Theotocos Smolenskaya

Legend tells that the original work was a portrait of the Mother of God painted by St Luke during her lifetime. The Virgin gazes either into the distance or at the viewer holding the child Christ seated on her left arm while she gestures towards him with her right hand. The historical origins are obscure but the type was known in the period before iconoclasm. The Tuesday procession of the Hodegetria icon kept in the Hodegon monastery in Constantinople was one of the memorable events of the city recorded by medieval visitors and pilgrims. In the eleventh century a copy made in Constantinople of the Hodegetria Virgin came to the Slavs in the retinue of the Byzantine imperial Princess Anna who married Prince Vsevelod of Chernigov in 1046. In 1101 it was installed in the Cathedral of Smolensk by Prince Vladimir Monomakh. The icon was brought to Moscow in 1308 and returned to Smolensk again in 1456. Many miracles are attributed to the work of the icon, among them the defeat of Napoleon at Borodino after it was paraded before the Russian Army in 1812, a scene vividly depicted in the 1968 Russian film of War and Peace where the Soviet Army provided 120,000 thousand soldiers as extras. Many copies made in the nineteenth century abound.