The Kazan icon of the Mother of God is one of the most venerated icons in Russia. The miraculous icon was uncovered in Kazan in the debris of the burnt house of Danila Onuchin by his ten years-old daughter on July 8, 1579 and was named after the place of discovery. The icon got famous for its many miracles. The first copy of the icon was made for the Russian Tsar Ivan the Terrible and his sons Ivan and Theodore. Ivan the Terrible ordered that a convent be built on the place of discovery of the icon. Metropolitan (later patriarch) of Kazan Hermogen, who witnessed the discovery of the icon, wrote The Tale of the Discovery and Miracles of the Icon which survived to this day as the original author’s manuscript dating to 1594 (now located at the State Historical Museum, Moscow) and numerous copies. The icon was especially venerated by the Romanov dynasty. The first and second Volunteer Armies of Kuzma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky had a copy of the icon. To commemorate the miraculous help in defeating the Polish-Lithuanian invasion, the Tsar Mikhail Feodorovich Romanov ordered that the Kazan icon be commemorated twice a year, on July 8 and October 22, the day of liberation of Moscow. A national veneration of the icon was established in 1649. The miraculous icon was stolen from the Kazan Monastery in 1904.

The icons with borders scenes of the “Tale” have been encountered since the second quarter of the 17th century. Their composition varies: while some depict the discovery of the icon in more details, others are more focused on the miracles performed by the uncovered icon (the Tale contains 16 stories of recoveries from various diseases). The earliest icon of the “Tale” is a frame with 20 border scenes produced by the Stroganoff masters in the second quarter of the 17th century from the collection of the Solvychegodsk Museum. Other, rarer border scenes cycles, depict miracles from other wonderworking icons, not contained in Hermogen’s story, for example a 1690 frame for the Yaroslavl-Kazan icon from the collection of the Yaroslavl Art Museum.

There are many wonderworking copies of the uncovered icon named after the places of their veneration.

The icon is venerated on July 21 (July 8, O.S.) and November 4 (October 22, O.S.).

Zhanna G. Belik,

Ph.D. in Art history, senior research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum, custodian of the tempera painting collection.

Olga E. Savchenko,

research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum.


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