Our Lady of Kazan
The story of the icon of Our Lady of Kazan, one of the most famous icons of Russian Orthodox Church, began in 1579. It was in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, which has been a separate state of Tatar Muslim Khans yet 25 years ago. In 1579 in Kazan a huge fire started near the Nicholas Church, which later spread to the Kremlin of Kazan and around the city and destroyed a large part of the city. Many citizens lost their homes. And many Muslims were trying to shaken Christian faith, nagging to Christian residents – “Where is now your God? Your Church has burnt and may be God doesn’t want that Muslims would be converted to Christianity?” It was a great disaster and many were trying to doubt about God’s will.
Many families had lost a shelter. But nobody could turn times back, so they had to rebuild some homes from ruins and do it fast, before harsh Russian winter would come. Among those people trying to restore their homes was Daniel Onuchin. He had a daughter Matrona, nine years old. Kids often take things more easily as their parents, without that responsibility. So the city after the fire was rather a new unseen reality for her. Only at night, when going to sleep they might remember - things are not like before, everything is unusual and strange.
One night Matrona woke up during a night from unseen – God’s Mother Herself - Virgin Mary - appeared to her in a dream. And not just appeared, she urged to get Her holy icon out from underground. The Lady was shining in a bright light, and the girl woke up. She later told her parents about her dream, but they said “Dreams might be sometimes from God, but visions only to holy man happen. It’s better not to pay too much attention to dreams.”
However, the same dream repeated on a second and third night. After the third night vision Matrona with tears on her eyes were telling her mom: “I saw an icon of Our Lady in a dream and great flame was radiating from her face, like trying to burn me. And I heard the voice: “If you will not listen to my words and tell them to others, I will appear in another place and you will die.””
Now her mother was listening to her words. She together with Matrona went to local rulers and to Archbishop Jeremiah and said her daughter to tell them everything about her visions of Our Lady. It was on July 8, 1579. When they returned home, mother herself started to dig the ground in the place pointed out by her daughter. At first they couldn’t find it, but digging deeper – there was it, an icon of Our Lady of Kazan showed up. It was wrapped in an old cloth in a colour of cherry. But it was shining, without the slightest damage, like yesterday made.
Soon many people rushed there to see this wonder-icon and kiss it. They noticed city’s mayors and Archbishop about their extraordinary finding. Archbishop arrived and solemnly brought it to the nearest church of Nicholas of Tula, where a prayer ceremony was held for the icon. Later the icon of Our Lady of Kazan was brought with a parade to the Cathedral of the Annunciation. During their march the first wonder took place - blind men, Joseph, was cured, who wasn’t able to see anything for three years already. And when it arrived in Cathedral, other blind man Nikita was cured.
Those two miracles of wonderworking icon of Our Lady of Kazan were only the first ones in a long list of miracles and healings that took place later. Russian Tsar Ivan the Terrible, who was ruling Russia at the time, was so impressed by the miraculous icon that ordered to build a Cathedral of Kazan and found a convent of nuns, were many years later monastic vows took both Matrona and her mother. Later the icon of Our Lady of Kazan was decorated by gold, jewels and pearls from Emperor’s assets.
It was later found out that the icon of Our Lady of Kazan was an exact copy of a wonderworking icon painted by evangelist St. Luka and which has been delivered from Jerusalem to Constantinople at earlier times and placed in a cathedral there.
Later many more famous copies of wonderworking icon of Our Lady of Kazan were made. In 1636 one of the most famous Cathedrals of Moscow was built – the Kazan’s Cathedral of Moscow in the Red Square.
Two hundred years later the old Kazan’s Cathedral became old and in 1798 Russian Emperor gave funds for a new majestic Kazan’s Cathedral.
Russian’s attribute their victory over the armies of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1812 to the miracles of Our Lady of Kazan. It is said Emperor and all commanders were praying to it before the battle of Borodino, and many auspicious visions have taken place.
The original miraculous icon of Our Lady of Kazan was stolen in 1904 and most likely destroyed by thieves. Others believe it was hidden and will show up again in the hardest times. Yet, many copies of icon of Our Lady of Kazan has been made, some of them are reported as miraculous as well. It is also revered by Catholic Church. One of most revered copies, dated around 1730 was a property of Pope John Paul II in Vatican. It was brought out from Russia during communist rule and since 1970s installed in Fatima, which in turn gave it as a present to St. John Paul II in 1993. He had it in his apartments for eleven years and in his own words: "it has found a home with me and has accompanied my daily service to the Church with its motherly gaze." Yet, later Russian Orthodox Church considered it as their property, stolen during communist rule and it was returned to them when John Paul II was visiting Moscow in 2004.
Feast days of Our Lady of Kazan are on July 21 and November 4(July 8 and October 22 according to old style calendar).