Hand-Painted Icon of the Mother of God of Vilnius
Religious icons of the Blessed Virgin Mary are found all over the world. Besides the antique Russian icons that are highly revered by many Christians, there are also Byzantine, Greek, Coptic, and many other wonderworking icons of the Mother of God known around the globe. One of them is the hand-painted icon of the Mother of God of Vilnius, which is believed to be brought to Moscow at the end of the 15th century by the Byzantine princess Sophia Paleologina. However, there are also several other versions of how the icon came to Russia.
The history of the icon of the Mother of God of Vilnius
According to the common legend, Sophia Paleologina, who became the wife of the Moscow Grand Prince Ivan III brought this antique hand-painted icon to Moscow in 1472. Prior to that, the icon of the Mother of God was likely kept in the family of the Byzantine emperors in Constantinople.
The beautiful icon of the Theotokos became one of the main shrines of the royal family. In 1495, when Grand Prince Ivan III’s daughter Elena was marrying Prince Alexander of Lithuania, her father blessed her with the icon of the Mother of God that was transferred to Vilnius (Vilna) on February 15 (February 28). The day of the icon’s transfer has been celebrated by the Orthodox Church since then.
According to another, less widespread version, the antique hand-painted icon of the Theotokos passed to the royal family from the princes of Galicia, who in turn received it from the Byzantine emperors.
The description of the hand-painted icon of the Mother of God of Vilnius
It is believed that the original image of the Mother of God of Vilnius was painted by Luke the Evangelist himself. This beautiful hand-painted icon belongs to the Hodegetria type. It depicts the Blessed Virgin Mary with the Christ Child. Her right hand is pointing to Jesus as if showing that He is the only way to salvation. The Theotokos is looking straight at the viewer, while Christ is tenderly gazing at His mother.
The Mother of God is traditionally dressed in a red omophorion that contrasts vividly with the golden background of the icon. The golden light brings the focus of the image directly to the faces of the Theotokos and the Christ Child.
All Orthodox Christians revere icons of the Blessed Virgin Mary with warmth and love, and the icon of the Mother of God of Vilnius is no exception. Unfortunately, the original shrine was lost, but there many wonderworking copies that can still be found worldwide.