The holy icon of the Mother of God was housed in the Monastery of Peribleptos (“beautiful sights”) located on the road to the Golden Gates near the Monastery of Stoudios. The monastery was founded by the Roman emperor Romanos III Argyros (1034); its construction was resumed between 1261 and 1282. The monastery owned many famous Christian relics; in the 14th century it was visited by Russian pilgrims, one of which, deacon Alexander, was in the monastery during 1391 - 1397 (probably, ca. 1395). He was the only one to have said the Monastery of Peribleptos “has an icon of the holy Mother of God that was cut by a Jew during a chess game, and it streamed blood.” The icon wounded by a Jew was also located in the Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Constantinople. The icon from the Monastery of Peribleptos might have something to do with the Hagia Sophia sanctity, yet there are more reasons to believe that these were two different icons.

The icon from the Monastery of Peribleptos was lost. But, thanks to the icon of the Mother of God Peribleptos from the Monastery of Peribleptos in Ohrid (the church was consecrated in 1295) one can get an insight into the icon’s iconography. N.P.Kondakov wrote that the Mother of God icon in Ohrid, carrying the inscription “Peribleptos” “was named after a monastery in the Byzantine capital, mentioned in chronicles”. In the late 13th – 14th century, the Monastery of Peribleptos in Constantinople possibly had copies of the locally venerated icon on which the blood-streaming wound was no longer depicted. The Ohrid icon of the Mother of God “Peribleptos” of the early 14th century could have been the first or one of the subsequent copies of the venerated image lacking the depiction of the blood-streaming wound.

The half-length figure of the Mother of God belongs to the iconographic type known as Hodegetria. The Mother of God is shown almost frontally, with Her head slightly inclined towards the Infant Christ and Her look directed at the praying people. She holds the Child Christ in her left arm and points with her right hand to Christ. Christ is shown sitting half-turned towards his Mother. He gives a blessing with his right hand, and in His right he holds a scroll. The Child Christ is sitting with his legs crossed.

One of the “Periblebtos” icon - a small 14th century image of the Theotokos – is located at the Moscow Kremlin Museum. One more copy of the venerated icon dating back the last quarter of the 14th century was painted in Byzantine and is now housed at the Sergiev Posad Museum. The iconography of the holy image also includes the Mother of God Hodegetria (ca. 1397, the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow). The icon once belonged to the righteous Cyril of Belozersk, and, according to legend, was had been transferred from St. Simon Monastery. Unlike the above icons, it was painted by a Russian (Moscow) painter in the late 14th century and does not replicate the Constantinople icon or its copy from the Monastery of Peribleptos in Constantinople.

Zhanna G. Belik,

Ph.D. in Art history, senior research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum, custodian of the tempera painting collection.

Olga E. Savchenko,

research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum.


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