THE MUROM ICON AND SAINTS

This icon type is known as Муромская/Muromskaya  — the “Of Murom” icon of Mary, or simply the “Murom” icon:

It is said that the original of this icon was brought in the early 12th century from Kyiv to the city of Murom by Prince Konstantin of Murom, and it supposedly so impressed the non-Christian inhabitants when it was shown to them that they gave up their resistance against the authority of Constantine and converted to Eastern Orthodoxy.

The legends of this icon also relate that near the end of the 12th century, when Vasiliy was Bishop of Murom, rumors went about that he was not leading a holy life.  The rumors were so bad that the people of the city planned to kill him.  But when he heard of this, he asked the people to delay his death until the next morning.  During the night he supposedly prayed before the Murom icon, and then he took the icon to the Oka River.  There he spread out his mantle (mantiya) on the waters of the river, and stood on it with the icon.  His mantle supposedly miraculously floated and upheld him, and a strong wind came that blew him against the current of the river, all the way to Old Ryazan (Старая Рязань/Staraya Ryazan).

There he was well received by the people, but fearing the invasion of the Tatars (Mongols), he eventually took the icon with him to another place with a similar name — New Ryazan.  And so the icon got the second part one often finds in its name — the Muromskaya-Ryazanskaya (Муромская-Рязанская) icon.

On some examples of the Murom icon, one may find its troparion written at the base:

Глас 4/”tone” 4

Днесь светло красуется град Муром,
Today brightly rejoices the city of Murom,

яко зарю солнечную,
As the brightness of sunshine,

восприемши, Владычице, чудотворную Твою икону,
having received, Lady, your wonderworking icon,

к нейже ныне мы притекающе и молящеся,
to whom now we are resorting and praying,

Тебе взываем сице:
to you calling thus:

О Пречудная Владычице Богородице,
O most wonderful Lady, Birthgiver of God,

молися из Тебе воплощенному Христу Богу нашему,
pray, to from you incarnate, Christ our God,

да избавит град сей и вся грады и страны христианския
Let him save this city and all Christian cities and lands,

невредимы от всех навет вражиих
unharmed from all slanderous enemies,

и спасет души наша, яко Милосерд.
and save our souls, for he is merciful.

 

Now on to the main saints associated with Murom:

Prince Konstantin of Murom (died 1129) was descended from Vladimir of Kyiv — the fellow who converted Kyivan Rus to Eastern Orthodox Christianity by edict.
When Konstantin requested and was given authority over the city of Murom — which at that time was still not Christianized — he sent his son Mikhail to convert the people, so tradition says.  The Muromites, however, killed Mikhail by throwing him down from the city walls, so Konstantin then took the city by armed power.  The story is that the people eventually relented and decided to be baptized — influenced by seeing the “Murom” icon of Mary carried in Konstantin’s arms.  His son Feodor is said to have aided in spreading Christian belief among the pagans, and so all three are generally found together on icons as saints.

Here is an icon depicting the city of Murom, and above it are two sets of saints, and kneeling below is another saint:

(Collection of the Museum of Andrey Rublev)

The group at left is Prince Konstantin and his sons Mikhail and Feodor.

At right is the noted husband-wife pair of Murom saints, Petr (Peter) and Fevronia.

Here are two panel icons of the latter pair:

There is a fanciful long tale about Petr and Fevronia, but in reality, the accounts of their lives are rather confused.  No one is quite certain whether they were actually the husband and wife pair David And Evfrosiniya, who took the monastic names Petr and Fevronia, and died c. 1228, or whether they were the pair Petr and Evfrosiniya who ruled Murom in the 14th century.

In any case, this in brief is the popular tale of their lives:

It is said that the wife of Prince Pavel/Paul was visited and seduced by a serpent demon, whom others could only see as disguised in the form of Prince Paul.  The wife finally told her husband what was happening, and he asked her to slyly get out of the demon how he could be killed.  She found that the only person able to dispatch the serpent was Pavel’s brother, Petr (Pyotr/Peter).  But when he did so, the blood spilled on his skin, and he broke out in terrible sores and rashes and scabs.

No one seemed to know what to do about this affliction until a servant of Peter came across a peasant girl in the Ryazan region named Fevronia, who claimed she could cure him.  But to do this, she demanded a high price; she asked him to make her his wife.

Desperate for a cure, Petr agreed to marry Fevronia.  But after she cured him, instead of proceeding with the marriage, he instead just sent her expensive gifts.  However, he did not get away with that, because Fevronia refused the gifts, and Peter’s affliction returned, and again he suffered.  So finally he married Fevronia, and was again cured.

When Pavel died, Peter and Fevronia ruled over Murom.  The wealthy citizens — the boyars, were not happy to have a lowly peasant girl as their princess, and though the ordinary people were fond of her, the boyars demanded that Fevronia leave the city.  As inducement for doing so, they offered her whatever wealth she wished to take with her.  But Fevronia tricked them.  The wealth she wished to take was her husband Petr.

The two left Murom, but the city without its Prince was in such strife that the townspeople asked the pair to return.  They did so, and ruled well over Murom, until in old age they both took the monastic habit, and Peter took the name David, and Fevronia took the name Evfrosiniya.  That accounts for why Petr and Fevronia are commonly depicted in monastic garb.  Both supposedly died on the same day, and through the intervention of a miracle, were eventually buried in the same tomb.

If you would like to read more of the fairy-tale-like story of Peter and Fevronia, you will find a version of the folk tale here:

https://russian-crafts.com/russian-folk-tales/peter-and-fevronia-tale.html

Well, that leaves us with only one remaining noted Murom saint to discuss.  It is the chronologically later woman kneeling below Petr and Fevronia.  She is Iulianiya Lazarevskaya.

Her story relates that Iulianiya/Juliania was born to a noble couple in the town of Ploshin in the 16th century.  She was orphaned, and her grandmother took her to the city of Murom.  After the grandmother died, Iulianiya, aged 12, was taken in by the grandmother’s daughter as part of her already large family.

Iulianiya was a pious — one might say unnaturally pious — girl.  She preferred prayer and fasting to the entertainments other children enjoyed.  She took a lot of ridicule for this, but persisted in her ways.  She also became devoted to helping the needy.

At the age of 16, Iulianiya married, and continued her pious life and care of the poor and ill.  Over the course of her life she had ten sons and three daughters, of whom seven died as infants, and later two more sons died.

Iulianiya, in her sorrow, wanted to enter a monastery, but had to remain with her husband to care for the remaining children.

On the death of her husband, Iulianiya only increased her efforts to live an ultra-pious life and to aid the poor.  She constantly repeated the “Jesus Prayer,” even in her sleep.  She is said to have once been saved from the attacks of demons by St. Nikolai/Nicholas, who appeared and chased them away with a club.

The country fell on hard times, and even Iulianiya did not have enough to eat, but still she did what she could to feed others.  She died on January 10, 1604.  Because of her constant care for the unfortunate, she became known as Праведная Иулиания Лазаревская, Милостивая/Pravednaya Iulianiya Lazarevskaya, Milostivaya — “Righteous Iulianiya of Lazarevo, the Merciful.”

So now you know about and can identify the “Murom saints” in icons — as well as the Muromskaya icon.

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