Orthodox icons: Theotokos of Vladimir

The Theotokos of Vladimir is one of the oldest Orthodox icons that was written by evangelist Luke, according to church legend, on a board that came from the table of the Holy Family used by Joseph and Mary. Most probably, it is a copy of the original icon written by evangelist Luke, or even a copy of a copy. The icon itself is a magnificent example of Byzantine iconography known as Eleusa, which means tenderness in Greek, characterized by baby Jesus fondly nestling his cheek against the face of The Virgin Mary.

The icon continues a bridge between Byzantium and ancient Russia (known as Rus). In 1131, the Patriarch of Constantinople sent the icon as a present to The Grand Duke Yury Dolgoruky of Kiev. It was later transferred to Vladimir thus becoming to be known as Theotokos of Vladimir or ‘Vladimirskaya’.

According to legend, the horse carriage transporting the icon stopped and refused to move forward, so the icon stayed in Vladimir for many years. As the veneration of the treasured icon spread across the land, it was credited to numerous miracles – protecting Russia from invaders. It was later moved to The Cathedral of the Assumption in Moscow but is currently located in a church building on the grounds of the Tretyakov Gallery. During the main feasts of the Church the miraculous icon is brought for the services and processions at The Cathedral of the Assumption in Kremlin.

It is interesting to note that the icon is two-sided. The image on the other side is dated back to approximately the 15th century, the same time the original icon was undergoing restoration. It depicts The Hetoimasia or Etimasia, which is Greek for preparation. It shows the Throne prepared for the Second Coming of Christ.