The miraculous Pochaev (Ukr. Pochaiv) Icon of the Mother of God is one of the most renowned relics in the Christian world. It holds a special place of veneration in Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, as well as in Eastern Poland, Slovakia, Bosnia, Serbia, and Bulgaria.
This sacred icon is commemorated on 5 August (23 July Old Style), 24 April (11 April Old Style), 21 September (8 September Old Style), and on the Friday of Holy Week.
For over four centuries, the Pochaev Icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been enshrined at the Holy Dormition Pochaev Lavra, situated in the western region of modern Ukraine. Pochaev is a small town in the Ternopol region, located 22 kilometres southeast of Kremenets and 67 kilometres north of Ternopol.
Monastic life on Pochaev Mountain traces its roots back to the 13th and 14th centuries. At that time, these lands were part of the principality of Galicia-Volhynia, one of the appanage principalities of ancient Rus’.
Holy Dormition Pochaev Lavra, 2007
While historical records first mention the Monastery in 1527, monastic activities on Pochaev Mountain began around 1240, according to some sources, or 1340, according to others.
According to tradition, monks from the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, fleeing the Mongol-Tatar invasion led by Khan Batyi between 1237-1240, sought refuge in the Volyn lands. They settled in the rocky caves of an uninhabited hill covered in impenetrable forests, which would later become known as Pochaev Mountain.
Another version suggests that an hermitage was founded on Pochaev Mountain by the Athonite monk Methodius in 1228, predating the Tatar invasion.
One day, an extraordinary event occurred atop Pochaev Mountain. The Most Holy Theotokos Herself appeared to one of the two monks who were leading an ascetic life in the caves. She stood on a rock, enveloped in a pillar of flame, reminiscent of the Old Testament burning bush. Overwhelmed by this divine sight, the hermit called his companion to witness this miraculous event.
Apparition of the Holy Theotokos on Pochaev Mountain in 1240
A local resident named Ivan Bosoy (Barefooted), who was tending to his sheep nearby, also witnessed this divine apparition. He saw the Most Holy Mother of God in a pillar of fire on a rock, alongside a monk in prayer. The shepherd hurried to the monks and inquired about the vision. They explained that the Mother of God had appeared at this sacred spot, and where Her right foot had touched, a spring of water had miraculously welled up.
This holy spring, stemming from the pure feet of the Holy Mother of God, flowed ceaselessly, never running dry regardless of how much water was drawn from it. In time, the Church of the Assumption was constructed at this hallowed site, giving birth to a thriving monastic community.
The miracle-working Pochaev Icon of the Mother of God made its appearance in Pochaev Monastery during the mid-16th century. This sacred icon was gifted to Anna Hojska, a local landowner, by the Greek Metropolitan Neophytos. Metropolitan Neophytos, who later became the Patriarch of Constantinople, was passing through the Volyn lands at the time. While there is indirect evidence suggesting the Metropolitan had Slavic origins, possibly Serbian or Bulgarian, his precise lineage remains uncertain.
An ancient copy of the Pochaev Icon of the Mother of God with the imprint of Her Healing Feet
Anna Tikhonovna Erofeyeva Hojska hailed from the esteemed Russian noble family of Kozinski. Metropolitan Neophytos, during his journey to Moscow to seek material assistance from the Russian sovereign (or on his return journey, according to some sources), paused at Anna's estate near Pochaev. In gratitude for her hospitality, he bestowed upon the devout widow a small image of the Mother of God, also known as "Eleusa" or "Tenderness" (from the Greek "Ελεούσα," meaning merciful or gracious).
For a period, this sacred relic remained within Anna's house chapel. During this time, those who prayed before the icon began to notice an extraordinary radiance emanating from it. In 1597, a miraculous event occurred: Anna's brother, Philip Kozinski, who had been blind (or, according to other sources, lame), was miraculously healed after praying before the icon. Overwhelmed by the sanctity of this image, Anna felt it improper to retain it solely for herself and decided to entrust it to the monks of the Pochaev Monastery.
It's noteworthy that this miracle transpired a year following the Brest Church Union of 1596. This union was an unsuccessful attempt to reconcile the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity, with grave consequences. The Pochaev Monastery's brethren firmly adhered to Orthodoxy and did not accept the Union.
Anna Tikhonovna (Erofeyeva) Hojska, benefactress of the Pochaev Monastery.
Anna Hojska not only generously supported the monastery but also funded the establishment of a printing house. In her written directives, she commanded that the Pochaev Monastery, with its sacred relics, should remain firmly in the hands of the Orthodox Church. She vowed to hold those who violated her wishes accountable at the Last Judgement.
Following Anna Hojska's passing, her heir was the Polish magnate Andrzej (Andrew) Firlej. Unfortunately, Andrzej was a Lutheran (or, according to other sources, a Calvinist) who harboured strong animosity towards Orthodoxy. In a regrettable incident on June 10 (23), 1623, Firlej attacked the Pochaev Monastery, looted its treasures, and among the stolen relics, took possession of the Pochaev icon of the Mother of God. For approximately two decades, the revered icon remained within Firlej's castle in the town of Kozin.
During this period, a sacrilegious event unfolded when Firlej's wife, in a disturbing mockery of the priesthood, donned a priest's phelonion and conducted a disrespectful imitation of a "service" before the Pochaev Icon. As a consequence of this sacrilege, a malevolent spirit afflicted her, and no skilled healers could alleviate her suffering. It was only when Andrzej humbled himself and, in 1644, returned the Pochaev Icon to its rightful custodians that his wife's sanity was restored.
These events, involving the seizure and subsequent return of the icon, transpired during the leadership of the revered saint, Venerable Job (Zhelezo), also known as Saint Job of Pochaev. Saint Job's name is inseparably linked with a period of great prosperity for the Monastery.
Relics of the Venerable Job of Pochaev
Incorruptible hand of St. Job of Pochaev
After its return to the holy Pochaev Mountain, the icon once again began to perform miracles. The most famous of them happened in 1675, during the reign of Jan III Sobieski, when Poland was engaged in the Zbarazh War against the Ottoman Empire. In July, Tatar regiments of the Turkish army, led by Khan Nuriddin, besieged the Pochaev Monastery.
The Monastery's brethren and the people of Pochaev, seeking refuge behind the Monastery's walls, prayed fervently to the Mother of God and to Venerable Job, who by then had been recognized as a saint.
At dawn on August 5th (July 23rd, O.S.), as the Tatars prepared to assault the Monastery, the besieged, led by Hegumen Joseph (Dobromirsky), began to sing the Akathist to the Mother of God. As they uttered the first words, the Most Pure Mother of God, surrounded by the incorporeal Heavenly Forces, suddenly appeared above the church. Next to the Holy Theotokos stood Venerable Job, interceding for his people.
In fear, the enemies attempted to shoot at the heavenly apparition, but their arrows turned back, injuring those who had shot them. Terror overcame the Tatars, and in their attempt to flee, they inadvertently harmed each other. Many were captured, and some eventually embraced the Orthodox faith and even joined the monastic life.
This miraculous rescue of the Pochaev Monastery from the Turkish-Tatar siege is celebrated on August 5th (July 23rd, O.S.).
The miraculous deliverance of the Pochaev Monastery from the Turks and Tatars. A painting at the entrance to the gallery and the cave church of St. Job in the Pochaev Lavra.
Another miracle associated with the Pochaev Icon of the Mother of God occurred when one of the brethren was captured by the Tatars. In captivity, he longed for his native Monastery with its sacred relics and magnificent divine services. On the eve of the Monastery's main patronal feast, the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God, the unfortunate prisoner prayed fervently to the Mother of God for his deliverance. Suddenly, the walls of the prison vanished, and the monk found himself miraculously transported to the walls of the Pochaev Monastery.
From 1569 to 1793, the Volyn region was under the rule of the Polish Rzeczpospolita. In 1725, Peter the Great, the staunch defender of Orthodox Christianity in Poland, passed away. Earlier, during the Prut River Campaign of 1711, the Russian Tsar had visited the Pochaev Monastery and had shown great care for it.
However, due to pressure from Polish ecclesiastical and secular authorities, along with the arbitrary behaviour of local nobles, the Pochaev Monastery gradually distanced itself from Orthodoxy after Peter's death. It ultimately fell into the hands of the Uniates, officially known as Greek Catholics. For more than a century, the Pochaev Monastery became one of the centres of the Basilian Order.
To their credit, the Uniates held the Pochaev Icon in high regard and recorded its miracles. In 1773, the images of the Infant Christ and His Precious Mother received golden crowns, sent by Pope Clement XIV.
Pochaev Icon of the Mother of God
A remarkable miracle involving the wealthy nobleman Nicholas Potocki occurred around the same time. While passing by Pochaev, his horses bolted, overturning the carriage. Potocki, known for his authoritarian ways, decided to shoot the coachman. Terrified, the coachman fervently prayed aloud to the Pochaev Icon of the Mother of God, pleading for his life's salvation. Remarkably, the pistol of the would-be executioner misfired three times in a row.
Astonished by this miracle, Potocki decided to gaze upon the holy icon. Tradition holds that he emerged from the church profoundly changed, humbled, and devout. In 1774, he donated his wealth to monasteries, took monastic vows, and spent his remaining days at the Pochaev Monastery, where he was ultimately laid to rest.
Count Nicholas Potocki, the Catholic patron saint of the Pochaev Monastery
In 1831, the Pochaev Monastery and the icon were reunited with the Orthodox Church, and in 1833, the Monastery received the prestigious status of a "lavra," a term denoting male Orthodox monasteries of remarkable historical and spiritual significance. This event was accompanied by what contemporaries described as "wondrous and marvellous acts."
To illustrate, the monastery's records from 1832 document the following miracles:
● Healing of Elisabeth Miropolsky: Elisabeth, the wife of non-commissioned officer Matthew Miropolsky, experienced a remarkable recovery from a severe leg illness.
● Recovery of Nikita Golinkevich: Nikita Golinkevich, a priest from the Kamenets-Podolsk diocese, recorded his own recovery from a prolonged illness. He attributed his healing to the intercession of the Mother of God of Pochaev.
● Matrona Shlegova's Vision: Matrona Shlegova, a 28-year-old woman from the Orenburg province, received a life-changing vision. In her dream, Venerable Job instructed her to journey to the Mother of God in Pochaev. Following this divine command, she found relief from a serious illness.
● Anna Yakimchukova's Sight: Anna Yakimchukova, a nine-year-old daughter of a soldier who had lost her eyesight due to smallpox in her infancy, experienced a miraculous recovery. After travelling a great distance from Kamenets-Podolsk to Pochaev with her 70-year-old grandmother, Agafya Andreevna Kaminskaya, and seeking solace in prayer before the icon, Anna regained her sight. This astounding miracle led her grandmother, who was previously a Uniate, to embrace Orthodoxy.
The fame of the Pochaev icon extended far beyond its home, with numerous accounts of miraculous healings and divine signs attributed to it. Copies were made of it, which were also honoured as miracle-working. Within Pochaev Lavra, particular veneration was accorded to a large depiction of the Mother of God of Pochaev, which featured an image of the Mother of God's foot in the lower portion of the icon. It was contributed by the residents of Kiev in gratitude for their city's deliverance from a cholera outbreak in 1848.
A venerated copy of the Pochaev Icon of the Mother of God with an imprint of the foot of the Mother of God at the bottom.
The venerated Pochaev Icon of the Mother of God is represented by more than 300 copies, many of which are revered for their miraculous qualities. These honoured copies are found in various locations, including Russia, where their presence is particularly prominent. Notable examples include:
● St. John Presentation Monastery, Tobolsk Region.
● Trinity Cathedral, Danilov Monastery, Moscow.
● Church of Great Martyr Demetrius of Thessaloniki, Moscow.
● Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, Lefortovo, Moscow.
● Holy Nativity Church, Mikhailovskoye, Pskov Region.
In 1933, one of such copies also appeared in the Holy Trinity Church in the town of Mir (Belarus). The wife of the church's rector, Archpriest Vladimir Svirsky, who was gravely ill at the time, experienced a vision of the Pochaev Icon of the Mother of God in a dream. During this vision, she received a divine message: "Pray to this image, and you will be healed!" Miraculously, following fervent prayers, the woman made a complete recovery.
In response to this divine intervention, Father Vladimir embarked on a journey to Pochaev Lavra, where he arranged for the creation of a copy of the miraculous icon. This newly crafted icon was subsequently placed above the Holy Gates within the iconostasis of the Holy Trinity Church in Mir. It replaced the ancient Mir icon of the Mother of God, which had been lost in the early 20th century.
The Pochaev Icon of the Mother of God. Holy Trinity Church in Mir, Belarus.
The Holy Doors of the Trinity Church in Mir, Belarus.
The Church of the Holy Life-Giving Trinity. A cultural monument of the 16th century. Mir, Belarus.
The Pochaev Icon of the Mother of God is classified within the "Tenderness" or "Eleusa" iconographic category. Painted with tempera on a lime board, this icon employs the ancient Byzantine artistic technique. In this depiction, the Mother of God is portrayed in a waist-high stance, tenderly cradling the Divine Son close to Her heart while draping a shawl over His bare feet. The Child Jesus nestles His cheek affectionately against His Mother's face. With His left hand, He embraces Mary, and with His right hand, He extends a blessing to all who behold Him.
The miraculous Pochaev Icon of the Mother of God
The expression on the Mother of God's face is one of both love and sorrow, perhaps foretelling the future trials and tribulations her Son would endure. Remarkably, the icon itself is relatively small, measuring only 23x30 centimetres.
Gracing the margins of the icon are miniature depictions of saints. To the left, we find the prophet Elijah and the martyr Mina, while to the right, we encounter the martyr Stephen and the Venerable Abraham. At the icon's bottom, we discover the images of the Great Martyrs Paraskeva, Catherine, and Irene. It's important to note that these additional saintly figures on the edges of the central icon are characteristic of what is referred to as "family" icons. Typically, these are representations of the patron saints of the various members of a family.
It is highly likely that the Pochaev Image of the Mother of God originally belonged to the family of Metropolitan Neophytos and was passed down through their lineage. Furthermore, the original inscriptions on the icon were in Slavonic, indicating that the Pochaev Icon was most probably crafted by the hand of a Russian, or at the very least, a Slavic artisan.
In an alternative iconographic variation of the Pochaev Icon, the images of saints on its edges are absent. Instead, at the bottom of this particular icon, you'll find a depiction of the Pochaev Mount with the imprint of the Holy Virgin's right foot. This imprint is a reminder of the miraculous apparition of the Mother of God on Pochaev Mountain.
From the moment Philip Kozinski regained his sight to the present day, the divine grace radiating from the sacred Pochaev Icon has manifested numerous miracles. In truth, as the Gospel states, at this miraculous image of the Mother of God, "the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them..." (Gospel of Matthew 11:5)
The miracles wrought by the Most Holy Mother of God through prayer before Her Pochaev image are substantiated by undeniable testimonies from eyewitnesses and meticulously recorded in the annals of the Monastery. Regardless of our petitions, made in faith, the Mother of God unfailingly hears our pleas and intercedes on our behalf. She does so in times of severe illness and worldly tribulations, in seemingly insurmountable circumstances, amidst confusion and concerns for our loved ones, even during captivity and at our very deathbeds.
Healing of a Nun in Soviet Times
On June 17, 1950, a miraculous healing unfolded within the precincts of Pochaev Lavra. Nun Varvara, previously known as Elena Konstantinovna Putyatina, had suffered from paralysis in both legs for a staggering 48 years. She embarked on a challenging journey from the city of Chkalov (now Orenburg, Russia), relying on crutches with the assistance of her companion, Nun Maria. Upon placing her hands on a replica of the miraculous image of the Mother of God, the nun experienced an instantaneous restoration of her mobility. The crutches, a testament to the miracle, remain preserved at the Monastery, adjacent to the icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Healing of a Six-Year-Old Boy
Yura Kokorin, a six-year-old from Ekaterinburg, Russia, had lost his hearing following a severe illness. Medical professionals held little promise of a swift recovery. His grandmother Valentina, visiting the boy in the hospital, shared that she had journeyed to Pochaev Lavra and returned with a small copy of the icon of the Mother of God of Pochaev. Yura earnestly requested that the icon be left with him overnight.
The following day, Yura's parents received astonishing news from the hospital where their son was recuperating. He could be taken home, for his hearing had remarkably returned. Regrettably, the elation was short-lived, as Yura began to lose his hearing once more.
At that juncture, a revered replica of the miracle-working Pochaev Icon of the Mother of God was brought to Ekaterinburg from Pochaev. Accompanied by his parents, Yura participated in a procession led by this icon. Subsequently, the illness receded entirely.
Yura articulated his experience, saying, "My father did not cure my ears, my mother did not cure them, and the doctor did not cure them. It was as if someone had simply blown them clear, and now I can hear everything."
A revered copy of the Pochaev Icon. Close-up photo
Healing of Irina (Krivoy Rog, Ukraine)
I, Irina, a servant of God, wish to share my healing journey within the Holy Dormition Pochaev Lavra. In the year 2000, I fell gravely ill. My condition deteriorated to the point where I could no longer walk. I spent most of my days lying down, unable to even sit. The suffering was immense: I endured severe headaches, and my heart was troubled. I lost feeling in half of my body. Ambulances came to attend to me almost every other day. Unfortunately, no one could accurately diagnose my condition, thus prescribing the correct treatment. For two long years, I, a young mother with a small child to care for, was essentially rendered an invalid. At times, I felt despondent about continuing to live.
By God's providence, I found myself at the Monastery. On my very first day within the Monastery, a profound transformation occurred. Miraculously, I was able to attend a lengthy service that spanned approximately five hours. I could hardly believe that I was standing on my own two feet. We devoted ourselves to the veneration of the Pochaev Icon of the Mother of God. While I laid my hands upon the relics of St. Job of Pochaev, a crimson mark appeared on the right side of my forehead (at that time, I could not feel the right side of my body). It resembled a burn, accompanied by a sensation of warmth in that region. Remarkably, that same day, strength and confidence surged through my limbs. I realised that I could walk unaided without the fear of stumbling.
Upon returning home from the Monastery, indescribable emotions engulfed me. While I did not achieve perfect health, I commenced a path to recovery. I felt assured and regained a zest for life. I could leave my apartment and walk 100-200 metres independently – an absolute miracle in my eyes! When I personally escorted my child to school for their first day of first grade, it brought an overwhelming sense of joy. The grace bestowed upon me by God within the precincts of Pochaev Monastery not only transformed my life but also led my entire family to God! I am eternally grateful for all that transpired. Glory to God for all things!
The Miraculous Birth of a Daughter
Approximately a decade ago, my husband and I made a pilgrimage to Pochaev Lavra. At that time, I was not a regular churchgoer, and being in the church was a challenge, given my lack of prior experience with confession. However, when the holy icon was displayed, a sense of relief washed over me. Upon returning from Lavra, something extraordinary occurred – despite medical predictions; I became pregnant and gave birth to a daughter. This miracle, I believe, deserves to be shared.
The Most Holy Mother of God, our Intercessor, deserves our heartfelt gratitude for everything! Praise be to God for all His blessings! I can genuinely say, based on my own experiences, that a life without God on this earthly plane is akin to hell. When a person desires to be with Him, the Lord always extends His helping hand. We offer our deepest reverence to all those who serve within this sacred place, and we extend our heartfelt gratitude.
The Mother of God's Assistance to Leonid (Kiev)
Although I have yet to visit the Lavra itself, I would like to recount an incident related to the Mother of God of Pochaev icon. During the All-Ukrainian Cross procession on its way to Kiev (where I reside), the group from Pochaev Lavra made a stop in the village of Dmitrovka. After finishing work, I went to meet the procession there.
People were resting near the local church, and inside the church, the icon of the Mother of God of Pochaev was displayed for veneration. I naturally approached to venerate it. I didn't ask for anything specific, but by evening that same day, I unexpectedly noticed that the stomach pains I had been enduring for several days had ceased. To this day, they have not returned.The Mother of God, even without a formal request, saw my minor affliction and came to my aid. Indeed, it is a miraculous icon!
Those who kneel before thy sacred image, O Lady, / Are granted healing and true faith's knowledge, / And they drive away the assaults of the Hagarenes. / Therefore, implore forgiveness of sins / For us who prostrate ourselves before thee. / Illuminate our hearts with thoughts of devotion, / And raise a supplication to thy Son for the salvation of our souls.
Thine icon of Pochaev, O Theotokos, / Hath become a wellspring of healing and the confirmation of the Orthodox Faith. / Hence, rescue us who seek thy aid / From adversity and trial. / Keep thy monastery unharmed. / Establish Orthodoxy in the surrounding lands, / And pardon the transgressions of those who beseech thee; / For thou hast the power to act as thou pleasest.
Mindful of the wonders thou hast revealed in the holy Lavra at Pochaiv, and contrite for our transgressions, we, sinners, do approach thee in prayer, O Mother of God. We know, O Mistress, it is not meet for us sinners to request aught but the pardon of our iniquities by the Righteous Judge. For all the trials, needs, and pains we've endured in this life have served to lead us onto a better path. As the Lord, in His Truth, hath allowed these things in our lives, we come to thee in our distress, O most pure One. Let not our sins and iniquities be in thy thoughts, O Gracious One. Instead, extend thy precious hand before thy Son and God, that He may pardon our cruel deeds and turn not His face from His servants due to our numerous failings in keeping our promises. May He not withdraw His aid from the salvation of our souls. Yea, O Theotokos, be the intercessor for our salvation, and as thou art not repelled by our small-heartedness, regard our sorrows, which we offer before thy miraculous Icon. Enlighten our minds with thoughts of repentance. Strengthen our faith, confirm our hopes, enable us to accept the sweetest gift of love, that through these blessings our lives may find the path to salvation. Shield our souls from despondency and despair. Deliver us, who can do but little, from the perils and needs that befall us, and from the slanders of men. Grant peace and order to the Christian community, O Theotokos, and strengthen the governance of our land. Preserve the Orthodox Faith in our country and throughout the world through thy prayers. Permit not the Apostolic Orthodox Church to diminish. Keep the teachings of the Holy Fathers as steadfast for all ages, and save those who turn to thee from the abyss of perdition. Lead our brethren, seduced by heresies or fallen from the path of salvation, back to the True Faith, that they may bow before thy miraculous image and confess thy glory. O most holy Lady Theotokos, grant us to behold the triumph of Truth, to partake in the joy of Grace ere our end, even as thou didst show the residents of Pochaiv as victors and enlighteners of the Hagarenes through thine appearance. Deem us all worthy, that with thankful hearts, joined with angels, prophets, apostles, and all the saints, we may greatly glorify thy kindness. We offer glory, honour, and worship unto God, Who is hymned in Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, unto the ages of ages. Amen.
* The Venerable Job of Pochaev was born about 1551 in Galicia.He entered the monastery at the age of 9, and died at the age of 100, i.e. he lived 91 years in the monastery in asceticism and prayer. Eight years after his death his relics were found, imperishable and fragrant. They were placed in a casket for adoration, where they remain to this day. Remarkably, the relics of Venerable Job of Pochaev radiate warmth akin to that of a living person.