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Discover the Miraculous Belarusian Icon of Belynichi

The Sacred Journey of the Belynichi Icon of the Mother of God

the Belynichi Icon of the Mother of God

Around thirty years ago, a new church was constructed in Belynichi, a small town in Eastern Belarus. The church was built on the site of a much-revered monastery. Founded in the 16th century, if not earlier, the monastery was renowned for its wonderworking relic, the Belynichi Icon of the Theotokos. Word of this revered image spread widely, drawing countless believers to the monastery to honour the Mother of God and seek Her intercession.

During the godless years after the Russian October Revolution of 1917, the authorities closed the monastery in 1925. Subsequently, the icon made its way to the Mogilev Regional Museum. During the subsequent years of war, the original icon disappeared and its whereabouts remain unknown.

The monastery reopened in the early 2000s, and a miracle occurred. A resident of Belynichi appeared before the abbot and brought with her an ancient copy of the lost icon. Her family had diligently preserved it throughout the years. As before, this revered copy attracts numerous believers. Many who bow to it in faith have received comfort and help through the intercession of the Theotokos.

Church of the Belynichi Icon of the Mother of God
Church of the Belynichi Icon of the Mother of God

Church of the Belynichi Icon of the Mother of God

The discovery of the Belynichi Icon

This relic has a rich and eventful history waiting to be explored. According to tradition, it may have arrived near present-day Belynichi as far back as the 13th century. Pious monks brought the icon, rescuing it from desecration by the Mongol-Tatars advancing from Kiev. They placed it in the safety of Saint Elijah Church in Belynichi. As the people prayed fervently during an all-night vigil, a miracle unfolded: the Heavenly Queen radiated with an inexpressible light. This celestial illumination, some believe, was a divine sign for the monks to establish their sanctuary here. Perhaps in appreciation of this luminous wonder, the locality was named Belynichi, translated from old Slavic as “White nights.” The second Ikos of the Akathist to the Belynichi icon thus recounts its inexplicable radiance.

“Knowing of the wondrous miracle of the shining rays emanating from Your holy icon, the devout monks who brought Your sacred image to our land placed it in the church of the prophet Elijah. They conducted the all-night vigil before Your icon with awe and trembling, and the radiant rays it emitted illuminated the night as brightly as the daytime, reinforcing our faith in the mercy of the Lord.”

Belynichi Icon of the Mother of God

Belynichi Icon of the Mother of God

A change of hands

Following the Union of Brest in 1596, the Saint Elijah Church and its icon fell under the Catholic Church's jurisdiction. Soon, the church declined and eventually fell apart. The miracle-working icon was spared, and a new home was found within the Belynichi Carmelite Monastery, established in 1624 by the Lithuanian Hetman Lev Sapieha on the picturesque banks of the River Drut.

Despite being 45 kilometres from Mogilev, the nearest city, Catholics, Orthodox, and Uniates travelled to the holy image to offer prayers and thanksgiving. All of them considered it their own. The Carmelite monastery ceased to exist in 1832, but it continued to function as a parish church, safeguarding the Belynichi Icon within its walls.

Homecoming: the Icon returns to the Orthodox

The 19th century brought another significant change. The once-Catholic church was restored to the Orthodox faith, and the monastery was rejuvenated through divine providence. The first Divine Liturgy was celebrated on 12 April 1876 on the throne consecrated by an Orthodox bishop in honour of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos. A year later, Saint Nicholas Monastery relocated from Mstislavl to Belynichi, once again reuniting the Belynichi Icon with its monastic home. The icon drew immense veneration, attracting up to ten thousand pilgrims annually. Residents of the Mogilev Diocese started a tradition of venerating the Belynichi Icon and seeking the blessings of the Theotokos before starting their pilgrimages to other sacred sites.

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Accounts from the period describe the Belynichi Icon as remarkably resistant to the ravages of time. Unlike many older icons, its colours remained vibrant and fresh; the faces of the Theotokos and Christ Child retained the brightness and freshness of colours. The icon radiated grace, light, and joy. People found solace in this bright and beautiful image.

Tragically, the revolution's upheavals cut short this period. As previously mentioned, the icon was transferred to the Mogilev Regional Museum, only to vanish during WWII. This disappearance coincided with the loss of numerous treasures from museum vaults in 1941, including the venerated Holy Cross of Saint Euphrosyne of Polotsk.

The art behind the Icon

Though the original Belynichi Icon remains lost, its legacy endures through venerated copies. Two such copies emerged in churches in eastern Belarus around the turn of the 20th century. Furthermore, a notable manuscript is housed within the Holy Nicholas Women’s Monastery in Kaliningrad, Russia.

This particular icon boasts its rich history. Before the Bolshevik persecutions, it adorned a church close to Belynichi. Fearing desecration, devout parishioners courageously safeguarded the icon, concealing it for many years. In the 1980s, with faith and perseverance, they secretly transported it to Kaliningrad.

Saint Nicholas Convent in Kaliningrad

Saint Nicholas Convent in Kaliningrad

Even the copy of the icon brought to the new church’s opening by a parishioner had a perilous journey. Preserved by courageous and faithful Christians, it was eventually returned to the people. Today, the faithful can venerate the Most Holy Theotokos before her holy image in Belynichi and other cities and villages.

A copy of the Belynichi Icon of the Mother of God at Saint Nicholas Convent in Kaliningrad

A copy of the Belynichi Icon of the Mother of God at Saint Nicholas Convent in Kaliningrad

In the icon, the Mother of God’s head is gently inclined towards the Christ Child. He raises His right hand in a blessing gesture while His left-hand cradles a sphere. The iconography follows the Hodegetria (“Guiding One”) type, in which the Mother of God holds an elongated, graceful sceptre in Her right hand. Ornate royal crowns adorn the heads of the Christ Child and His Most Holy Mother.

Devout veneration

The Belynichi Icon of the Mother of God is a treasured relic that is not only for the Orthodox. Christians of various denominations revere and offer prayers before her holy image. In her boundless mercy, the Mother of God extends her protective embrace to all who approach her with heartfelt supplications.

The residents of Belynichi honour their history and acknowledge the enduring bond between their city and the Mother of God through Her holy icon. Atop a hill, once the site of the Saint Elijah Church, stands a marker proclaiming: “Belynichi Began Here.” Ilyinskaya Gora (Mount Ilyinskaya) is a permanent reminder of this sacred past. Descending towards the Drut River, one encounters the Bogorodskaya (Mother of God’s) spring, which offers pilgrims a chance to partake in its blessed waters.

Mount Ilyinskaya
Mount Ilyinskaya

Ilyinskaya Gora (Mount Ilyinskaya)

A unique procession unfolds each year, on 24 April, the eve of the feast of the revered Belynichi Icon of the Most Holy Mother of God. Under the protection of the Virgin Mary, it travels 45 kilometres from Mogilev, the nearest regional city, to Belynichi. The devotees all come to bow to the miraculous icon.

The year 2020 witnessed an extraordinary addition to this event. Along the Mogilev-Minsk highway, a stork chose to join the faithful on their sacred walk. This incredible moment was captured on video.

Miracles in our time

Recent chronicles overflow with modern-day miracles attributed to the icon. One story particularly dear to our monastic community involves Sister Tamara. In 2011, she requested a forty-day prayer service in the Church of the Belynichi Icon of the Mother of God. It was for her friend’s son, Alexander, who battled a crippling alcohol dependency. Remarkably, within two days, the young man found the strength to overcome his addiction.

Here are several more accounts of miraculous healings through the prayers to the Belynichi Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos.

On 3 July 2010, Father Sergiy Maslov, the church rector where the icon resides, experienced a remarkable fragrance emanating from the image during veneration. Present at that time was Pavel, a professional restorer from Brest. Upon Father Sergiy’s request, Pavel cleaned the soot from the icon. Following the cleaning, those present witnessed a miraculous sight — droplets and streams of fragrant oil, or myrrh, appeared on the hands of the depicted figures. The miracle of myrrh-flowing continued throughout 5, 6 and 7 July 2010.

Belynichi Icon of the Mother of God

Belynichi Icon of the Mother of God

Another account involves Father Vyacheslav, Rector of the Church of St. Nicholas in Pruzhany. For two years, he had been plagued by insomnia. In September 2010, he visited the Belynichi church, serving as a Moleben and Akathist before the revered icon. He anointed himself with oil from a nearby vigil lamp and washed with water from the holy spring dedicated to the Mother of God. Miraculously, his insomnia vanished completely.

In November 2010, Elena from Mogilev expressed her immense joy. Through the fervent reading of the Akathist before the icon, her husband had returned to her.

On 19 September 2010, Alexandra Mikhailovna Maksumova from Machulishchy village near Minsk brought her granddaughter, born with a severe hip dislocation, to Belynichi. After tearful prayers before the icon, Alexandra procured a smaller replica and an akathist booklet. Upon returning home, she recited the Akathist daily. Remarkably, within ten days, the girl began tentative steps, and after a month of her grandmother’s unwavering prayers, she walked independently.

Alexandra Mikhailovna returned to the Belynichi church two months later, fulfilling her vow to the Mother of God. Her granddaughter accompanied her, and together, they offered heartfelt thanks to God and the Most Holy Mother of God for the miraculous healing.

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On June 29th, 2012, a resident of Minsk named Joanna Kul visited the church dedicated to the Belynichi Icon. Her daughter, Julia, living in Moscow, had been diagnosed with infertility. Joanna, in Minsk, and Julia, in Moscow, both read the Akathist to the icon daily for forty days. Their pleas were answered. By 21 July, Julia, already four months pregnant, arrived at the Belynichi church. She was overwhelmed with gratitude and awe and attended a moleben service with the Akathist reading. Afterward, she received a blessing for safe childbirth from Archpriest Sergiy Maslov, the church rector.

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On 15 August 2012, pilgrims from the Uzda district in Belarus visited the Belynichi church. One pilgrim, Alla Shatilo, shared this story. During a summer trip back from Crimea with her daughter, Anastasia, they were travelling by car at night. Anastasia was driving while Alla, holding a small Belynichi icon, drifted off to sleep. Both, it turned out, succumbed to sleep. Suddenly, Alla awoke to a forceful push on her back. The car was teetering on the edge of a steep ditch! With a jolt, she alerted her daughter. Anastasia, awakened by the commotion, managed to regain control of the car and avoid disaster. Both mother and daughter attributed their salvation to the intervention of the Belynichi Mother of God. Alla returned to the church at the earliest opportunity, offering prayers and heartfelt gratitude for an hour.

Many acts of healing and miracles undoubtedly go unnoticed by the world. Yet, they hold profound meaning for those who receive the Belynichi icon’s blessings. The abundance of precious gifts — gold and silver offerings left at the foot of the icon — stands as a silent testament to this faith.

We warmly encourage you to submit your own prayer requests for services held in front of this miraculous icon. To do so, please click the link below.
https://obitel-minsk.org/prayer-request

April 24, 2024
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1 month ago

Brian McKee

1 month ago
Thank you. You are truly inspiring.
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