The water of Svisloch

the Minsk icon of The Virgin

It appeared in the water of Svisloch …

The history of appearance of the majority of wonderworking icons is shrouded in myths and legends which as a rule do not have documentary confirmations. The Christian history of Belarus is full of miracles and surprising events connected to different icons of The Virgin.

The main relic of Belarus - the Minsk icon of The Virgin – is situated to the left of the Imperial gate in the Minsk orthodox Holy Spirit Cathedral and has the richest history of all belarusian icons.

Under the church legend it was painted by the Apostle and Evangelist Luke in the 1st century of Christian era at the request of brothers - apostles and Christians. Many years it was situated in Byzantium, then in Korsun (Herson). The Virgin Mary told that the grace of God would be with that icon incessantly, and then she blessed the first icon and addressed it as a visible sign of her constant and grace presence among people.

The Metropolitan of Minsk and Slutsk, the Patriarchal Exarch of the whole of Belarus Filaret in one of annual holidays of the icon (on August, 26) in the sermon told: "Under a blessed cover of a wonderworking The Virgin … the blessed capital of White Russia exists five centuries. The historical way of this relic connects together times and people – an ancient Byzantine capital Tsargrad, the Greek city of Korsun, the mother of Russian cities Kiev and the capital of White Russia Minsk … And in each place of the stay this ancient icon … showed its great grace that people who fell down before it  with belief and reverence … ".

The history testifies that the grand prince of Kiev Vladimir Svjatoslavovich, after wedding with the Byzantine tsarevna Anna and the christening in Korsun in 988, transported this icon to Kiev and placed it in a temple, consecrated in honour of The Assumption of the Virgin. For the century of the existence on the Kiev land it won the love and respect of believers. The temple and the icon suffered from numerous attacks of enemies repeatedly (1169, 1204, and 1240).

Then the trace of the icon is lost for more than two hundred years. The annals kept the record that at the next devastating attack of Tatars to Kiev, the Crimean khan Mengli-Girej in 1482, having captured the city, «robbed it and burnt it out, having captured many prisoners». And the legend adds that one of aggressors took the relic from a temple, took precious ornaments and the framework, and threw the icon to the waters of Dnepr … But as a popular wisdom says, God can’t be profaned …

The legend says, that two days before Christmas of the Virgin, on August, 26, 1500, the holy face showed up to the citizens of ancient Minsk "wonderfully with the stream, or against the stream, or through Angels it was transported to Minsk, and stood on the river Svisloch under the castle, and proceeded an unusual light, was extracted by inhabitants of the place from water, and was escorted up to the church Zamkovaja on August 13, 1500 .

There are also certificates, that the citizens of Kiev, saved from Tatars on belarusian lands, recognized the relic. Therefore the day of August, 26 became the day of the memory of the Minsk icon of The Virgin, which is celebrated not only in the Holy-Spirit Cathedral of the belarusian capital, but also in many temples of the country.

 In 1505 the horde of khan Mengli-Girej reached Minsk. After the service of the defenders of Minsk in the Castle Church an unequal fight started. The history speaks, that conquerors burnt Minsk down, captured tens thousand townspeople and local peasants, but the castle with a wonderworking icon remained untouched. The castle and the defenders were considered to be under the invisible protection of the icon. And after a while, at the battle of Kletsk, the belarusian-Lithuanian army completely defeated aggressors and freed prisoners. There is one more fact: the punishment of a wonderworking icon has come to pass.

News about a wonderworking relic was quickly carried across the Western Russia that led to an extraordinary big pilgrimage. Not by chance the historian Ignaty Stebelsky in one of the books, which was published in Vilno in 1781, mentioned the Minsk icon of The Virgin among the most honoured wonderworking icons of our territory.

Five centuries the icon was on the Minsk land and changed its location several times. Gradually the Castle Church fell into decay. After the Uniat Church was set up (1596) many temples and monasteries were seized from Orthodox and passed to the Uniat Church. The icon was transported to the main temple of the Holy Spirit Uniat Monastery in the Verhnij city. Probably, it happened on October, 16, 1616 in the day of the memory of the holy apostle - evangelist Luke. This is a confirmation of the fact that a relic was painted by the apostle.

More than two centuries the icon was in the Holy-Spirit Uniat Temple. After the union of Minsk with the Russian empire the temple was passed to the Orthodox and at the end of the XVIII century it was consecrated in honour of apostles Peter and Paul.

The Minsk relic went through numerous fires, persecutions of Bolsheviks - atheists, the evil of the Second World War …

Historical documents, restoration works gave the right to propose, that the icon equal in the importance to the Vladimir icon of The Virgin (Russia) and Andrei Rublev`s "Trinity" is kept in Belarus. It is symbolical, that the unusual history of the Minsk icon of he Virgin united Orthodox, Catholics and members of the Uniat Church. Time and people have kept the wonderworking, "it appeared on the water of Svisloch … ".

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