THE POKROV IN UKRAINE

A reader pointed out to me that on March 6, 2022, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, head of the Russian Orthodox Church and a cohort of Putin, gave an absolutely bizarre and ridiculous excuse for the murderous Russian war on Ukraine that is still underway: he essentially blamed it on Gay Pride. He said:

Today there is such a test for the loyalty of this government, a kind of pass to that “happy” world, the world of excess consumption, the world of visible “freedom”. Do you know what this test is? The test is very simple and at the same time terrible – this is a gay parade. The demands on many to hold a gay parade are a test of loyalty to that very powerful world; and we know that if people or countries reject these demands, then they do not enter into that world, they become strangers to it.

So according to the corrupt Kirill, the test of political correctness is whether your country has a Gay Pride parade or not. Nothing about the bombing of cities and innocent civilians in Ukraine, or the deceit of Putin in sending Russian soldiers to die for a cause that is nothing but lies — just a blame for the horrific violence in Ukraine on, of all things, Gay Pride parades. That is the shameless lunacy of the Russian Patriarchate as it cooperates with Putin in the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

I will take rainbow balloons over bombs any day.

Now on to icons.

At one time there was a Cossack “host” or army in Ukraine called the Zaporozhian Host (Військо Запорозьке/Viys’ko Zaporz’ke). Zaporozhian means “beyond the rapids,” that is, below the rapids of the Dniepr River in central and eastern Ukraine. Their patron was the Pokrov (“Protection/Intercession”) icon of Mary, and that icon remains popular today in Ukraine, and is considered by many a national Protectress.

I have previously given the origin story of the Pokrov icon type. You will find it in the archives. But today I want to talk about it as it appears in Ukrainian iconography.

We find not only the earlier traditional stylized icons of the Pokrov in Ukraine, but also those later examples painted in the westernized, European-influenced manner

It is important to note that there are two basic forms of the Pokrov, distinguished by who is holding the protective veil over the congregation. Both fall under what we can call the “Today the Virgin appears in the church” form, taken from the words commonly found on the scroll of Romanos the Melodist in such icons. They depict Mary appearing above the assembled folk in the Byzantine Church of the Vlakhernae/Blachernae in Constantinople.

The first of these two basic forms depicts Mary holding her protective veil in her hands, as in this example from the late 15th-early 16th century.

(Andrey Sheptytsky National Museum, Lviv, Ukraine)

The second type, however, depicts the veil of protection being held by angels:

PokrovAndrey Sheptytsky National MuseumLviv

(Andrey Sheptytsky National Museum, Lviv)

In addition to these two basic variants of the “Today the Virgin appears in the church” type, there is also another and quite different Pokrov image with iconography borrowed from the Madonna della Misericordia of western European art.  This type shows Mary spreading out her cloak (not her veil) in protection over a group of people.  Some depict persons in the group who were actual political and religious figures from the time of painting.

This example, from the second half of the 17th century, is mixed with the “Joy to All Who Suffer” type, and we even find those words in the inscribed ribbons above Mary’s head.

Pokrovcloak2ndhalf17thcentAndreySheptytskyNationalMuseumLviv

Here is another example, this time from the Drohobych, Ukraine City Museum, which even more obviously depicts this “Protection” icon as a “Joy to All Who Suffer” variant, with angels below helping the needy.

Pokrov:JoytoAllWhoSufferDrohobychCityMuseumUkraine

(Drohobych Museum, Ukraine)

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