JoomFish language selector

Our Lady of Vladimir

The Icon of “Our Lady of Vladimir. 

VladimirDetailThe icon of our Lady which is venerated in St Abraham’s is a detail of the Icon of Our Lady of Vladimir, one of the great Byzantine icons.  According to legend it was painted in Constantinople and around 1130 brought to Kiev the capital of the East Slavic state of Rus.  From there it was brought to the city of Vladimir from where it got its name. Finally it was brought to Moscow in 1395 where it remains today. The icon is one of the great treasures of the Russian people.  During its long history it was often brought to distant parts of the country to be venerated by the people especially in times of war or famine.  Inevitable these journey caused damage to the the icon and it had to be restored a number of times. However it is believed that these restorations have not changed the overall effect of the icon and the hands and faces remain the work of the original byzantine artist.




The icon of the Virgin of Vladamir has become one of the best know pictures of Jesus and Mary.  Indeed this representation of Jesus and Mary has become so familiar that we run the risk of no longer seeing how truly wonderful it is, that it is a work of great beauty and spirituality.


vladimir2Mary looks out of the icon, beyond the observer, at the world with a gaze of great compassion.  Her concern is for the people of the world.  She shares God’s love for all people.   

She holds her young child who though a child is also revealed to be the eternal Word of God. His cheek touches the cheek of Mary his mother. At the same time Mary with her hand invites us to come close to Jesus.  Mary is represented as one who knows human suffering invites us to the come to Lord. She indicates him as the savior of the world.  As we follow Mary’s gesture, Jesus becomes the real center and focus of the Icon.  Dressed in gold, his face radiating light, he is full of majesty and splendor, the glory of God. The light draws us into prayerful communion with the Him.

Though word of God, Jesus is also the child of Mary and with his eyes are fixed on her, he has wrapped his arm around her neck.  We are in the mystery of the incarnation and in this love between son and mother we see the love of god for all of us. 

The artist has shown the child’s neck as greatly enlarged.  This is his way of showing that Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit as a throat that is almost chocked with love! It is the divine breath (Spirit) which Jesus offers to Mary and all humanity.

These are some details concerning the icon but the only way to truly know the icon is to contemplate it in prayer. It is to learn that “God loved the world so much that he gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life.”

The Russian theologian Paul Evdokimov describes the icon in this way:

The shadows of the eyelashes make the pupils appear darker, and the eyes seem to be plunged into an unfathomable depth, inaccessible to the look of the spectator. . . . Christ has a reassuring caress for his mother. His right hand holds her maphorion, while the left hand is tenderly placed on her neck. Mary is gripped by the shadow of Christ's coming sufferings. Her head is slightly inclined toward Christ and softens her majestic dignity as the Mother of God. . . . Her wide open eyes are fixed on infinity and at the same time turned inward. It is an immense compassion . . . towards suffering, that unavoidable fact of human existence . . . .