THE “SEVEN LAKES” ICON

Here is a Marian icon type that one might easily confuse with the Smolenskaya/Smolensk type.

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

Let’s look again at the “red” Smolenskaya icon in a previous posting:

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

If we compare the two, we see that the positions of Child and Mother are very much the same — except look at the difference in the position of the right hand of Mary:

In the first icon, it is thus:

And in the Smolenskaya, thus:

In the Smolenskaya type, the hand of Mary gestures toward the Christ Child, which is why it also falls into the category known as Hodegitria — meaning “Way-shower” in Greek.

In the first type however — called the Sedmiezerskaya or Sedmiezernaya — the hand is upright, and Mary does not gesture toward the Child.

Nonetheless, the type with Mary’s hand upright is often called the Одигитрия Смоленская Седмиезерная / Odigitriya Smolenskaya-Sedmiezernaya — the “Hodigitria Smolensk-Seven Lakes.”  So though it does not exactly fit the usual Smolenskaya form, it is generally so classified, confusing as it may be.

Its origin story relates that near the end of the 1500s, a fellow named Evfimiy was born to a poor family.   Being a pious individual, he went to live in a monastery.  When his parents died, he inherited an icon of the “Smolensk” type from them, which he took with him to the region of Kazan.  He eventually settled in a secluded place many miles from the city.  It was surrounded by seven lakes.  There he eventually founded a monastery.

Though some time later he went to live in the Metropolitan’s house in Kazan, he nonetheless continued to guide the monastic community he had begun, and he also decided to give up his inherited “Smolensk” icon to the Seven Lakes monastic community.  The wooden church at the monastic site was eventually replaced by a stone church, and the “Smolensk” icon was placed in it, on the left side of the “Tsar Doors” that led to the altar.

In June of 1654, there was a severe plague in Kazan, and people were dying.  It was decided to send the Seven Lakes — Sedmiezernaya — “Smolensk” icon to the city.  It is said that a nun had a vision in her sleep, in which a shining old man who looked like St. Nikolai/Nicholas appeared to her, telling her that the people of Kazan should fast for a week and repent, and that the Mother of God was coming to the city to save the people from the plague.  As is common in these tales, the nun did not do as she was told, so the old man appeared to her when she next slept, scolding her.  Finally, she went to the city officials and reported her vision.   According to tradition, all the citizens of the city went out, carrying their own “Kazan” icon, to formally meet and welcome the Sedmiezernaya icon some two miles from the city, where they fell to their knees and prayed for “her” help in ending the plague.

It is said the plague subsided when the icon was carried in procession around the city of Kazan.  The city eventually returned the icon to the Seven Lakes Monastery, but again in 1656 there was a plague in Kazan, so the icon was brought back to Kazan, and supposedly again the plague subsided.  After that, it became the custom to bring the icon from the Seven Lakes Monastery to the city of Kazan each year, when it would leave the monastery on June 25th and be brought into the city in a formal procession on June 26th.

Other tales of healing miracles were associated with the icon, which of course is numbered among the so-called “wonder-working” icons of Russian Orthodoxy.

It is not unusual to see some variation in the position of the fingers in the right hand of Mary in various examples of the Sedmiezernaya type.  Here is an icon bearing the Sedmiezernaya/Semiezerskaya title, but the hand has its fingers in the distinctly Old Believer sign of blessing:

 

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