Today we will take a look at the Rudenskaya icon of Mary, another of the less common types:
It is not difficult to see that this Hodigitria (“Way-shower”) type is very much like the famous Polish Częstochowa image of Mary, which type is known in Russia as the Ченстоховская — Chenstokhovskaya icon.
The title Rudenskaya (also spelled Rudnenskaya) comes from the town of Rudnya in Mogilev eparchy, today in Smolensk Oblast, Russia. Ruda means “ore,” and Rudnya was an iron mining area.
According to its origin story, the Rudenskaya icon appeared at Rudnya in the year 1687. Two years later, in 1689, the local priest, named Vasiliy, took it to the Kievo-Pecherskiy convent. That later merged with the Kievo-Florovskiy monastery in Podol (Podil), where the icon was kept from 1712 until it mysteriously disappeared in the 1920s. Whether that sudden disappearance had anything to do with its diamond-studded riza (icon cover) is not known.
This example of the Rudenskaya type has a Сhurch Slavic inscription below. The first few words of it should be learned by serious students of icons, because one frequently finds them on other Marian icons. They are:
Истинное подобие чудотворнаго образа пресвятыя богородицы
Istinnoe podobie chudotvornago obraza presvyatuiya Bogoroditsui
“True likeness [of the] wonderworking image [of the] most-holy Birth-giver-of-God”
Or in more fluid English,
“The True likeness of the wonderworking image of the most holy Mother of God”
One often sees the word мера — myera — added to such inscriptions. It means “measure,” as in “size.” It means the icon copy is made the same size as the original. And instead of, or with the word подобие — podobie — “likeness,” we may find the word изображение —izobrazhenie — “representation.”
Knowing that, you should be able to read many inscriptions that begin like this:
In modern Russian Cyrillic font it is:
Iстинное изображение подобие и мера — Istinnoe izobrazhenie podobie i myera — “[The] true representation, likeness, and measure…”
Add to that the word самого — samogo — which in such inscriptions means loosely “of the same,” we can read inscriptions such as:
Истинное изображение, подобие и мера с самого чудотворнаго образа Знамения пресвятыя богородицы
Istinnoe izobrazhenie, podobie i mera s samоgo chudotvornago obraza Znameniya Presvyatuiya Bogoroditsui
“The true representation, likeness, and measure of the same wonderworking image of the Sign Most Holy Mother of God.”
The full lower inscription on this example of the Rudenskaya icon is:
Истинное подобие чудотворнаго образа пресвятыя богородице въ рудне идеже творящиися железо от блата, Тамо Дева вселися, дражайшая злата, Да людем жестокие нравы умягчает И железные к Богу сердца обращает
“The true likeness of the wonderworking image of the most holy Mother of God at Rudna; where iron is made from muck, there the Virgin dwelt, the most precious gold, who softens the brutal ways of people and turns the iron heart to God.”
The portion in italics comes from the writings of Dmitriy Rostovskiy.
To avoid confusion, it should be said that there is another and quite different icon type called Rudnenskaya-Ratkovskaya:
There is no origin story for this latter type.