According to legend, the miraculous icon of the Konevskaya Mother of God was brought to Russia in 1393 by Arseni Konevsky, who had had been a monk at a monastery on Mount Athos. When St. Arseni returned home, starets John (Zidon) II blessed with this icon. According to his hagiography, the saint spent much time looking for a place to built a monastery until he found himself near Ladozhskoye Lake not far from Konevets Island. After the starets prayed to the miraculous icon, a storm began on the lake and his boat was washed ashore the island. St. Arseni saw it as the Divine sign. He put a cross on the island and built a monastic cell. After a while other monks began to join him and St. Arseni went to Athos to get blessing for the construction of the monastery. Anxious about his long absence, the monks began to grumble but after a prayer to the icon starets Joachim told the monk that the icon had said to him in a human voice: “Grieve, starets, but tell the monks not to leave the place.”

The ancient miraculous icon is presently located in the New Valaam (Novovalaamsky) Monastery in Finland to where it was evacuated during the 1939-40 Soviet-Finnish war along with other property of the Konevsky and Valaam monasteries. The icon date raises doubts of the experts. The Monastery of the Nativity of Christ founded by St. Arseni on Konevets island, due to proximity to border areas burnt many times and was looted by the Swedes. The monks were forced to leave the monastery for Novgorod. During one of these evacuations in the 16th century the original icon may have been lost and replaced with a copy. The copies of the Konevskaya icon have been widespread in Russia since the 16th century. The iconography developed under the influence of Western European specimen and has a precise progotraph – a depiction of the Mother of God on the Sterbini Dyptich (1318, Rome, Palazzo, Venice) which the miraculous icon imitates in details.

The Konevskaya icon of the Mother of God is commemorated on July 23 (July 10, O.S.).

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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