Holy Virgin Life-giving Spring is an iconographic type of the depiction of the Motherof God with the Divine Child and there are several variants of it.

The origin of this iconographic tradition lies in veneration of the miracle-working spring outside the walls of Constantinople at the gate of Silivri. According to the legend in 450 a warrior who subsequently became byzantine emperor Leo I by the order of the Mother of God returned the sight to the blind man by applying to his eye the mud from the plant-filled spring. A few years later Leo I ordered to clear the spring and to build a monastery nearby.

There were several images of the Mother of God in the temple of the monastery. Prayer to the Holy Virgin represented on them performed miraculous healings. One of those images according to the byzantine church historian Nicephorus Callistus represented the Mother of God in the imperial clothing “as if scooping the holy water and making all around Herself and the pilgrims holy”. Another mosaic depiction represented the Life-giving spring and the Mother of God. Probably this very composition was subsequently related to the name “Life-giving Spring” and formed the basis of the iconography.

In the byzantine art the survived depictions of this kind can be divided into two versions. The depictions of the Mother of God with Her hands raised up in the pose of Oranta and the Divine Child on Her bosom in the aureole or without it can be attributed to the first version. To the second one belong the depictions of the Mother of God holding the aureole with the Divine Child or Child Jesus Himself. Some variants depict the Mother of God with the Saviour in the phial. The earliest of the survived depictions with the inscription “Life-giving Spring” dates back to 1322. It can be seen in the frescoes of the church of the Virgin Hodegetria in the Vrontokhion monastery in Mystras.

In the ancient Russian art only one such depiction can be found: on the west wall of the Dormition church on the Volotovo field in the Velikiy Novgorod, the frescoes of the temple were made in the second half of the 14th century.

This motive was widely spread in Russian art in the 17th century after the act of worshiping the icon “Life-giving Spring” at the time of Nikon being the patriarch. There are many versions of this iconographic tradition. One of them depict the Mother of God in the phial. Sometimes the water flows out of the phial to the reservoir looking like a quatrefoil near which stand people scooping and drinking the water from the spring. To the right and to the left of the Holy Virgin the angels and the saints may be shown. In other iconographic versions the Mother of God with the Divine Child can be depicted enthroned or standing on the clouds. The position of the Divine Child on the hands of the Mother of God also differs – Our Lady may hold Child Jesus before Her chest or on Her left hand, She may also be depicted in the pose of Oranta with Her hands raised up in prayer.

The icon is honored on Friday of the Bright Week.                  


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