Icon of Mother of God Tikhvinskaya
Appearance of icon Tikhvinskaya
Icon of Mother of God Tikhvinskaya appeared during the summer of 1383 in the region of Great Novgorod in Russia. First local fishermen reported seeing it in the air above Ladoga Lake in several places, each time more and more nearer to the city of Tikhvin, and finally people saw it in the town. The icon was hanging in the air and surrounded by indescribable bright light. Old chronicles describe it: “crowds of people gathered at this place and saw a great miracle: an icon of eternally pure Queen, Mother of God and Blessed Virgin Mary, standing in the air, not supported by anything. They were greatly surprised and tearfully praying to Our Lady.”
It was only later, when merchants from Novgorod, who were travelling far and wide found out that what they knew as icon of Mother of God Tikhvinskaya has arrived there by God’s grace from Constantinople, which was considered a great capital of Eastern Christianity at the time. When some merchants from Novgorod were visiting Constantinople and meeting the local patriarch, he asked them: “Haven’t you heard any rumours in Russia regarding the miraculous icon, which was in Constantinople, but has disappeared in unknown direction.” Now merchants told him the story about appearance of icon of Mother of God Tikhvinskaya in Tikhvin, near Novgorod.
Now the whole story of Icon Tikhvinskaya was revealed. It is believed it was created by the famous apostle and evangelist Luke during the earthly life of Mother Mary. Later St. Luke sent the icon of Mother of God, together with the text of Gospel and works of St. Apostles as a present to the ruler of Antiochia – Theophilos. In 5th century the icon was in Constantinople, where the famous Vlacherna Cathedral was built for Her, which became the most prominent repository of Christian artworks and relics in Byzantium.
It was soon after the victory of united Russian armies under the commandment of faithful Dmitry Donskoy over Mongolian Hordes of Muslim invaders, when icon of God’s Mother Tikhvinskaya decided to arrive to Russia. But the capital of Eastern Christianity Constantinople was occupied by Turkish tribes 70 years later and became Istanbul in Turkey.
New Home for Mother of God
Soon after appearing in Tikhvin, the icon soon obtained a new home. On the very place where Mother of God appeared, Tikhvin’s people decided to build a wooden church of the Assumption of Virgin. On the very same day they put up some walls around the icon and went to sleep. When they returned on the next day, they didn’t found the church nor the icon itself on the spot. But guided by a bright light they found Mother of God on another bank of the Tikhvin River, in empty field. Around the icon, which was hanging in the air, were also walls they had built a day earlier, “everything to the last sliver”.
The first wooden cathedral burnt to the ground seven years after it was built, the second – after five years, third one – also wooden – was standing there 114 years, until 1500. Each time circumstances of the fire were the same: Church fired up from a candle-light and burnt to the ground. However, the icon and the wooden cross of the church remained untouched by the flames.
During the reign of Russian Tsar Basil III in place of wooden church was built a church from stone, but Ivan the Terrible directed to build a monastery here that became a home of icon Tikhvinskaya for the next 400 years.
Miracles performed by Tikhvinskaya
Even before its appearance in Tikhvin, already on the way towards it, the icon of God’s Mother Tikhvinskaya was performing miracles and healings for those “hit by different ailments and passions, who had faith in it.”
The first of miracles described in detail performed by icon Tikhvinskaya was related to the very cross from the church of Assumption, which survived three fires.
When a preacher, his name was Yurish, a man devout and fearful of God, was returning to Tikhvin on eve of Assumption of Virgin Mary, he had a vision of Virgin Mary dressed in red garments and St. Nicholas Wonderworker, and they told him to put a wooden cross instead of iron to the new-built church, because on wooden cross the Christ was crucified.
Yurish told to Tikhvin’s people about his vision, but they did not believe the preacher, and the artisan who had prepared the iron cross already, was climbing up to fix it above the church. Soon, however, a storm started and the master fell down from the top. Shortly the storm calmed down and scared people approached the church, expecting to see a dead master. However, he appeared to be alive and not hurt. Now Tikhvin people were not objecting anymore to the will of God’s Mother, they made a wooden cross and fixed it atop.
Copies of icon Tikhvinskaya
Icon Tikhvinskaya became widely venerated in Russia after its appearance. Many copies of it were made and some of them were performing miracles as well.
For example, the first miracle performed by a copy of icon Tikhvinskaya displayed now in Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg took place in summer of 1858. Its owner at the time was a poor lady from St. Petersburg, her surname was Vostokova, she was earning money reading Psalms for those passed away.
She was living in a narrow room in the attic. Her landlady Yershov used to visit her and pray for the healing of her two-year old son who was sick with rickets, because the icon Tikhvinskaya was considered a patroness of babies. Soon the kid started to walk and got healthy. The same did happen with a two-year old daughter of duke Sh.Sh. And rumours spread around the city. To the room of Vostokova started to come more and more people to pray every day. And when, during the Great Famine in 1859, there were so many people coming that a queue were reaching to the gates of the house, and there was a risk the swinging wooden stairs could break in any moment, the poor lady decided to bring the icon to Isaac’s Cathedral.
Another miraculous copy of Tikhvinskaya is in the Boris’s desert and two (except the original itself) – in the monastery of Assumption of God’s Mother in Tikhvin.
Mother of God protect in wartimes
People have found protection of icon Tikhvinskaya not only in diseases, but also in a war. In 18th century Swedes had conquered lands of Novgorod and occupied Tikhvin’s monastery. Their excesses, drinking, mockery about monks and holy relics, the desire to rob the monastery, at the end, stirred up its inhabitants, and the army of invaders were expelled beyond the walls of the monastery. Swedes were very angry and decided not only conquer it again, but wipe it off from the surface of earth and destroy the icon, which was protecting it. Monks and local people were defending themselves for long time against the armed forces of Swedes.
Once the Blessed Virgin appeared to a lady, named Mary, and told: “Announce to everybody in the monastery to take My icon and go around the walls of monastery and see the Divine Grace!” Monks obeyed to Mary and walked around the monastery with the icon – and suddenly Swedes were running away in panic, like terrified by something. However, soon they decided to attack again. People in monastery received the news about army coming and, being scared, wanted to take the icon and run away to Moscow to seek protection of Tsar. But somehow, they just couldn’t move. Ashamed about their disbelief, they remained in monastery, under protection of God’s Mother. Swedes, who were on the way to monastery, suddenly stopped a few miles from it. They were seeing huge armies encircling them and in a great awe flew away. They were running away in such a panic, that afterwards locals found a lot of arms and dead ones in the forest, left along the way.
New Homeland for Mother of God
Miraculous icon was fitting well in the courts of the new growing Grand Duchy of Moscow. The fact that Mother of God left Constantinople and is dwelling in Russia fit well with idea that Moscow is the Third Rome. Muscovy now could pretend to be a centre of Eastern Christianity, since Byzantium fell under the pressure of Turks. The icon (and hence Virgin Mary) had chosen Russia as her new homeland Herself. Tikhvinskaya was a symbol. For this reason all monarchs venerated it and its fame spread around fast.
Travels of Mother of God Tikhvinskaya
Hard times for icon Tikhvinskaya started after Bolshevik revolution in Russia. Tikhvin’s monastery was shut down during 1920s and the icon was brought to one of the churches of the town that was still open. In March of 1942 German troops wanted to carry it away as a war trophy, they brought it to Pskov and from there to Riga, Latvia. Here it came into possession of Archbishop of Riga John Garklavs in 1944. However, he was also running away from Communist power. Soon he left Riga and through refugee camps in Poland and Germany he arrived in USA with the holy icon Tikhvinskaya in his bag. He preserved it well and for long time after the World War II the icon of Mother of God Tikhvinskaya was displayed in Orthodox Church in Chicago, in Cathedral of Holy Trinity. After collapse of Soviet Union, very recently, in 2004, adopted son of Bishop John, Archbishop Sergei Garklavs returned Tikhvinskaya to Her home – to Russia and Tikhvin monastery.