THAT IMAGE AT THE TOP…

A curious reader in Germany asked about the image in my blog “header” — what icon it is from, who the figures are, and what the inscription on the scroll means.

It is a detail from this icon of the “Joy of All Who Suffer”:

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

Here is a wider view of the “header” detail:

The saints depicted in it are from upper left (below the angel):
Prepodobnuiy Maron — Venerable Maron
Svyashchennomuchenik Antipa — Priest-martyr Antipas
Prepodobnuiy Sergiy Radonezhskiy — Venerably Sergiy of Radonezh
Prepodobnuiy Ioann Novgorodskiy — Venerable John of Novgorod
Prepodobnuiy Ioann Damaskin  — Venerable John of Damascus.

The scroll held by John reads:

Твоя по-
бедите-
льная деснице [-а]
Боголеп-
но в к-
репости
просла
[-вися: та бо, Безсмертне, яко всемогущая, противныя сотре, Израильтяном путь глубины новосоделавшая.]

It is the Irmos from the Canon of the Resurrection, Ode 1:

Your victorious right arm  in godly manner has been glorified in strength;
[it continues:  for, Immortal One, as almighty it struck the adversary, for the Israelites making the path of the deep anew.“]

The Canon of the Resurrection was written by John of Damascus.

The scroll just below the angel is the Stikhera, tone 2 from the Moleben to the “Joy of All Who Suffer” icon.

Всемъ скорбящимъ радость
и обидимымъ предстателница  и
алчущимъ питательница страннымъ…

Joy of all who sorrow, and intercessor for the offended, and feeder of the hungry, of travelers…
[it continues “… the consolation, harbor of the storm-tossed, visitation of the sick, protection and intercessor for the infirm staff of old age, you are the Mother of God on high, O Most Pure One”]

So that is the origin and significance of the present “header” image on this blog.

 

 

 

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IN YOU REJOICES: THE BASIC RUSSIAN TYPE

In Russian Marian iconography, the type “In You Rejoices” appeared in the late 15-early 16th century.  It takes its name from, and illustrates, a well-known liturgical hymn attributed to John of Damascus and found in the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great and in the matins service.

О Тебе радуется, Благодатная, всякая тварь,
In you rejoices, Blessed One, every creature,
Ангельский собор и человеческий род,
The assembly of angels and the race of man.
Освященный Храме и Раю Словесный,
Sanctified Temple and Spiritual Paradise,
Девственная похвало. из Неяже Бог воплотися
Praise of virgins.  From whom God was incarnate
И Младенец бысть, прежде век Сый Бог наш.
And became a child, our God before ages.
Ложесна бо Твоя Престол сотвори.
Your body he made a throne,
И чрево Твое пространнее небес содела.
And your womb wider than the heavens.
О Тебе радуется, Благодатная, всякая тварь, слава Тебе.
In you rejoices, Blessed One, every creature, glory to you.

In icon inscriptions you may also find the text worded in the older form (with basically the same meaning) beginning like this:

О Тебе радуется, обрадованная, вся тварь,
O tebe raduetsya obradovannaya, vsya tvar’

Here is an example of the basic type from the 16th century:

Mary is seated on the throne (“Your body he made a throne”) in the central circle with Jesus as Immanuel on her lap (“and became a child”).  Above her is the Ангельский соборangelskiy sobor — “the assembly of angels.”  And below here is the человеческий родchelovecheskiy rod — “the race of man.”  the number and type of “man” figures varies somewhat from example to example, generally including Old Testament prophets and kings, the apostles, monks, nuns, and other saints. Some examples add so many saints that that the type becomes quite detailed

Standard elements of the Russian “In You Rejoices” type are the domed church (“Sanctified temple”) and Paradise trees (“Spiritual Paradise”), as well as the image of John of Damascus, seen here just below the central circle at lower left, holding out his scroll with the hymn to Mary on it

Icons under this name are more common in Russian than Greek iconography.   Greek examples may vary considerably from the Russian type.  Here is a version from the late 1600s by Theodoros Poulakis (Θεόδωρος Πουλάκης, 1622–1692), a Cretan painter and student of Elias Moschos who went to live in Venice, then in the Venetian-ruled Ionian isles, dying in Corfu.  It includes a great many details.

(Benaki Museum, Athens)

If we look closely, we can see that it even includes the signs of the zodiac around Mary:

The icon bears an interesting signature:

Κόπος και σπουδή Θεοδώρου Πουλάκη εκ Κυδωνίας της περιφήμου νήσου Κρήτης.

“The toil and diligence of Theodore Poulakis from Kydonia of the renowned Island of Crete.”

Just so you will recognize the hymn if you encounter it in Greek, here it is:

Ἐπὶ σοὶ χαίρει, Κεχαριτωμένη, πᾶσα ἡ κτίσις, Ἀγγέλων τὸ σύστημα, καὶ ἀνθρώπων τὸ γένος, ἡγιασμένε ναέ, καὶ Παράδεισε λογικέ, παρθενικὸν καύχημα, ἐξ ἧς Θεός ἐσαρκώθη, καὶ παιδίον γέγονεν, ὁ πρὸ αἰώνων ὑπάρχων Θεὸς ἡμῶν∙ τὴν γὰρ σὴν μήτραν, θρόνον ἐποίησε, καὶ τὴν σὴν γαστέρα, πλατυτέραν οὐρανῶν ἀπειργάσατο. Ἐπὶ σοὶ χαίρει Κεχαριτωμένη, πᾶσα ἡ κτίσις, δόξα σοι..

 

 

A WINDOW TO THE PAST: REPIN AND THE KURSK ROOT ICON

Aside

Anyone familiar with Russian art will have seen the remarkable painting (completed in 1883) by Ilya Repin (1844–1930) called Крестный ход в Курской губернии — Krestnuiy khod v Kurskoy Gubernii loosely, “Religious Procession in Kursk Province.”  It is fascinating not only because of the skill of the artist, but also because it is a look at Tsarist Russia, warts and all.  With a slight change of costume, it could be a scene out of the Middle Ages:

To the left, we see the poor and humble walking as best they can, and above them, mounted on horses, the civil authorities.

In the center we see the well-to do and the clergy.  Note the many tree stumps on the slope behind them:

At right — in front of the fellow striking at the crowd with his whip — men carry an elaborate structure, decorated with flowers and beribboned.  It contains an icon, though we see only the golden glints of light reflecting off its case.  Some of those carrying it are shod in woven bark shoes, which was common among the peasantry of those days:

Though many are familiar with the painting, most do not know that it depicts the annual procession carrying the Курская Коренная — Kurskaya Korennaya — the “Kursk Root” icon — from the monastery where it was kept to the city of Kursk.

Today we will take a look at that somewhat controversial icon type.  Here is the “Kursk Root” image as it appears today, in its enameled and filigreed cover in the style of the beginning of the 20th century.

It is said that the Kursk Root icon originally consisted only of the center image of Mary and the Christ Child, in the form known as the Znamenie (“Sign”) Mother of god.  Before we get into that, let’s take a look at the inscription across the bottom of the icon.  It is long, so I will divide it.  Here is the beginning:

It reads:

ИЗОБРАЗЧЕНИЕ И МЕРА ЧУДОТВОРНАГО ОБРАЗА…
IZOBRAZHENIE I MYERA CHUDOTVORNAGO OBRAZA…
“[The] Representation and Measure of the Wonder-working Image…”

…ЗНАМЕНИЯ ПРЕСВЯТЫЯ БОГОРОДИЦЫ КОРЕННО КУРСКИЯ
...ZNAMENIYA PRESVYATUIYA BOGORODITSUI KORENNO KURSKIYA
“[Of the] “Sign” Most-Holy Mother-of-God  Root-Kursk.”

So all together,
“THE REPRESENTATION AND MEASURE OF THE WONDERWORKING IMAGE OF THE ‘SIGN’ MOST HOLY MOTHER OF GOD ‘ROOT-KURSK.'”

The origin story of the icon tells us that its “appearance” took place in the 13th century (the 1200s), when Russia had been devastated by the plundering and burning Mongol hordes.  The tale is set in the vicinity of Kursk, a place some 280 miles south of Moscow.

Kursk was destroyed by the invading Tatars under Batu Khan about 1237-1240, and was not rebuilt again until 1586.  After the invasions of the Tatars, what had been a city became a wilderness.

In the autumn of 1295 (September 8th, so the story goes), a hunter from Rylsk, a city down the Sem River to the West, came wandering through the forest in the vicinity of Kursk, looking for game.  On the banks of the Tuskar River near Kursk, he found a small icon lying face down at the roots of a tree.  When he turned it over, he found it to be a copy of the “Sign” Mother of God.  And it is said that as soon as he picked it up, a spring of water bubbled out of the ground where it had lain (remember the Catholic story of Bernadette and the spring at Lourdes?).  That is supposed to have been the icon’s first miracle.

Here is a map showing Kursk ( Курскъ ) at right center, and at the far lower left is Rylsk (Рылскъ)

If we look more closely at Kursk, we see the River Tuskar (Тускар ) flowing northward just to the right of it, and bending eastward near the top of the image:

A little wooden chapel was built for the icon there, and its reputation as a miracle-working icon began to spread.  Soon people were coming all the way from Rylsk to venerate the image and to hope for miracles.

Hearing all the news, Prince Vasiliy Shemyaka of Rylsk ordered that the icon be brought to Rylsk, and crowds of citizens went out to greet the icon on its arrival, but the Prince himself was not among them.  Because of this sign of disrespect, the legend says Prince Vasiliy was struck blind, until (as these stories go — another common motif), he repented with prayer before the icon, and was healed.  He then had a church dedicated to the “Birth of the Most Holy Mother of God” built at Rylsk for the icon, and established a feast to be held annually in its honor.

But here we encounter yet another common motif in the hagiography of icons.  You will remember that traditionally these “wonderworking” icons behave like conscious persons, and can move under their own volition.  Well, the story tells us that the icon from Kursk disappeared from the church at Rylsk, and was found to have returned to the little chapel originally built for it at Kursk.  The citizens of Rylsk went to retrieve it, but when they brought it back to Rylsk, it disappeared again.  This happened several times, until finally the people of Rylsk accepted the inevitable and let the icon stay where it wanted to be, at Kursk.  A priest named Bogoliub (literally “God-Love”) came and undertook the care and rituals of the chapel.

In 1383 the Tatars came back to Kursk, and tried to burn down the chapel.  It would not burn, so they suspected Bogoliub of magic.  The priest told them it was the icon that was protecting the chapel, so they took the icon, cut it in two pieces, threw the pieces off in different places, burnt the chapel (it worked this time), and took Bogoliub prisoner.  He worked as a captive sheepherder until rescued by some ambassadors from Moscow who heard him singing songs to Mary as they passed by.  Bogoliub returned to the site of the chapel, found the pieces of the icon, and they are said to have miraculously grown back together, with no sign of the cut showing except the presence of something like dew.

Hearing of these wonders, the people of Rylsk took the icon back to their city, but again the icon disappeared and was found back at Kursk.  So they rebuilt the burnt chapel at Kursk for the icon, and it stayed there for some 200 years.

In 1597 Tsar Feodor of Moscow ordered the rebuilding of the city of Kursk, heard of the “miracles” of its icon, and had it brought to Moscow, where it was received with great acclaim.  The Tsaritsa Irina had a rich covering of pearls, precious stones, etc. made for the icon.  It was at this time that the Tsar is said to have had the original icon placed in a gilt silver frame, with the image of Lord Sabaoth (God the Father) at the top, and Old Testament prophets at the sides (as in the icon type “The Praise of the Mother of God”).  Then the icon was sent back to Kursk.  A monastery and church were built on the site of the old chapel, and a new church dedicated to Mary as the “Lifegiving Fountain” was constructed where the spring had appeared when the icon was found.  The Monastery came to be known as the “Root Desert,” after the root where the icon was originally discovered.  “Desert” (Пустынь/Pustuin) is used in Russian Orthodoxy to signify a monastic settlement, recalling the Theban Desert of Egypt, where Christian monasticism originated.

When another Tartar invasion threatened, the icon was taken to a larger church in the city of Kursk, and a copy was left in its place in the chapel.

In the 17th century, the “Pretender” Dmitriy (eventually Tsar of Russia from 1605-1606) claimed to be the son of Tsar Ivan “the Terrible” and to have survived an assassination attempt.  His army fought to put him on the throne, and during his battles he knew the propaganda value of the Kursk icon, and had it brought to his military camp in Putivl.  He eventually took it with him to the palace in Moscow.  The icon was there until 1615.

In 1612, a Polish commander besieged Kursk, but it is said the inhabitants prayed to Mary, who supposedly appeared on the walls with two shining monks to fend off the attackers.  The citizens of Kursk promised in their prayers that they would build a monastery in the city in the name of the “Sign” icon.  They petitioned the Tsar (then Mikhail Feodorovich), and in 1615 the icon was returned to Kursk and placed in the cathedral there.  In 1618 it was moved to the “Sign” Monastery in Kursk.

In the intervening years, the icon (or copies of it) was further used in one conflict or another — including a copy sent to General Kutuzov by the City of Kursk in the Napoleonic invasion of 1812.  This again is an example of the belief that icons can aid in battle and defense (or be used as propaganda devices to inspire soldiers, depending on one’s point of view).

It is said that Revolutionaries tried to blow up the icon in 1898, but it somehow survived the explosion undamaged.  It was stolen from the “Sign” Monastery in April of 1918 and stripped of its valuable covering, but it was found and returned in early May.

In 1919 (this is after the Revolution) the icon was taken to Serbia, briefly to Crimea in 1910, then back to Serbia, and eventually to Munich (Germany), and in 1951 to the United States, settling eventually at the New Kursk Hermitage in Mahopac, New York and the  Cathedral Church of the Mother of God of the Sign in New York City, which is the residence of the First Hierarch of the very conservative division of Orthodoxy called the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR).  It is treated by present-day Russian Orthodox much as it was in the past, as a “miracle-working” icon, and as such it continues to add new stories of its “miracles” to its traditional history.

 Now, as mentioned earlier, it is said that the original icon found at Kursk was a small copy of the Znamenie/”Sign” type, and that later the image of “Lord Sabaoth” (God the Father) and nine Old Testament Prophets were added to it in 1597 when it was brought to Moscow.

In recent times there has been much controversy over the presence of God the Father on the image.  Some of the more conservative Russian Orthodox (there is a strong, very conservative element in Eastern Orthodoxy) consider it to be heretical, which always amuses me, given the widespread and centuries-long use of the image of God the Father in Eastern Orthodox icons.  And of course it is paradoxical that an icon with a supposedly heretical image atop it should nonetheless be considered “miracle-working” through more than four centuries after the additions were supposedly made.

In any case, it is standard for copies of the icon to depict all of the figures, including God the Father right at the top.  So common is this practice that I have never seen an old copy without them.

Here is an example in which the image of Lord Sabaoth (with the Dove of the Holy Spirit) at the top center is plainly labeled Б[о]гъ О[те]цъ — Bog Otets — “God the Father.”  The longer inscription at the base reads:  “The Representation and Measure of the Wonderworking Image of the “Sign” Most Holy Mother of God of Kursk.


(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

Interestingly, an example of the “Kursk Root” type in the collection the Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, Massachusetts was recently called to my attention.  Here it is:

(Courtesy of The Museum of Russian Icons, Clinton Ma)

This particular icon is interesting and unusual because someone, at some time, apparently removed the image of God the Father that should be in the clouds at the top, leaving an oddly blank space never found in such icons:

The  images of the prophets on examples of the type vary slightly from image to image.  The example just above shows (King) David, Moses, Ezekiel, Zephaniah, at left, Habakkuk at the base, and (King) Solomon, Daniel, Isaiah, and Elijah at right.  The example shown first on this page depicts David, Moses, Isaiah and Gideon at left, Habakkuk at bottom center, and Solomon, Daniel, Jeremiah, and Elijah at right.

THE “ROSTOV” ICON OF MARY

Today we will take a very brief look at another of the so-called “Wonder-working” icons of Mary — the Rostovskaya (“Of Rostov”) image.  There is little information about it, but it is easy to recognize.  The “Rostov” of the title is one of two large Russian cities by that name.  This one is the Rostov north of Moscow, in Yaroslavl Oblast (Region).  The other is Rostov on the Don.  The northern city, which is very old, is often distinguished from the other by the title Ростов ВеликийRostov Velikiy — “Rostov the Great”

(Courtesy of The Museum of Russian Icons, Clinton MA)

This type depicts Mary standing on clouds at left.  She holds the Christ Child, who blesses those standing on the right, which vary in number from example to example.  Here there are three, which is standard in many examples.  From left to right they are the Bishops of Rostov Leontiy (Leontius, died 1073), Isaiya (Isaiah, died 1090), and Ignatiy (Ignatius, died 1288).

It is said that Leontiy, who was born in Constantinople, was killed in 1073 at the instigation of sorcerers, which shows that this period was a time of conflict between the indigenous beliefs of the region and the expanding authority of the Orthodox Church. Isaiya was born in Kiev/Kiyev, and became a monk at the famous Monastery of the Caves there (Pecherskaya Lavra). Ignatiy was born in the Rostov area. Tradition says that at his funeral, two pious nuns, as well as other particularly pious people, saw the saint rise out of his coffin and walk up into the air above the church, where he blessed the people and the city; then he descended into the church, where his coffin lay prepared.

Here is another example of the type, which expands the number of saints at right to fifteen:

 

HORSES, BIRDS, AND THE KONEVSKAYA ICON

In northwestern Russia lies the large lake called Lake Ladoga.  On its western side is an island called Konevets (Коневец,), the site of the Konevskiy Monastery.

According to tradition, near the end of the 14th century a Russian from Novgorod named Arseniy (died 1444) ) went to the far-off monastic community on Mount Athos, in Greece.  There he spent some three years.  When he decided to return to Russia in 1393, an Athos abbot and elder named John gave him an icon of Mary and the Christ Child to take back with him.  Arseniy looked about Lake Ladoga (then called Nevoozero), and decided to establish his monastic cell on Konevets Island after a storm blew him ashore there (he saw that as a divine sign).  Gradually others joined him, and that was the beginning of what became the Konevets/Konevskiy Monastery there.

When Arseniy first came to the island, he found that the Karelian people living on the mainland brought their cattle there to graze from spring to fall.  Now it happened that on the northwestern side of the island there was a huge stone considered to be the sacred abode of spirits.  Each year the people would leave a horse as a sacrifice to the spirits who manifested in the stone, in thanks for keeping watch over the cattle during the grazing season.  And each year when they came back, the remains of the horse would have entirely disappeared, showing the approval of the spirits.

Arseniy, of course, did not care for this “pagan” notion, so he went to the stone — called the “Horse Stone” (Конь-Камень/Kon-Kamen), taking with him the Marian icon he had been given on Athos.  Once there, with the power of the icon and of his prayers, so the old story goes, he is said to have driven the spirits out of the Horse Stone, and they could be seen leaving in the form of a flock of black ravens that rose into the air and flew all the way across the strip of land to the west to Vyborg, on its bay at the eastern side of the Gulf of Finland.

Here is an old map showing Konevets Island in Lake Ladoga, and Vyborg/Viborg to the far west (and slightly south) of it.  At the the bottom right is St. Petersburg:

Here is a photo of the Horse Stone, with the Orthodox chapel built atop it to show the dominance of Russian Orthodoxy over the old beliefs:

Now on to the icon itself, known as the Konevskaya image, after the name of the Island and Monastery (and the saint, who is known as Arseniy Konevskiy).

This is a copy of the Konevskaya icon, dated 1873, and of course we can see by its style that it is painted in the “Westernized” manner of the State Church:

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

Now the interesting thing about this image (one of the supposed “miracle-working” Marian icons) is that we can find an early example of an Italian painting almost identical in form, but with obvious Italian characteristics in style, dating to the 14th century, and attributed to the painter known only as the “Master of the Sterbini Diptych.”  All we know about this painter is that he is believed to have worked on the Adriatic coast, either in Venice or one of the other cities of the region.  His work shows the cross-fertilization between Byzantine icon painting of the time and Italian painting of trecento (1300s) Italy.  We even see in this example hints of the style of Giotto:

The motif of the Christ Child with a bird is frequent in Western religious art, with various symbolism attributed to the bird (the soul, resurrection, the Passion, the Holy Spirit, etc.), but one must also keep in mind that birds on a string were once given to children as playthings.

In the case of the many copies of the Konevskaya icon (which began to multiply in Russia in the 16th century), one sometimes finds examples with one bird, while others (as in the 19th century example on this page) depict two birds.  The presence of a bird or birds in the Konevskaya (Коневская ) icon type accounts for its alternate name, the “Dove” icon (Голубицкая/Golubitskaya).  Golub (Голубь) in Russian means “dove.”  The icon presently kept as the “original” Konevskaya icon in the New Valaam Monastery in Finland (since 1956) is suspected to be a later copy of the lost original.

It is also worth mentioning that we find the word “horse” (Russian kонь/kon) in the name of the Horse Stone in the origin story of the icon, as well as in the name of the icon and that of Konevets Island.  The horse symbol, in the old Slavic religion, was associated with the Thunder God Perun, whose duties were later taken over by the Old Testament prophet Elijah.

LEFT OR RIGHT, IT’S THE SAME TYPE: THE “LOOK UPON THE HUMILITY” MARIAN ICON

You may recall my recent posting on the icon type “My Soul Magnifies the Lord,” a mystic-didactic icon based on the biblical words in Mary called the “Magnificat” in the West, from the Latin version of that text.

You may also recall that in discussing that type, we looked at the whole Magnificat, which begins with these words:

“My soul magnifies the Lord,

And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

For he has regarded the humility of his handmaiden….”

In Church Slavic that is (modern font):

Величит душа моя Господа и возрадовася дух мои о Бозе Спасе моем.
яко призре на смирение рабы своея…
Velichit dusha moya Gospoda i vozradovasya dukh moi o Boze Space moem.
Iako prizre na smirenie rabui svoeya…

The words we want to emphasize today are Iako prizre na smirenie rabui svoeya, which rather literally translated are “For he has looked upon the humility of his female-servant.”

Those words are the source for the title for the Marian icon type we will examine today.  It is commonly called Призри На Смирение — Prizri na Smirenie — “Look Upon the Humility.

In fact if we look at the title of this icon of that type, we find it is just the quote from the Magnificat:

 

The origin story of this Marian icon, which is regarded in Eastern Orthodoxy as one of the supposed “miracle-working” icons, states that it appeared at Stony Lake in the Pskov region, in the year 1420.

It can be recognized by the standing Christ Child (Christ Immanuel), with a globe symbolizing authority in one hand, the other touching Mary’s face or head.  Mary holds a scepter in her other hand.

In most versions of this Marian icon type, the Christ Child stands on the right of the icon, but as painters often got their pattern stencils reversed, in some icons (as in this one) he is found standing on the left.

The little female figure in the left-hand border is СВЯТАЯ ЦАРИЦА ЕЛЕНА — Svyataya Tsaritsa Elena — the “Holy Empress Elena/Helena.

GRAIN GODDESS: THE SPORITEL’NITSA KHLEBOV TYPE

Today’s posting is also the result of a reader question.

The inquirer came across a Marian icon showing Mary on a cloud, arms outstretched, above a field of grain.  The icon type that describes is a rather recent Russian type called Спорительница хлебов — Sporitel’nitsa Khlebov.  The first word means  a female who causes something to advance or thrive; the second part refers to bread and to grain crops.  So we can loosely translate it as “She Who Makes the Grain Thrive.”  The name is found variously in English as “She Who Ripens the Grain,” “Provider of Bread” “Provider of the Bread of Life,” “Multiplier of Bread,” and so on.  But the essence of the name indicates that Mary makes the grain thrive, which means people will have an abundant harvest and much bread.

As I mentioned, this is a rather recent icon type.  That, and the fact that it originated in the State Church, accounts for why examples of it are generally painted in the realistic manner, rather than in the stylization preferred by Old Believer iconographers.  The type, in origin, relates to the Starets (Elder) Amvrosiy (Ambrose), who lived at the famous Optina Monastery.  He always faithfully kept Marian festivals by praying before an icon of Mary in his cell.

In the year 1890, Abbess Ilariya (Hilaria) of the Volkhov Convent sent Starets Amvrosiy a newly-painted icon partly based on an “All Saints” icon in her convent, but with the addition of a field of ripe grain and sheaves below the image of Mary.  Amvrosiy gave the new type its “She Who Makes the Grain Thrive” title.  Due to Amvrosiy’s efforts, quite a number of copies of the icon were distributed among his admirers.  Amvrosiy spent his last days at a convent he had helped establish in Kaluga, where he died among the nuns.

According to tradition, the Sporitel’nitsa icon helped to end a drought and famine in the year 1892, so it became known as one of the many Russian supposed “wonderworking” icons.  Its very late date of “appearance” accounts for why it is generally found today mostly in printed reproductions (as in the example shown  above) rather than as old painted icons dating to the late 19th-early 20th century, such as this one:

This icon type always reminds me how little has changed in religion since ancient times.  Essentially the Sporitel’nitsa Khlebov shows Mary filling the role of a “Nature Goddess” who has power over the growth and harvest of grain, which was the role of the Goddess Demeter, also known as Ceres — the goddess of the harvest and of grain in the classical Greco-Roman world.