The Theotokos of Vladimir (also known as Vladimir Mother of God) is a very famous icon painting, originating in Constantinople and now located in Moscow, from the 12th century, with no known artist. The icon is approximately 30 inches high, painted in egg tempera on wood panel, and contains an image of the Virgin Mary and Child. The child holds his arm around his mother’s neck, touching his face to hers in a very tender moment. She holds him in his right arm while looking at him with a face which exudes motherly love but also sadness. Her left arm points towards the Christ child, a gesture which is  interpreted as Mary pointing the way to salvation; that is, through Christ. This image has a strong emphasis on tenderness, compassion, and mercy. It is also the most famous example of an Eleousa Icon, which refers to the virtue of Mary.

The icon is credited to saving the city of Moscow several times from invasion:

  • 1395: Vasily I, the Prince of Moscow, spent an evening crying over the icon during Tamerlane's invasion. The following day, Tamerlane’s forces retreated.

  • 1451 and 1480: The icon is credited with saving the city from attacks from Tartar hordes.

  • 1941: Allegedly, Stalin ordered the icon to be flown around the city to ward off an impending German attack. Several days later, the Germans started their retreat.


Patriarch Luke Chrysoberges sent the icon to Kiev as a gift to Russia in 1131 . It was moved to Vladimir by Prince Andrei Bogolioubski in 1155 when he set up the new capital there. It was eventually moved to Moscow in 1395, where it remains today in the Tretyakov Gallery.


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