CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER

You will recall the icons of Mary popular in Russia under the name Troeruchitsa — “Three-handed” — because in them, Mary is commonly painted with three hands.  And if you read my earlier posting in the archives on that icon type, you will know that it originated in a painter’s error — mistaking an added votive hand for a third hand of Mary.  You may also recall that the icon is listed among those known in Russian Orthodoxy as “miracle-working.”

Well, the Romanian Orthodox have done the Russians one better.  In the Giurgeni Monastery (Mănăstirea Giurgeni) in southeastern Romania is an icon depicting Mary in the Hodigitria (“Way-shower”) form. It has an ornate silver cover over the panel, with only the faces of the Mother and Child visible.

What is unusual is that in this icon, Mary has three eyes and two mouths.

And if we look closely at the child Jesus, we see he has two ears on the left side of his head.

These unusual features are said to be the result of a miraculous, overnight transformation of the icon — not the work of human hands.  And the icon itself is said to have been the source of several miraculous healings, so in addition to its supposedly miraculous transformation, the icon is also considered a făcătoare de minuni — a “worker of miracles.”

The image is known as the Maica Domnului de la Giurgeni (“Mother of God of Giurgeni) or the Maicii Domnului cu trei ochi şi două guri
— the “Mother of God with Three Eyes and Two Mouths.”

Well, as one might expect, the information on this icon is rather scanty.  It is said to have been made sometime between 1740 and 1750 by the painter (zugrav) Nectarie, and to have been given to the Giurgeni Monastery on August 6, 1831.  The icon is still visited by Romanian believers from all over the country due to its reputation as a miracle worker.

Of course to the rest of us it is rather obvious that the extra eye, mouth, and ear are due to separate stages of painting — a first stage followed by later overpainting, the former eventually becoming partially visible through the latter.  One person’s mistake is another person’s miracle.

 

 

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