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Korsun Icon of the Mother of God

Our Lady of Korsun - the Mystery of Her Invisible Presence

Our Lady of Korsun Icon

As to the origin of the Mother of God of Korsun, or Ephesus, two accounts exist. According to the oldest, Luke the Evangelist painted and deposited it in Ephesus. Its copy arrived in Kiev in 998 after the baptism of Rus by Prince Vladimir of Kiev.

Ephesus is an old city on the west coast of Asia Minor, now in Turkey. Korsun is an ancient Greek city-state, or Polis, established on the Southwest coast of the Crimea. Years later, it became known as Khersones. Byzantians called it Kherson, while it remained Korsun for the Slavs.

Khersones in Tavria, an ancient Greek city state

Khersones in Tavria, an ancient Greek city state

Later, the icon was brought to Novgorod, and after several centuries, during the reign of Ivan the Terrible, it found its way to Moscow. It has remained behind the altar of the Dormition Church of the Moscow Kremlin to this day. For over six centuries, it has been kept there as one of the most revered relics.

The second account links its origin to Euphrosyne of Polotsk, a Belarusian saint. While the abbess of the Monastery of the Saviour, news reached her about the icons painted by the Evangelist Luke, and she requested one. Along with her request, she sent generous gifts and offerings to the Greek emperor and Patriarch Luke Chrysoberges. The Byzantine emperor consented to ship the Ephesus icon to Russia. The relic travelled to Polotsk via Korsun. Residents begged the couriers to stay with the icon for a while so they might pray in front of it.

A year later, when the icon finally made it to Euphrosyne, everyone had recognised it as the Virgin of Korsun. It was put in the church by Saint Euphrosyne after being embellished with priceless metals and stones. For more than 60 years, until 1173, the icon stayed in Polotsk. During this period, the first miracles ascribed to it were documented.

Saint Euphrosyne of Polotsk

Saint Euphrosyne of Polotsk

After that time, the icon left the city as the dowry of the daughter of the Polotsk Prince Bryachislav, Parascevi. The young woman was betrothed to Prince Alexander Nevsky, later canonised as a saint, and moved to Toropets to marry and live with him.

Toropets, a city in Russia's Tverskaya Oblast, established in 1074

The icon, according to this narrative, stayed in the city until 1917. The current Church of the Mother of God of Korsun went down in history as the site of several miracles that occurred by the prayers of the faithful before the Icon. As the Polish army advanced into Moscow in 1611, the areas around the city came under attack. Russia was saved by the intervention of the Virgin Mary. Following the October Revolution, the icon was transported to Leningrad and placed in the Russian Museum. Its replica remains in Toropets, where it is now on display at the city's Church of All Saints.

Church of the Korsun Icon of the Mother of God in Toropets, Russia

Church of the Korsun Icon of the Mother of God in Toropets, Russia

Other copies have reached all across Russia, from the heartland to the Far North. The Transfiguration Church of Solovki Monastery, Muranovo Homestead outside Moscow, Glinkovo Village of the Diocese of Vladimir, and Gorbanevka Village outside Poltava and Spilevka outside Sumy, Ukraine - this is a short and incomplete list of locations with copies of the icon. The Mother of God truly illuminates the Russian land with the light of Her mercy and the beauty of Her image.

On the Internet, people often ask what to ask for in their prayers before this or that icon. But this attitude can be very limiting for our idea of the Mother of God and our conversation with Her. In the past, people have prayed vehemently for things that were on their hearts and minds.

For example, during a plague epidemic that hit the town of Romanov (now Tutayev) in 1771. Its residents asked their peers from Pilatiki village to be given the miracle-working copy of the icon of the Mother of God of Korsun, where it was being kept. It had been known for its miracles from 1642. After the people of Tutayev walked with the icon in a procession of the cross, the epidemic stopped.

Tutaev. A view of the city

Tutaev. A view of the city

Saint Petersburg's Isaakievskiy Cathedral also keeps a copy of the icon written at the beginning of the reign of Tsar Nicholas I. On the day of its transfer on 18 February 1894, the wife of a parish choir singer was healed miraculously by the intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos. Anna Yerokhina was also one of many people who encountered the icon and prayed before her vehemently for her healing invoking the name of the Virgin Mary. As a child, a horse hit her with its hoof on her right shoulder. Her arm was barely moving, and she had had surgery on it a while before. The woman was not losing the hope to find healing.

One day after coming to church she found that her prayers had been heard, and her faith was rewarded. She tried to cross herself with the disabled hand and realised that she could move it freely as before. She had not been able to do any of these movements ever since the accident. On the next day, the doctors looked under the dressing of her surgical wound and found that it had healed spontaneously. No further treatment was necessary. Anna was thrilled, realising immediately that her sudden healing was a gift of God given to her by the intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos.

Korsun Icon of the Mother of God, last quarter of the 17th century

Korsun Icon of the Mother of God, last quarter of the 17th century

Reportedly, the Icon of the Mother of God of Korsun was the image admired by Saint John of Kronstadt on his visits to the house of Alexandra Alexeeva. For half an hour, he stood before it motionless, fascinated by the beauty and grandeur of the image. Throughout these thirty minutes, he prayed aloud, like any of us would pray, asking for Her help with our needs, in Her invisible presence.

By Lubov Lutsevich

October 22, 2023
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