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The Iveron Icon of the Mother of God

The Iveron Icon, Our Reminder of the Theotokos' Loving Protection

The Iveron Icon

Rejoice, the blessed gatekeeper, the one who opens the gates of heaven to the faithful.
(Akathist to the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God)

The love of the Mother of God for us sinners is not easy to comprehend, but God has given us Her holy icons so we may not forget how much She loves us as we go about our daily business. The Queen of Heaven is the protectress of our whole lives, and the Iberon icon of the Mother of God reminds us of that incessantly.

"Everything about the finding of the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God is truly wondrous. It reminds us in every way about Her miraculous protection of the human race. It is as if She is watching over all the entry and exit routes to our lives, and hence She is called "the blessed gatekeeper who opens the doors to Heaven to everyone." As if trying to bring this message to all the people, She chose Her image's location under the gate of the Iveron Monastery. Likewise, in Moscow, She acts as a guardian of the fates of all the Russian people who come together from places far and wide to the heart of Russia."

The Holy Martyr Thaddeus (Uspensky)

banner Luke book

As the Church tradition has it, the icon was painted by the evangelist Luke and remained in Nicea for centuries. During the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Theophilus, an iconoclast, in the ninth century, a pious widow kept the sacred image in her domestic church. She was praying before it in secret when the Emperor's guards stormed into her dwelling. One of the guardsmen, an iconoclast, found the icon and pierced it with his sword, and immediately, it began to bleed. The pious widow implored the awe-stricken men to let the icon stay for another night. To protect it from desecration, the woman took the icon to the sea in the company of her son. Then they lowered it in the waves and observed as it was drifting away Westwards, carried by the sea waves.

the Iveron Icon carried by the sea waves

The widow's son eventually went on to ascetise on Mount Athos in the area where the Iveron Monastery was later built. He told his brethren about the icon from his childhood. For over 200 years, the monks kept alive the legend of the wonder working icon, and one day they saw a pillar of light in the sea.

The holy image sat on top of this pillar, but they could not reach it. Every time they tried, it moved further away from their boat. In those years, monk Gabriel, a native of Georgia, was ascetising at the Iveron Monastery as a hermit. He lived in a secluded cave on top of a mountain. The Mother of God came to him in a vision and commanded: "Tell the abbot and the brethren about My will to give them My icon, and give them My protection and help. Then go out to sea, step with faith on the waves and take My icon from the water.

The mountain where Hermit Gabriel ascetised in a cave

The mountain where Hermit Gabriel ascetised in a cave at 500 metres above sea level

Gabriel walked on the sea as on dry land. He took the icon in his hands and delivered it to the monastery. The monks placed it in a church, only to find it on the next day above the monastery gate. For several days, they put the icon back in the church and discovered her above the gate the next morning. Finally, She made Her will known to the monks through the venerable Gabriel.

“Tell the brethren, She said to him, that I do not will to be protected by you, but I wish to become your protectress myself. As long as you see My icon above the gates, the abundant grace of My son will not run dry.” Grateful, the monks of the Georgian monastery built a chapel above the gate and placed the icon there. There, the icon has remained to this day. Many know it as the Gatekeeper icon.

The chapel where the Venerable Gabriel

The chapel where the Venerable Gabriel performed his ascetic deeds

"Not only the Holy Mount Athos is illuminated by the image of the Iveron Icon, but the capital city Moscow is adorned by it, and hence receives Her wondrous intercession and reassurance coming from Her image. And also the lands of Novgorod and other cities are illuminated by the image of Your icon, O Queen of Heaven, and have been sanctified and enlightened by it.”
(Canon to the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God, Eighth Ode)

Three earthly dominions of the Mother of God - Mount Authors, Georgia and Russia - have been blessed with its wonder-working copies, named the Iveron Icon after the Iveron Monastery. Each of these three dominions has numerous churches and monasteries dedicated to the Iveron Icon.

The Iveron “gatekeeper” icon first appeared in Russia in the 17th century. Inspired by the abundance of miracles and blessings bestowed by the prayers before Her sacred image, Archimandrite Nikon of Novospassky Monastery of Russia and the future patriarch of Russia, requested an exact copy of the miracle-working Iveron Icon from abbot Pachomius of the Iveron Monastery.

Iveron Icon of the Mother of God

The Iveron Icon of the Mother of God (crushed semi-precious stones) made in Saint Elisabeth Convent

Hieromonk Jamvlich Romanov worked on the copy, observing a strict fast throughout. The monks of the Iveron Monastery also fasted and served frequent night vigils. Finally, the icon arrived in Moscow on 13 October 1648, where it was met by the Russian Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich, Patriarch Joseph and the people. From 1654, it remained in the Novedevichiy Monastery of Moscow for almost 350 years. In Soviet times, the icon was kept in the vaults of the State Historical Museum, until it was returned to Novodevochiy Monastery on 6 May 2012.

Novodevichiy Monastery, Moscow

Novodevichiy Monastery, Moscow

Patriarch Nikon established a monastery on Lake Valday, dedicated to the Iveron Icon. Another copy was commissioned for the monastery from the monks of Mount Athos, who completed it in 1654. The copy disappeared soon after the Russian Revolution of 1917, and its whereabouts are still unknown. Today, the monastery keeps a later copy of the Iveron Icon.

Valday Monastery of the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God

Valday Monastery of the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God

Multiple copies of the Iveron Icon spread across Russia. One of them was placed at the Voskresensky Gate in Moscow’s Red Square. The dramatic 20th century saw many losses, yet by the grace of God, the chapel and the icon's lost copy have been restored. In the words of Patriarch Alexis of Russia, "The Iveron icon of the Most Holy Theotokos has finally returned to its historical place in the newly rebuilt Iveron Chapel at the Voskresensky gate in central Moscow."

orthodox music

With great awe and piety, our ancestors have called Russia the domain of the Mother of God. And this was not pride or self-aggrandising, but a sign of humble gratitude to the Queen of Heaven and Earth for Her plentiful mercies, and an expression of sincere love for their Protectress and Intercessor Who came to their rescue in their most difficult moments.

Today, the Orthodox commemorate the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God with the same strong belief that the Holy Mother of God will not abandon our cities, our country and our people, and will keep it under Her protection like She has done at all times.

The chapel with the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God in Moscow's Red Square

The chapel with the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God in Moscow's Red Square

The people of Georgia, Belarus and Ukraine also venerate the Mother of God as their Protectress in heaven. Numerous temples in honour of Her Iveron image bring holiness to our lands, reminding us of Her loving and wise guidance as we make our way to the Kingdom of Heaven.

I pray in silence before the Iveron Icon
My innermost secrets I open to my Lord
I pray that the Holy Gatekeeper will let me through the gates
And that the Lord will give me the humility to pass through them.
Pray for me, my advocate, plead with your Son
So He would help me bear my cross, and overcome my infirmities
Before Your Iveron Image, I implore you
To cover and keep me warm under your protective veil.
O Merciful Lord! May your uncreated light
Show me the way and spare me from misfortunes!

Natalya Leshukova

a tower

To the champion leader, our Mistress the Theotokos, do we, your servants, offer hymns of praise, as ones who have acquired a mighty shield, an insuperable rampart and an ever-vigilant guardian through the arrival of your precious image. As you are possessed of invisible might, protect and defend us, O Mistress, from all enemies, visible and invisible, and deliver us from all harm of body and soul.

(Kontakion 1 from the Akathist hymn chanted before the Iveron Icon of the All-Holy Theotokos)

If you wish to submit prayer requests for a service to the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God, please follow the link.

October 25, 2023
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