ascribed to the Blessed Mother, the title “Queen of Heaven” is one of long-standing tradition that traces its roots to the 5th century Council of Ephesus, which proclaimed Mary to be the “Mother of God” (or “Theotokos”). Catholic theology views Jesus as both the King of Israel and the King of Heaven, and since Jewish tradition honors the mother of the king as “queen”, then Mary would properly be accorded the title of “Queen of Heaven” as a matter of custom and tradition. In the eighth century, St. John Damascene the last of the Greek Fathers, wrote “When she became Mother of the Creator, she truly became Queen of every creature.” The theological understanding and justification of Mary as “Queen of Heaven” was the subject of Pope Pius XII’s 1954 encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam. (“On Proclaiming the Queenship of Mary”), and it was Pius XII who first commemorated the Queenship of Mary on May 31st. Pope Paul VI later changed this feast day to August 22nd.
The Queenship of Mary has long been upheld in Catholic devotional practices, through such prayers and hymns as “Salve Regina” and “Regina Caeli”. In addition to Catholic teaching and devotions, the pre-eminence of Mary and her special status in heaven is also acknowledged among Anglican, Lutheran and Eastern Orthodox Christians. And Mary as Queen of Heaven has long been a favorite subject of artists and sculptors, including Botticelli, Raphael, Rubens and Fra Angelico. And much more recently, in a 2006 sermon on the feast of Christ the King, Pope Benedict XVI reminded the faithful that “God exalted Mary over all other creatures, and Christ crowned her Queen of heaven and earth.”