Mother of God of Tikhvin

Region: Russia
Period: Late 17th Century
Size: 30,5 x 26,5


The Mother of God of Tikhvin is one of the ‘Hodegitria’-type (Greek: ‘She who shows the way’). The most important difference from the classical Hodegetria Icon is that the legs of Christ are crossed, while the sole of his foot is turned to the viewer. This can be interpreted as a reference to Genesis 3,15: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Following this line of reasoning, by showing his heel, Christ affirms both his humanity and his divinity. The uncovered heel thus forebodes his suffering as well as his victory over death.

According to orthodox tradition, the original icon of the Mother of God of Tikhvin was painted in Jerusalem by the Evangelist Luke. In the fifth Century the icon was transferred to Constantinople, where it was enshrined in the Church of Blachernae. Russian chronicles tell the story of the icon appearing in several places near the city of Novgorod. Fishermen saw it hovering over the Lake Lagoda while villagers of Motchenitsy witnessed its appearance in the banks of the river Tikhvin. When the icon finally appeard near the town of Tikhvin, a wooden church dedicated to the Dormition of the Mother of God was built. In the following centuries the icon of the Mother of God of Tikhvin was enshrined in this modest wooden church. In the 16th Century a stone monastery was built near the site. When Swedish army seized the city of Novgorod in 1613-1614, several attempts were made to destroy the monastery. The icon of the Mother of God of Tikhvin played an important role protecting the monastery and later on the city of Novgorod.