Famous Russian Orthodox Icons

Our Lady of Vladimir – The Most Valuable Icon in Russia

There are many beautiful and historically significant Russian icons. However, you will hardly find a more valuable and beloved icon in Russia than Our Lady of Vladimir. This masterpiece of religious icon art is a true treasure that has survived the ages and now can be viewed and admired by both Orthodox Christian believers and connoisseurs of fine art.

Our Lady of Vladimir

Our Lady of Vladimir is the oldest and most venerated religious icon in Russia. According to the belief, it is one of those antique icons that were painted by St. Luke the Evangelist who also wrote the Gospel of Luke.

Our Lady of Vladimir was brought to Russia from Constantinople at the beginning of the 12th century (c. 1131). It was the gift from the Greek Patriarch of Constantinople Luke Chrysoberges to Yury Dolgorukiy, the famous Grand Prince of Kievan Rus’. The icon was first kept in a monastery, presumably in the Mezhyhirya Savior-Transfiguration Monastery located on the right bank of the Dnieper River not far from Kiev, but later moved to Vladimir, hence its name. In 1395, Our Lady of Vladimir was carried from Vladimir to Moscow at the request of Vasily I Dmitriyevich, the Grand Prince of Moscow. According to the legend, it was this icon of the Mother of God that protected the city from Tamerlane’s invasion and later from Tatar hordes in 1451 and 1480. It is no wonder that Our Lady of Vladimir is one of the rare antique Russian icons that are considered miracle-working. For today, this remarkable icon is displayed in the Church of St. Nicholas in Tolmachi, which is the house church at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

As it has been already said, Our Lady of Vladimir is the most valuable and venerated icon in Russia. It belongs to the famous Eleusa type, one of the most ancient types of Christian icons of the Mother of God. Such icons depict the Virgin Mary with infant Christ nestled against her cheek, hence their other name – The Virgin of Tenderness.

It is also worth noting that Our Lady of Vladimir is likely to be part of a two-sided antique icon painted in the 12th century, but, unfortunately, the original image on the back side did not survive. The venerated image of the Mother of God is now supplemented with the Hetoimasia, the depiction of the empty throne prepared for the Second Coming, and the instruments of Christ’s Passion, which were presumably painted in the early 15th century. Howbeit, Our Lady of Vladimir is still the most valuable religious icon in Russia!