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I have four closely related questions on this topic (if overall this is considered too broad, I'm happy to receive advice as to which questions—if any—would be better off in a separate post):

  1. What is the earliest documented use of the term "Queen of Heaven" being applied to Mary, the mother of Jesus? (cf. Wikipedia on the Virgin Mary as Queen of Heaven - there seems to be a contradiction between the first and second paragraphs in this section).

  2. Given that the only Biblical references to this title are regarding a false goddess being worshipped in the nation of Judah during Jeremiah's time (cf. Wikipedia's Queen of heaven (antiquity)), is there evidence of any discussion or dissent (over whether such a title was in any way appropriate) in evidence in the wider church when this title was being adopted and disseminated (prior to the Reformation)?

  3. Are there any arguments from Church Fathers or other historical records of why such a title would have been adopted in the first place?

  4. It seems on the surface (at least to some) that this might be an example of Syncretism, but perhaps there are convincing arguments that can exclude that possibility - if so what would be the outline of such arguments? Or otherwise, what additional evidence (ie not covered in 2. or 3.) would support the idea that this is an example of Syncretism?

*Please note: I'm looking for answers that are supported by quotes from Church fathers and Church historians, not doctrinal expositions from denominational perspectives. I'm only looking for a very brief outline of an argument (one way or the other) to question 4 (one or two paragraphs maximum) - if there are the seeds of a worthwhile further question to be developed from such responses, I will ask a separate question to elicit a more detailed answer."

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    I'm seeing a good article on the subject: ecommons.udayton.edu/cgi/… – Matt Gutting Dec 8 '14 at 16:25
  • There are a lot of references to Mary as "queen" before "queen of heaven", as I read it - are you specifically looking for "queen of heaven"? – Matt Gutting Dec 8 '14 at 16:47
  • @MattGutting thanks for the link and re "queen" vs. "queen of heaven", it would seem that the former is relevant to the development of the latter (which is my main focus) - particularly relevant in answer to points 3. (and perhaps 4.) – bruised reed Dec 9 '14 at 3:19
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    @DMS It doesn't ask for Catholic sources at all. I don't see why Catholicism's silence on the matter would aspect whether this is on topic for the site or not when the question isn't addressed specifically at Catholics. – Caleb Dec 9 '14 at 19:18
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    @fms I'm sorry you didn't understand the question clearly before attempting an answer - I certainly didn't intend to waste your time, but 1) I thought I was quite clear that I wasn't looking for the official Catholic line. 2) I realise the Syncretism issue is contentious and I have soft-pedalled it's emphasis - What Matt has included in his answer is fine as far is it goes - I will be happy to ask a more specific question on syncretism later if necessary. Btw I believe you vastly over-reach when you say that the Catholic Church has nothing to say on the matter of syncretism. – bruised reed Dec 9 '14 at 19:51
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Finding the very first instance of this is difficult; there are (as a severe underestimate) thousands of works by hundreds of writers who may have mentioned Mary. I'm relying strongly in this answer on the article I linked for you above, "The Queenship of Mary during the Patristic Period", which in turn relies heavily on an article by an "H. Barré" in the French journal Recherches de science religieuse. Unfortunately this article, "La Royaute de Marie pendant les neuf premiers siecles", is unavailable to me.

This article cites a poem attributed to Venantius Fortunatus, which though it does not use the specific title "Queen of Heaven" for Mary, does refer to her "heavenly throne":

Conderis in solio felix regina, superno,

i.e.

You are seated, happy queen, on your heavenly throne

The author notes that the attribution of the poem to Fortunatus is contested. He adds a reference to a homily of Archbishop John of Thessalonica (I don't see a quick reference to him on the web, but he appears to have been Archbishop of Thessalonica between 610 and 649). This homily, on the Dormition of Mary, begins (in Latin translation; I can't get at the Greek):

Admirandae et gloriosissimae et vere magnae totius mundi dominae, Matri semper virgini Salvatoris nostri et Dei Jesu Christi ...

that is,

To the admirable and most glorious, and truly the great lady of the whole world, the ever-virgin Mother of our Savior and God Jesus Christ ...

which again doesn't appear to use the exact phrase "Queen of Heaven", but "Great Lady of the Whole World" is certainly approaching the concept.

The idea of "Queen of the Universe" is fully present in a sermon on the Dormition by Saint John of Damascus, who depicts Christ saying to Mary:

Come, my Mother, to thy Son; reign with him who was poor with thee.

This being the history, the first evidence I can see of the specific title Queen of Heaven is in the Latin anthem Regina Coeli, which appears to have been composed about the 12th century (several hundred years after the above citations):

Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia! For he whom you deserved to bear, alleluia, Has arisen, as he said; alleluia! Pray for us to God; alleluia!

Considering the wide range of writers who used the title "Queen" or "Great lady", and the length of time the idea seems to have been around before the use of the title, I'd be surprised if there were any opposition to its use. The idea that Mary was Queen, Lady of the Universe (kosmou despoina), and similar titles had been around for at least six centuries before this hymn, and no one had objected.

As far as the possibility of syncretism: this might be thought to be the case if there were a specific goddess (for example) whose cultus was local to the places where the title "lady" or "queen" began to be used. I don't see any evidence of such a being, though: if the poem I refer to above is correctly attributed to Fortunatus, then we need a Germanic goddess with such a name; if not, we're looking for a Greek one. I can't think of one that fits the bill in either case.

  • @bruisedreed anything you think I need to add? On syncretism you did specify "one or two paragraphs maximum" so I didn't put much in. – Matt Gutting Dec 9 '14 at 21:07
  • The article you've identified is certainly fertile ground to dig for clues in answering this question, with many leads provided - I'm happy to upvote, but would like a little more of an accepted answer. A couple of specifics - I think the quote from John of Damascus doesn't really support the point you're making as the scriptures also talk of (all) the saints reigning with Christ. Later on, when you say you'd be surprised if there was any opposition to it's use, I'm wondering if you're aware of the related matter of (ancient) objections to the use of the "Theokotos" (Mother of God)... – bruised reed Dec 9 '14 at 22:15
  • ...if there were significant objections to that, it seems strange to me that there wouldn't be at least some objections to "Queen of Heaven". I'd like to see a little more evidence that you've examined the pagan goddess side properly - "I can't think of one" seems pretty weak imo :S – bruised reed Dec 9 '14 at 22:16
  • point. Let's take a look at it. – Matt Gutting Dec 9 '14 at 22:17
  • @bruisedreed there is still a TON more stuff (I'm looking here for example); but this is a rough source to go to. This may take quite a while to get back to with good information. I'll finish it out as soon as I can. – Matt Gutting Dec 10 '14 at 18:19

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