February 5, 2020

Synaxis of the Elets-Chernigov Icon of the Mother of God

Elets-Chernigov icon of the Mother of God (Feast Day - February 6)

Saint Anthony, the founder of the Kiev Caves Lavra, was expelled from Kiev in 1060 by Great Prince Iziaslav (1054-1073), and retired to the borders of Chernigov where he settled to live as an ascetic in a cave in Boldino Hill. It was at this time that the icon of the Mother of God appeared on a spruce or fir tree shining with rays of light, so that it seemed it was surrounded by fire.

With the assistance of Prince Svyatoslav Yaroslavich of Chernigov, Saint Anthony established a monastery where the icon was found, and built a church dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos. Both the monastery and the icon became known as Elets (Spruce).

In 1238 the monastery was pillaged by the Tatars (Mongols), but the icon was hidden inside the monastery walls. In the year 1470, Prince Simeon Olelkovich of Kiev restored the monastery, and they placed the icon in the church.

The ultimate fate of the icon is unclear. According to one tradition, a descendant of the Chernigov princes, Baryatinsky, carried the icon to Moscow in the year 1579, when Chernigov fell into the hands of the Polish King Stephen Bathory. In 1687, Prince Daniel Baryatinsky was returning from a campaign in the Crimea. At Kharkov he fell seriously ill, and before his death he bequeathed the Elets Icon to the nearby Kharkov Dormition Church.

According to another tradition, the icon vanished from the monastery when it was sacked in the seventeenth century by the forces of Sigismund III. In 1676, Prince Constantine Ostrozhsky presented the Elets Monastery a copy of the original Elets Icon of the Mother of God, brought from Vladimir by the Kozel brothers. Archimandrite Joannicius (Golyatovsky) was at this time restoring the monastery and he described numerous miracles of this icon in his book, “Skorbnitsa” (or “Sokrovischnitsa”, i.e. “Consoler” or “Treasury”), published in 1676 in Novgorod.

There is still another Elets Icon of the Mother of God, also appearing in the year 1060. It received its name because it appeared in the city of Elets, in a cathedral church dedicated to the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God. The feast day of this icon was set for January 11.