Theotokos of the Don

This holy icon is historically linked to one of the most important moments of the formation of the Russian state - the gathering together of Russian lands around a single and hereditary grand-princely/royal authority. The widespread veneration of the miraculous Don icon of the Mother of God is tied to the victory, on Kulikovo Field, of Prince Dimitry Donskoy over the Tatars. The army carried this image as a banner during the battle, which took place on 8 September, the feast of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos, in the year 1380. After the victory, the icon was given as a gift by the Don Cossacks to Great-Prince Dimitry Donskoy (1363-1389), who brought it to Moscow.

In 1591, while a battle with the Crimean Tatars was taking place on the very threshold of Moscow itself, many tears were shed and prayers offered before the Don image of the Mother of God. The preservation of the Russian capital was attributed to her, and in commemoration thereof, the Donskoy Monastery was erected on the site in Moscow on which the icon had stood during the battle. After this victory, the miraculous icon remained in Moscow, at first in the Dormition Cathedral in the Kremlin, and later in the Annunciation Cathedral.

On the Don icon is the image of the Mother of God, thought to have been written by the famous iconographer Theophanes the Greek. On the reverse side is depicted the Dormition of the Mother of God. From the standpoint of iconography, this is a very well pre-served 14th century example of the Tenderness icon. The Mother of God bows her head towards the Infant, Who is seated on her right arm and supported by her right hand. The Divine Infants legs are bare up to the knees. The icon expresses feelings of joy, calm and tenderness, together producing an altogether unique effect. In the icon can be see the beginnings of the new Russian iconographic tradition of the 14th century