Feast of The Icon of the Sign of the Theotokos
The icon of the Mother of God of the Sign is one of the most venerated icons of Russia. Its history is linked with the history of Novgorod, which in Kievan Russia was the cultural and commercial center of the North of Russia and one of old Russia’s first cities. The importance of Novgorod has certainly contributed to the fame of the icon. Similar to Constantinople, the city had made the icon a sign of special protection by the Mother of God.
Starting in the 12th century the icon was the source of several miracles, the first of which took place in Novgorod. In those days the icon was called “Znamenie”, which in Old Russian means “Apparition” or “Sign”. Since the City of Novgorod had so much power and also had many vested interests in Northern Russia, many conflicts arose with its neighbours. One such conflict erupted in 1169. Prince Andrew Bogolioubski who left Kiev and took possession of Vladimir, arrived with his army at the walls of Novgorod. The besieged citizens had no other defense than calling on the Mother of God for protection.
According to the legend, their bishop, Saint John of Novgorod, went to get the precious icon and placed it on the city walls. On November 27th the enemy strengthened its attack with a downpour of arrows into the city. One of them hit the icon of the Mother of God. Immediately, the Virgin turned her view away from the enemy and towards the city. With it she gave a “sign” of mercy to the defenders. When the bishop looked towards the icon and saw tears welling from the eyes of the Virgin, he wiped off her tears with an end of his priestly vestment. At that very moment a cloud covered the attackers who, blinded from fear, started to kill one another. The Novgorodians, encouraged by this miraculous sign, launched an attack outside their walls and routed the city was saved.
In remembrance of the miraculous intercession of the Theotokos, Archbishop Elias established a feast day in honor of the “Sign of the Mother of God”, which the Russian Church celebrates to the present day.
For a description of the icon go to: