Of all the Eastern Christian icons, the "Theotokos of Vladimir" (from the Greek word Theotokos meaning "God bearer") is one of the most beloved and well known not only among Eastern Orthodox Christians, but also in the West. Even St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, London, has a copy of this icon in its Nave.
This Orthodox Icon of Our Lady is a medieval Byzantine icon of the Virgin and Child. In 1169 Yury Dolgorukiy sacked the city of Kiev, and after plundering the city, stealing much religious artwork, including the Byzantine "Mother of God" icon which was transferred to Vladimir. It is one of the most venerated Orthodox icons and a fine and early example of the iconography of the Eleusa (tenderness, mercy) type. The Theotokos (Greek for Virgin Mary, literally meaning "Birth-Giver of God") is regarded as the holy protectress of Russia. The icon is displayed in the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow in a former church in the grounds of the museum. Her feast day is June 23rd according to the Julian calendar and July 6 according to the Gregorian calendar. Even more than most famous Christian Orthodox icons, the original has been copied repeatedly for centuries, and many copies have considerable artistic and religious significance of their own. The icon is a version of the Eleusa (tenderness) type, with the Christ child snuggling up to his mother's cheek.
Unlike some icons with a special following in religious terms the high artistic quality of the work is universally agreed, and the Vladimirskaya, as Russians call it, is generally accepted as the finest of the few Byzantine icons surviving from its period, and according to the art historian David Talbot Rice "is admitted by all who have seen it to be one of the most outstanding religious paintings of the world". The icon of the Theotokos of Vladimir is sometimes described as expressing universal feelings of motherly love and anxiety for her child. Like some other icons it was believed to have been painted by St Luke from its living subjects. The venerated image was used in celebration of coronations of tsars, elections of patriarchs, and other important ceremonies of state.
The icon has three feast days: May 21, June 23, and August 26.
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