May 4, 2020

Synaxis of the Old Russian (Staro Rus) Icon of the Mother of God

Staro Rus Icon of the Mother of God (Feast Days - September 17 and May 4)

The Old Russian (Staro Rus) Icon of the Mother of God, the largest portable icon in the world, was so named because for a long time it was in Staro Rus, where it had been brought by the Greeks from Olviopolis (now in the Kherson region) in the 15th century due to Turkish and Tatar threats. The icon was in Staro Rus until the sixteenth century in the main church of the Transfiguration Monastery, the oldest temple in the city. Another version of the story says that the icon appeared in 1570 in the Church of the Holy Great Martyr George in the village of Vydropuska Novgorod (later the Tver province). From there she was briefly transferred to Staro Rus.

In 1570 during a plague epidemic in Tikhvin it was revealed to a certain inhabitant of the city of Tikhvin that the pestilence would cease if the wonderworking Staro Rus Icon were transferred there, and a copy of the Tikhvin Icon sent to Staro Rus. Therefore the exchange took place and the Staro Rus Icon of the Mother of God was brought to Tikhvin. After it was processed throughout the city, the pestilence ceased in Tikhvin. Overjoyed residents placed the icon in the main temple of their monastery. For a long time, the icon remained unreturned.

In 1787 the priest Ivan Petrovich Krasilnikov, unable to have the original icon returned to Staro Rus, ordered for a copy of it to be made. On May 4, 1788 the copy was brought to Staro Rus and placed in the Resurrection Cathedral. Though the copy was highly revered, the people of Staro Rus greatly desired for the return of the original.

In August 1805, the inhabitants of Staro Rus began to petition for the return of the original icon from Tikhvin. Metropolitan Ambrose (Podobedov) of Novgorod and Bishop Evgeny (Bolkhovitinov) Starorussky did not object to the return of the icon, but the archimandrite of the Tikhvin Monastery Gerasim (Knyazev) refused to give the icon to the deputies sent from Staro Rus under the pretext of a possible outrage of the Tikhvinites. In 1806, the new request of the inhabitants of Staro Rus was also not granted. In March 1808, the blessing of Metropolitan Ambrose of Novgorod on returning the icon was sent to the City Duma, but it never took place. The next petition was filed on October 22, 1830 to Emperor Nicholas I, but in 1831 it was rejected due to the uprising of military settlers that took place in Staro Rus.

The next attempt was made in June 1848. In Staro Rus, a cholera epidemic broke out. The city council turned to the Holy Synod with a request for the return of the icon, pledging to leave a copy adorned with jewelry in Tikhvin. The decree of the Holy Synod of September 22, 1850 No. 9855 stated: "The Tikhvin people put forward the pretexts for the appropriation of the Icon brought from Staro Rus that the Icon has been in Tikhvin for three centuries and that, in their zeal, they beautifully adorned it. But these circumstances do not contain the rights to appropriation, because laws on civil prescription cannot extend to matters concerning a shrine." But the decision of the Synod was again not in favor of the people of Staro Rus.

In 1888, the townspeople again sent another petition to the Holy Synod through Metropolitan Isidore of Novgorod. At the same time, they turn for support to the commander of the troops of the St. Petersburg Military District, Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, who twenty-three years prior, together with his brother Alexei Alexandrovich, rested in an old Russian resort. On October 29, 1887 he sent a letter in support of the petition of the rector of the Transfiguration Monastery Archimandrite Mardarius. On May 7, 1888, almost 180 years after the first petition, the final decision was made to return the Icon, approved by Emperor Alexander III.

On August 24, 1888, about a hundred people, not counting half a company of soldiers of the 86th Wilmanstrand Regiment, set off for the icon. They also brought to Tikhvin an exact copy of the Staro Rus icon with equivalent ornaments, for the painting of which 14,500 rubles in silver were collected as soon as possible. The icon was carried on hand by the procession with prayers. On September 17, the icon was finally returned to Staro Rus and placed in the Transfiguration Monastery. The arrival of the icon in Novgorod and Staro Rus was attended by Bishop Vladimir of Starorussky. In 1892, a church was built in the monastery to the Wonderworking Old Russian Icon of the Mother of God, where the icon was transferred.

Now that Staro Rus had two icons of the Staro Rus Icon of the Mother of God, the copy and the original, two feast days were established for them - May 4th and September 17th. But the inhabitants of Staro Rus noticed a major difference between the copy and the original - the face of Jesus was turned differently; on the copy Jesus is turned away from the Mother of God as if trying to get away from her, while on the original his right cheek is tenderly against her left cheek. One legend says that the Tikhvin people casually kept the shrine. From time and soot, the icon of the Mother of God darkened, and it was impossible to distinguish the features of the holy faces. With great difficulty, the painters hired by Krasilnikov painted a copy from it. And after some time, the Tikhvin people updated the icon on the model of the Tikhvin icon. Another source reports that the face of Christ turned away to the side at the sight of the barbaric life of the Staro Rus citizens.

During the years of Soviet rule, the icons were ravaged, the silver was removed from them, and the images themselves were transferred to the Old Russian Museum of Local Lore. The fate of the original icon is unknown, it disappeared during the war years. The second icon during the occupation of Staro Rus by German troops was transferred to the temple that opened in the city. In 1943, when the civilian population was evacuated from the city, it was taken to the city of Dno and placed in the Mikhailovsky Church, also opened under occupation. After liberation, in 1946, the icon was returned to Staro Rus and is in the Church of the Holy Great Martyr George in the icon case in the left nave. It is this icon that is now revered by believers as miraculous.