August 19, 2017

The Donskoi Icon of the Mother of God

Donskoi Icon of the Mother of God (Feast Day - August 19)

The Donskoi Icon of the Mother of God, also known as the Don Icon, was painted by Theophanes the Greek (c. 1340–c. 1410). It is a two-sided icon, on the back of which is a depiction of the Dormition of the Theotokos. It is made in the traditional style of the Eleousa icons, in which Mother and Son show tender affection towards each other. The Donskoi Icon was probably originally located in the Dormition Cathedral in Kolomna, built by Great Prince Dimitri Donskoi.

On the day of the Kulikovo Battle (8 September 1380, the Feast of the Birth of the Most Holy Mother of God), the Icon was amidst the Russian army, giving it help, but after the victory it was passed on by the Don Cossacks as a gift to their commander, Great Prince Dimitri Donskoi (1363-1389), who then transferred it to Moscow.

Back-side of the icon depicting the Dormition

The Icon at first came to be at the Kremlin Uspensky Sobor (Dormition Cathedral), and later at the Blagoveschenie-Annunciation Cathedral. On July 3, 1552, Ivan the Terrible prayed before the Donskoi Icon prior to the Kazan campaign, and took it with him on the campaign, then placed it in the Annunciation Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin. In commemoration of the victory on the banks of the River Don it was given the name "Donskoi Icon".

In the year 1591 the Crimean khan Nuradin and his brother Murat-Girei invaded Russia with a numerous army, and advancing on Moscow, they positioned themselves on the Vorob'ev hills. For the guarding from enemies, around Moscow there was made a church procession with the Donskoi Icon of the Most Holy Mother of God. On the day of battle it was situated in the military chapel amidst the soldiers ranks and set the Tatars to flight.

Donskoi Monastery

In thanksgiving to the Most Holy Mother of God for Her mercy, manifest through the Donskoi Icon, in 1592 at the very place where it stood amidst the soldiers was founded the Donskoi Monastery, into which was put the wonderworking Icon, and its feast day established for August 19th.

By established custom, in the small cathedral in honor of the Donskoi Icon of the Mother of God, once every four years His Holiness the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia performs the rite of the preparation of holy chrism.

The Icon is now in the Tretyakov State Gallery. Every year, on the day of the Icon's celebration on August 19th, it is delivered to the Donskoi Monastery for the performance of a festive divine service before it.