The Theotokos Icon of the Seven Arrows

The Theotokos Icon of the Seven Arrows

The Theotokos icon of the Seven Arrows is one of a few images of the Mother of God, depicting her without the Christ Child. According to a legend, the image was inspired by the words of St. Simeon, which he told in the Jerusalem temple on the 40 days after Christmas – “Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed“ (Luke 2: 35).

The Theotokos icon of the Seven Arrows. Iconography  

The Theotokos icon of the Seven Arrows is a half-length image with one distinctive feature that gave its name. Seven arrows pierce the heart of the Mother of God. Four of them are on the left side, and three of them are on the right side. There is also another type of iconography where the last arrow is depicted under the image of the Mother of God. Such iconographic variant is called “Softening of Evil Hearts” or “Simeon’s Prophecy.”

The Theotokos of the Seven Arrows is usually depicted in her common attire: a blue or dark-blue tunic and a red or purple maphorion. There are also three stars on her shoulders and forehead, which symbolize her purity and innocence.

Seven arrows in this iconography stand for the seven sins that hurt the Virgin Mary and make her suffer. Her Son sacrificed Himself and went through an awful ordeal to save humanity, which, however, continues to sin.

The Theotokos head is tilted to the right shoulder. Her face expresses no emotions. Despite this, the laconic plot of the icon reaches the goal and makes believers share this pain with her.

Appearance of the image

The iconography of the Theotokos of the Seven Arrows appeared no later than the 15th century. According to a legend, the original icon was located in a church tower near Vologda. The Theotokos icon laid face down and was used as a step until a peasant from the city of Kadnikov had a vision that the icon could cure him of his illnesses. The peasant realized all from his dream and was healed. The icon was considered a miracle and was placed in the temple. It became even more venerated after 1830 when it saved Vologda citizens from the cholera epidemic. Unfortunately, the icon was lost at the time of the revolution of 1917.

The Theotokos icon of the Seven Arrows is an amazing image that is both laconic and highly expressive. It is revered in the Orthodox and Catholic worlds. Believers pray with the Theotokos of the Seven Arrows to find peace in the soul and the family and to save the warriors.

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