August 31, 2018

The Icon of Panagia Agiosoritissa

Agiosoritissa in the Church of Santa Maria del Rosario, 7th cent.

The Panagia Agiosoritissa is the name for a type of icon of the Mother of God, showing her without the Christ Child, slightly from the side with both hands raised in prayer.

The names used for the icon, Agiosoritissa and, in Russian, Khalkopratiskaya, derive from the church in Constantinople's Chalkoprateia district in which the Honorable Girdle (Zoni) was kept in the Holy Coffin (Soros). The appellation Ἁγιοσορίτισσα (Agiosoritissa) is first recorded in Byzantine seals from the 11th century, and it appears minted on coins made under Manuel I Komnenos (12th century).

Georgian Agiosoritissa icon (c. 1100)

Such an icon is known to have been in the Basilica of Saint Demetrios in Thessaloniki in the 6th century, but was lost in the period of Iconoclasm. An early Byzantine icon (7th century) is preserved in the Church of Santa Maria del Rosario in Monte Mario, Rome. According to tradition, this latter icon was saved from Iconoclasm by certain monastics who fled Constantinople for Italy around 728.

 Freising Agiasoritissa, 12th century

The type was widespread in the Roman/Byzantine empire and in the Balkans, but less so in Russia. An early Russian example is the Theotokos of Bogolyubovo (12th century). The Church of Santa Maria in Via Lata in Rome has a 13th-century icon of this type. In English, the type is also known as Madonna Advocate (the prayer gesture interpreted in the context of intercession).