Our Lady of the Sign Icon: The Story and Description
Our Lady of the Sign icon is one of the most beloved and revered holy images in the history of Russian icons. The creation of this beautiful shrine dates back to the 12th century, the time when Russia experienced many internecine wars. In 1170, the army led by Andrei Bogolyubsky, Grand Prince of Vladimir-Suzdal, attacked Veliky Novgorod. During the attack, the faithful citizens took out the holy icon of the Blessed Mother and put it on the walls surrounding the city. They prayed for the protection, and the miracle happened. When the enemy’s arrow struck the venerated image, the tears began to flow from the eyes of the Mother of God. It was the sign that the Virgin Mary was praying along with people for the protection of Veliky Novgorod.
The mirracle inspired the city’s defenders, and under the patronage of divine power, they defeated the enemies. To honor the Heavenly Protector, the Orthodox Church established the custom of celebrating Our Lady of the Sign icon on December 10. This story has also become a popular subject in Russian icon art.
Numerous copies of the wonderworking icon of the Mother of God are now located throughout Russia. Below are just several of them you should know.
Most Known Versions of Our Lady of the Sign Icon
The Tsarskoe Selo Sign Icon of the Mother of God. This ancient icon was known for healing people from terrible diseases, such as cholera and typhus. It is interesting that by order of the Empress Elizabeth reigning at the time, the holy image was decorated with a gold frame with plenty of precious stones.
The Seraphimo-Ponetaevsk Sign Icon of the Mother of God. This variation of the icon, which is named after the Seraphimo-Ponetaevsk women’s monastery, was known for many miraculous healings happened in the monastery.
The Kursk Root Icon of the Sign (pictured). According to the legend, a hunter found this marvelous shrine in the roots of the trees. After some time, a healing spring appeared at that site. The icon was also known for many other miracles, including healing believers from blindness.
Iconography of Our Lady of the Sign Icon
This divine image of the Blessed Virgin Mary refers to the Oranta type of the Theotokos icons, which means “Praying.” One of the most worshipped icons of Russia, Our Lady of the Sign is a half-length (sometimes full-length) depiction of the Mother of God, with her hands raised in a gesture of prayer. On her chest, there is a circle in the form of a shield or sphere with an image of the infant Christ. In His left hand, the baby Jesus holds a scroll of Scripture, and the fingers of His right hand are folded in a blessing gesture.