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October 12, 2020

Translation from Malta to Gatchina of a Portion of the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord, Together with the Philermos Icon of the Mother of God, and the Right Hand of Saint John the Baptist (1799)

Translation of Sacred Items from Malta to Gatchina (Feast Day - October 12)

The Translation from Malta to Gatchina of a Portion of the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord, together with the Philermos Icon of the Mother of God (from Mount Philermos on the Greek island of Rhodes), and the right hand of Saint John the Baptist took place in the year 1799.
These holy things were preserved on the island of Malta by the Knights of the Catholic Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, known as the Hospitallers. On June 11, 1798, when the French armies of Napolean landed on the island on their way to Egypt, the Maltese knights turned to Russia for defense and protection. They did this because the Charter of the Order of the Hospitallers forbade them to take up arms against other Christians. On October 12, 1799 they offered these ancient holy things to the emperor Paul I, who at this time was at Gatchina. In the autumn of 1799 the holy items were transferred to Saint Petersburg and placed in the Winter Palace within the church dedicated to the Icon of the Savior Not-Made-by-Hands. The feast for this event was established in 1800. 

The right hand of Saint John the Baptist ended up with the Hospitallers when the Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, after which it was transported to the island of Rhodes, where this knightly order was then located. When the Turks captured Rhodes in 1522, the Hospitallers moved to Malta, taking all the sacred items with them.
By ancient tradition, the Philermos Icon of the Mother of God was painted by the holy Evangelist Luke. From Jerusalem it was transferred to Constantinople, where it was situated in the Blachernae Church. In the thirteenth century it was taken from there by crusaders, and from that time was kept by the Knights of the Order of Saint John. 
After the October Revolution, the sacred items ended up in the Gatchina Pavlovsky Cathedral, from where they were taken to Estonia in the fall of 1919, when Yudenich's army left Gatchina, and then to Denmark, where they were transferred to the widow of Alexander III, Maria Feodorovna. Her daughters gave the relics to Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky). The relics were stored in Berlin, then in Yugoslavia, but disappeared during the Second World War, and after the war, Yugoslav law enforcement agencies searched for the relics for six years. Having discovered them in 1951 in the Cetinje Monastery in Montenegro, the authorities transferred the relics to the storage of the State Historical Museum of the city of Cetinje. Their presence there was publicly revealed only in 1993, on the occasion of the visit of Russian Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow.