The Virgin Hodigitria is one of the most widespread versions of depicting The Mother of God with the Divine Child in Byzantine and Russian art.In this iconographic version the Divine Child is seated on the left arm of the Mother of God, His right hand is raised in a gesture of blessing, in His left hand he holds a scroll, sometimes a book, which complies with the iconographic version of Christ the Pantokrator (the All-Ruler),the faces of The Mother of God and the Divine Child do not touch each other.
This iconographic version is one of the most ancient, though the name itself “Hodigitria” is mentioned in the sources as late as the 1X century. There are different speculations as to the origin of the Hodigitria iconography.The legend has it, that the icon was painted by St.Luke,the Evangelist and brought from the Holy Land by Eudoxie,the spouse of Emperor Theodosius in the middle of the V century.Then, some sources assert that the Icon was placed in the Church of Blachernae, while others mention the monastery of Hodigon.This icon “Hodigitria” is said to owe its name to the monastery .N.P.Kondakov thinks that this iconographic version was born either in Palestine or in Egypt before the V1 century and during the V1 century was widespread across Orthodox Christian Orient and in Byzantium. Other versions suggest the image of the Virgin Hodigitria might have been part of the composition “Adoration of the Magi”, widespread in the early Christian art. Initially the Mother of God could have been painted full-length, either standing or sitting.
The miracle- working Icon of the Mother of God Hodigitria kept in one of the monasteries of Constantinople was particularly worshipped in the post-iconociasm period. A legend associated with it was written in the Latin manuscript of the X11 century. This manuscript is a translation of the Greek original of 1063-1081 which describes the objects of worship of Constantinople: “…near the Big Palace there is a monastery of the Holy Mother of God. And in that monastery –the Holy Icon of the Holy Virgin, called Hodigitria, which is translated as a “guide”, because once there were two blind men and Holy Mary appeared to them, took them to Her church and healed their eyes and they saw the light….Processions with this icon of the Mother of God are held every Tuesday across the whole city with great honours, singing and hymnsinging. Many people come to see Her: men in front followed by women.”
During the rule of the Komnin Dynasty this miracle- working Icon was honoured as a protectress of Constantinople- in the V11 century the miraculous deliverance of the city from the invasion of Avars and Slavs was attributed to the Icon.The Emperors regarded it as a personal object of worship of the Imperial House.Also it was honoured as a petitioner for the souls of the deceased and deliveress in all the infirmities and disasters.According to the historian Michael Duke,the Icon of the Mother of God which is identified as the miracle- working Icon of the Mother of God “Hodigitria”, was destroyed after the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453.
This iconographic version is of the Mother of God “Hodigitria” has been known in Old Russian icon painting since X1-X11 centuries.For example, the Icon of the Mother of God Hodigitria with a waist-length depiction of George on the reverse side of the early X11 century from the Dormition Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin.Since the XV century various versions of this iconographic type have been named after the place of worship. For example, the Mother of God “Hodigitria” of Smolensk,of Tikhvin, of Sedmiezersk etc.
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