Antique Russian Icons: The Staro Rus Icon of the Mother of God

Antique Russian Icons: The Staro Rus Icon of the Mother of God

Old Russian icons are of great significance for Orthodox believers. On May 17, the faithful people celebrate the feast of the Staro Rus icon of the Mother of God. It is one of the most valuable antique Russian icons that are considered wonder-working. Besides, this holy treasure is the largest processional icon in the world. Now let’s take a closer look at this beautiful religious icon and its history. 

Antique Russian icons: The Staro Rus icon of the Mother of God 

Being one of the most valuable antique Russian icons, the now revered Staro Rus icon of the Mother of God holds the centerpiece of the Church of Saint George in the town of Staraya Russa in the Novgorod Region, Russia. It is believed to be brought from the Greek city of Olviopolis (now the territory of Kherson, Ukraine). At the time, the city was regularly attacked by Crimean Tatars and Turks. The relic remained in Staraya Russa until the 17th century. It was later transferred to the city of Tikhvin. According to the legend, one of the inhabitants of Tikhvin was granted a prophecy that a plague epidemic that was then ravaging the city would cease thanks to the Staro Rus icon of the Mother of God. The plague indeed ceased as soon as the icon was brought to the city. For many years, it was kept in Tikhvin and returned home to Staraya Russa only in 1888. 

The Staro Rus icon of the Mother of God: description 

There are two variations of the Staro Rus icon of the Mother of God.

The ancient icon, which dates to the beginning of the 13th century, represents an enlarged image of the Mother of God of the Hodegetria type. The Christ Child is depicted on the left arm of the Mother of God, and His eyes are turned directly to her.

The now revered Staro Rus icon of the Mother of God (pictured), which is kept in the Church of Saint George in Staraya Russa, has a slightly different image. The Child in this icon is depicted turned away from the Mother of God, with His left hand resting on His temple. It is believed that these changes happened while the icon was in Tikhvin. One of the legends says that it was because of the careless storage of the shrine by the people of Tikhvin. Yet, interestingly, another legend indicates that Christ turned aside because of the sinful life of the citizens. Whatever the reason for such changes, it is this icon that is now revered by Orthodox believers as miraculous. 

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