Religious Icons of the Mother of God: Great Panagia from Yaroslavl

Religious Icons of the Mother of God: Great Panagia from Yaroslavl

Religious icons of the Mother of God are among the most popular and revered shrines in the Orthodox Church, which are known around the Christian world for their unique images, distinctive artistic features, and symbolism. The icon of the Mother of God “Yaroslavl Oranta” or “Great Panagia” is one of such shrines. The original image was found in the 19th century in the Savior Transfiguration Cathedral of Yaroslavl; thus, the icon became known as “Yaroslavl Oranta.” Read more about its origin and iconographic features in our new blog post. 

Religious icons of the Mother of God: Great Panagia from Yaroslavl 

The icon of the Mother of God “Great Panagia” was discovered during the restoration works undertaken in the Savior Transfiguration Cathedral in 1919. However, researchers still cannot give the exact date of the icon’s creation. Presumably, it was painted in the 1220-1230s for the feast of the consecration of the Cathedral.

The name “Great Panagia” means “all-holy” and refers back to the Theotokos icon style known as Oranta. In Russia, religious icons of this iconographic type are also called “Our Lady of the Sign.”

Iconographic features of the image 

The Mother of God is depicted in the center of the icon, with outstretched arms symbolizing a gesture of prayer. The image of the Christ Child blessing all mankind with His both hands appears in the round medallion on her chest. The icon also features two medallions with the Archangels clothed in the bishop’s omophorions on the sides.

Such a prayer composition was often placed on the main apse of the altar. The image of the Great Panagia symbolically points to the mystery of the Eucharist, or Holy Communion, as a main part of the divine liturgy. However, the central subject of the icon is the coming of the Son of God into the world and His incarnation from the Mother of God. The latter here is a symbol of the temple in which the liturgy is being performed.

Religious icons of this type are characterized by the light tones of the images and the large amount of gold, which is layered on the icon in broad strips. This artistic feature indicates the overall meaning of the icon: the presence of divine light in the earthly world and the eternal grace radiating from the Mother of God. 

Currently, the icon of the Mother of God “Great Panagia” is in the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

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