Gallery The Icon of the Mother of God of Jerusalem

3. may 2020

The Spiritual Heritage

The icon we are looking at radiates peace and warmth. Both spring from the deep inner connection between the Mother and the child. However, this connection is not expressed by sharp feelings and great gestures, but by the silence in which the characters reside. But it is not an intrusive silence, dumb or empty, but on the contrary, it is filled with understanding and the strength of their mutual relationship. Through the image, Jesus refers to the path that comes to man - in silence and contemplation. With the love with which He looks at His mother, He also looks at us and wants to leave us a message of salvation. God, capable of great wonders and miracles, hinges defencelessly towards Mary, because out of love for humanity, He has allowed Himself to become like us. He wants to appear to us similarly to how he appeared to Elijah on Mount Horeb in the breeze. In the First Book of Kings we read: “Before the Lord came a wind, great and violent, tearing the hills and breaking the rocks. But the Lord was not in the wind. An earthquake after the wind, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. Fire after the earthquake, but the Lord was not on fire. And a quiet, delicious noise after the fire”. This is how the iconographer shows us a God whom we can listen to only as Mary was attentive to him, with humility and devotion.

The Icon of the Mother of God of Jerusalem

The Icon of the Mother of God of Jerusalem ranks among the so-called "Miraculous" because it is associated with a number of fulfilled prayers. In addition to healing during the plague in 1771, it helped stop the cholera epidemic that was approaching Moscow in the 19th century. Residents of villages in Kolomensko, Dyakov, Saburov and others then asked church leaders to show a miraculous icon for public prayers. After the ceremony, no more people have died of cholera in the district. 

According to tradition, the authorship of the icon is attributed to the holy evangelist Luke. He is believed to have created it in the Garden of Gethsemane in the 15th year after the Ascension of the Lord (48 AD). It was his first of the 70 icons of the Virgin Mary he created during his lifetime and was originally intended to serve a small Christian community in Jerusalem.

            It was transferred to Constantinople in 463. Less than two centuries later, when the city was surrounded by tribes of Scythians, people gathered in front of the "Mother of God of Jerusalem" to ask for help. Soon after, the enemy army was actually stopped, and the Byzantines repulsed the unexpected attack.

            Subsequently, in 988, the icon was handed over to Prince Vladimir in Corsun, where he received baptism at that time. However, he did not keep it for long, because when the people of Novgorod accepted Christianity, he sent them this icon as a gift. At the order of Tsar Ivan the Terrible, the icon was finally transported to the Assumption Cathedral in Kremlin. It disappeared irretrievably from there during the Napoleonic invasion in 1812, as a result of which the original had to be replaced by a corresponding copy. Today we can see this rare portrait, among other important places, in the immediate vicinity of the Garden of Gethsemane, in the tomb of the Mother of God in Jerusalem.2

The Description of the Icon

The subject of the Icon we are looking at originated, as mentioned above, in the early days of Christianity. Over time, there has been an ever-widening development of this subject, which is regularly repeated in numerous variations. We can say that three other, basic depictions of the Virgin come out of it, which we call: Hodegetria (translated from Greek means Guide, or "The one who shows the way"), Eleussa (Gentle, "Showing Compassion") and Oranta (The Intercessor). All are characterized by almost identical poses and clothing, and throughout history they have become a model for other types of paintings, each with a specific name. 3

The question remains how to distinguish the Icon of the Mother of God of Jerusalem from other paintings, with the same subject. We can notice that Mary holds little Jesus with her left hand and points to him with the outstretched palm of her right hand. With this gesture, she introduces the divine child, through whom it is possible to find the real path of life, the path to the kingdom of heaven. These are the words that Christ himself will later say: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14: 6).

The sight of the Mother and Saviour are also not directed at the viewer, as we can see in most scenes, but the two faces are turned towards each other in intimate unity. The love with which Mary embraces her only begotten son is a manifestation of the care for everyone who flees to her. Through Christ, Mary has become the mother of all believers, and with the goodness that embraces the child she wants to embrace all of humanity.

The last sign, confirming the uniqueness of the icon, is a special shade of a distinctive red colour, especially visible in the folds of Mary's upper garment. Red is an expression of the holiness and pain she experienced during her life. Her suffering, after all, was already foretold by the Prophet Simeon at the sacrifice of the Lord in the temple: "And a sword shall pierce your own soul, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" (Lk 2:35). Statement, which suggests that Mary was not just an ordinary human, by bringing the Son of God into the world, she herself became the queen of heaven. The dark tunic, which covers her hair and shoulders, refers to the condition of a married woman. For this reason, we cannot observe Mary without a veil or with simply loose hair in Orthodox church, contrary to what is a relatively common phenomenon in Western iconography. 4

Also worth noting are the three stars on Mary's forehead and both of her shoulders. They are a sign of her purity and virginity before the conception of Christ, when she carried Him in the womb and after childbirth. The blue colour on the bottom robe of the Mother of God proves her human origin. The child Jesus also wears a blue tunic because He has become a man through the Virgin, but He reveals his divine nature by a golden cloak. He proves His sovereign rule over heaven and earth.


In the halo, which has the shape of a cross, we can see the Greek letters O - Ѡ - N. They replace the words "I am who I am" (Exodus 3:14), which is the name of God known from the Old Testament. Large initials in both upper corners: МР ОУ state that the figure on the icon is the Mother of God. In the arms of the Virgin, Jesus blesses us with two fingers, thus revealing His dual nature - divine and human. The scroll in the other hand is a symbol of His later teachings. The golden background, which prevails throughout the icon, highlights the majesty of both figures and emphasizes their sovereign standing.


The Prayer tradition


The believers pray to the icon for liberation from various diseases, including those against which doctors are powerless. Many cases of recovery from blindness, paralysis, even from mass epidemics are known. Among other things, many beg the icon to protect their home or country from enemy attacks, from theft, material damage or natural disasters. The intercession of the Mother strengthens the spiritual will, helps to maintain cohesion in the family, and anyone who embarks on a long journey should ask the icon to accompany them in advance. Many worship it even on the eve of important or uncertain events in order to reverse the possible risks.1



Иерусалимская икона Божией Матери [online] 2020 Православный портал [cit. 2020-3-25]



2.       Иерусалимская икона Божией Матери [online] 2020 Православный портал

Janos, S. The Jerusalem Icon of the Mother of God [online] 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos [cit. 2020-3-25] <>


3.       ИЕРУСАЛИМСКАЯ БОЖЬЯ МАТЕРЬ [online] 2020 Православный интернет-магазин "Дом Иконы" [cit. 2020-3-25]



4.       Икона Иерусалимской Божьей Матери [online] Иконы Светланы Богатовой в Санкт-Петербурге, 2015 [cit. 2020-3-25]