The Feast of the World's Smallest Icon of the Mother of God

The World's Smallest Icon of the Mother of God

The Holy Dormition Zhirovichi Monastery, where the Zhirovichi Icon of the Mother of God is located, is one of the main shrines of the Belarusian land, revered by both the Orthodox and Catholics. This unusual icon carved in green and dark red stone (jasper) has a round shape. It is only 5.7 x 4.1 x 0.8 cm in size and looks like a cameo or a breastplate.

The miraculous Zhirovichi icon of the Mother of God appeared in 1470. The image was radiating miraculous light when it was found among the branches of a wild pear tree by children grazing cattle in a forest clearing. Holding the icon in their hands, they hurried to the estate of a boyar named Alexander Soltan.

worlds smallest icon of mother of god

Hand-written Zhirovichi icon of the Mother of God made by the sisters of St Elisabeth Convent

However, the noble man did not attach any importance to the story of the shepherds. He put the icon in a casket and soon forgot about it. After some time, the boyar remembered the unusual incident in a friendly conversation. He opened the casket, but there was nothing in it. Soon the icon was found for the second time in the same pear tree. Understanding God's Providence about Zhirovichi village, Alexander Soltan then erected a wooden church on the site where the miraculous appearance of the icon took place. Later, a monastery appeared there.

The Zhirovichi shrine became famous for many miracles, and numerous pilgrims started coming to venerate it. In 1520, the monastery burned down in a fire. The miraculous image was lost, but not for long. After some time, the Most Holy Theotokos appeared to the children playing near the ashes. In Her hands She held the vanished shrine. The Heavenly Lady stood on a stone, over which now is the altar of the Apparition Church.

Apparition Church of the Holy Dormition Zhirovichi Stavropegic Monastery

Apparition Church of the Holy Dormition Zhirovichi Stavropegic Monastery

Today, the miraculous image is in the Assumption Cathedral, i. e. the main church of the monastery. To this day, the shrine is famous both in Belarus and far beyond its borders.

Zhirovichi Icon of the Mother of God

Zhirovichi Icon of the Mother of God

The church complex of the Zhirovichi Monastery is known not only as a holy place in Belarus, but also as an architectural monument of the 17th-18th centuries. The monastery includes the Holy Dormition Cathedral, the Apparition Church, the Exaltation of the Cross Church, the seminary building and a residential complex, as well as a refectory, a bell tower and a large number of side chambers. The fourth monastery church is the wooden church of St George, located in the old cemetery not far from the Zhirovichi Monastery.

Holy Dormition Cathedral of the Zhirovichi Stavropegic Monastery

Holy Dormition Cathedral of the Zhirovichi Stavropegic Monastery

There are many other shrines in the Assumption Cathedral, including a cross with relics of saints; icon of the head of St John the Baptist with a particle of his relics and a drop of exuded blood; the myrrh-streaming Kazan Icon of the Mother of God; the altar cross with a particle of the True Life-Giving Cross; a reliquary with relics of the Great Martyr Catherine; an icon with relics of St Nicholas the Wonderworker; and icon with relics of St Euphrosyne of Polotsk and more.

Holy Dormition Cathedral of the Zhirovichi Stavropegic Monastery. Interior decoration.

Holy Dormition Cathedral of the Zhirovichi Stavropegic Monastery. Interior decoration.

Many Orthodox faithful revere the grave of the elder Jerome (Koval), who called Zhirovichi the third Athos. In August 2000, Archimandrite Seraphim (Shahmut), now revered by the inhabitants and pilgrims of Zhirovichi, was canonised at the Jubilee Bishops' Council.

At the fraternal cemetery on the monastery grounds there is the resting place of the Metropolitan Philaret, Honorary Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus.

Under the vault of the Assumption Cathedral there is a miraculous spring, which appeared together with the Zhirovichi icon in 1470. Water from this spring is offered to believers on May 20, during the annual celebration of the appearance of the miraculous icon of the Mother of God.

The Zhirovichi Icon of the Mother of God is one of the most revered icons in our country, and the day of its acquisition is a special holiday. In 2020, when the Church celebrated the 550th anniversary of the appearance of this miraculous icon, our convent workshops were able to reproduce it.

Nun Anfisa (Ostapchuk): “Our workshops have been honoured to make copies of the miraculous stone icon of the Mother of God, which could fit on the palm of your hand.”

Several convent workshops were involved in creating this unique icon. Among them are the carpentry, gilding, locksmith and non-ferrous metal workshops. The work included several stages: making the icon case, preparing the gesso, gilding and mounting the icon. Such work requires great effort, professionalism and skill. Above all, it is prayer that helps the craftsmen in their work.

Nun Anfisa (Ostapchuk): “The Mother of God Herself held this image in Her hands. We are blessed by having such an amazing pearl and the prayerful presence and intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos.”

May 17, 2022
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Votes: 20
1 month ago
May the Theotokos continue to bless you all in these difficult times, and bring peace to all.

rebekah brown

1 month ago
Amen thank you
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