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4 Nov, 2023 14:13

Russian patriarch announces discovery of long lost icon

Known as Our Lady of Kazan, it is one of the most famous and revered holy images in Russian Orthodoxy
Russian patriarch announces discovery of long lost icon

Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, has presented to the public what he claims is the historic icon of the Mother of God of Kazan. The holy image, which is one of the most revered in Russian Orthodoxy due its role in the Polish–Muscovite War in the early 17th century, had been considered lost for more than a century.

The patriarch made the revelation during a service at the Cathedral of the Dormition at the Moscow Kremlin on Saturday, when worshipers marked the day of Our Lady of Kazan.

The rediscovery of the holy image “should be considered a historic event,” Patriarch Kirill said as he presented it to the public.

“We see before us the original miraculous image of the Kazan Mother of God... which saved our people from foreign intervention [during the Polish–Muscovite War between 1608 and 1615] and it is unknown what the consequences of that intervention were. This image is sacred for us,” he stressed.

According to the patriarch, the icon was among other works, including many gifts, stored at his residence outside Moscow. He said he accidentally came across the holy image representing the Virgin Mary while looking through this collection.

Patriarch Kirill stressed that he first thought it to be a really well-made copy, but experts later concluded that it actually belongs to the historic period when Orthodox Christians first obtained the Kazan icon of the Mother of God.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church confessed that he was initially hesitant to tell the public about his discovery, but when his concerns about the authenticity of the holy image were resolved, he realized that “it was impossible to hide this story – our people and the whole world should know about it.” 

Legend has it that the Kazan icon of the Mother of God was discovered in Kazan in 1579 after most of the city was destroyed in a massive blaze. The holy image, which has been copied on a number occasions, has played an important role in Russian history.

The replica that the patriarch unveiled on Saturday accompanied the militia led by Kuzma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky as they defeated the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth’s forces that occupied Moscow between 1610 and 1612.

The icon was later displayed at Kazan Cathedral, which was built on Red Square in Moscow especially for that purpose. The holy image, which contained plating made of precious metals and jewels, was stolen from the cathedral in 1918 and its whereabouts were unknown for more than a century.

After the service, Kirill announced that the holy image, which is considered to be miracle-working, will be returned to Kazan Cathedral.