The origin of the festival dates back to the events which occurred at the capital of Byzantine during the siege of the City by the Saracens. According to the legend of the holy fool Andrew (X century) in the Church of Blachernae in Constantinople which kept the greatest object of worship of the Christian world-the Robe of the Holy Mother of God- there was a Divine Apparition.The holy fool Andrew and his follower Epiphanius were honoured to see the Holy Virgin accompanied by St John the Precurser and St.John the Theologian.The Mother of God was praying for the people interceding in the church and after taking the veil off Her head stretched it over all those present.The description of this apparition became one of the sources of the iconography of the Patronage of the Most Holy Queen, however,it was reinforced by testimonies of so-called “weekly” miracles occurring every Friday during the night service at the same Church of Blachernae.The Veil half covering the worshipped image of the Mother of God was raised by the invisible force and hovered over the Icon during the whole prayer.

The earliest depictions of the Patronage have been lost. The Feast of Protecting Veil of the Mother of God was established in the church of Russia by Prince Andrew Bogolubsky around 1164, and in 1165 he built the Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin on the river Nerl worldwide famous for its architecture. The holy fool Andrew ,a witness of the miracle of the Intercession of the Mother of God, was a saint having the same name as Prince Andrew Bogolubsky. In Novgorod in the X11 century there was a monastery of the Intercession of the Mother of God (so-called Zverinsky monastery).The most ancient icon of the Intercession of the Mother of God in old Russian art is presented on the gates of the Nativity Cathedral in Suzdal (gold coating on copper).

The whole iconographic version of the Patronage is formed in the X1V century.Since the X1V century have emerged two iconographic versions of the Patronage which can be identified as that of Novgorod and of Zuzdal.In the Novgorod compositions the Mother of God is depicted against the background of the interior wall of the altar with the raised arms.Over Her head the Angels hold a cinnabar veil.At the sides are the angels and sainted hierarchs. Below-the closed Sanctuary doors, beside them- the holy fool Andrew, his follower Epiphaneus. apostles, martyrs.The earliest depiction of the Patronage of the Novgorod iconographic version was found on the frescoes of 1313 of the Snetogorsk Monastery in Pskov. One of the earliest icons of this type comes from the Zverin Monastery and dated 1399 (The Novgorod Museum).

In the “Suzdal” (middle Russian version) of the Patronage the Mother of God is depicted in front the church spreading Her omophorion over all thos present.Apart from the figures of apostles,martyrs, sainted hierarchs, the self-styled prophet Andrew and his disciple Epiphaneus is depicted Venerable Roman,the sweet-singer who is the author of many hymns devoted to the Mother of God.The earliest version of this type is a patronal icon of the Suzdal Monastery of the Patronage of the Mother of God of the second half of the X1V century (now at the State Tretyakov Gallery). It is worth noting that the architectural background features the outlines of buildings in Blachernae- basilicas with the gable roof and dome –shaped church.

Both versions have similar features.As a rule,in the lower part are witnesses of the Blachernae miracle: the holy fool Andrew draws the attention of his follower Epiphanius to the icon of the Holy Virgin.The veil providing patronage of the Heavenly Queen is very often painted bright red.The painters followed the depiction of the apparition in the life of the holy Andrew where it was pointed out that the veil was “like lightning”.

It is celebrated on the 14th October(1st October old style) 

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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