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The Pskov-Intercession (Pskovo-Pokrovskaya) icon of the Holy Theotokos
Nobody knows whose hand painted the Pskov-Intercession (Pskovo-Pokrovskaya) icon. In the middle ages iconographers never signed icons they pained. But we know one thing for sure – the reason for the creation of the icon and its subject was the appearance of the Holy Theotokos to the monk of Pskov Intercession monastery Dorofey before the decisive storm of the town by the Polish army.

The events of those years were dramatic. The strongest European army (according to Russian sourсes, it consisted of 100 000 pople), which was lead by the best commander-in-chief of that time Stephan Bathory, beseiged Pskov,where, if we don’t take into account the townspeople, there were only 7000 people of the garrison.

The tsar, Ivan the Terrible, held the main troops near Moscow and in Novgorod lands. The Pskovites, left to survive on their own, had a choice – either to surrender, or to die fighting. They chose the second...

In those difficult days the most Holy Theotokos came to help the besieged town. No surprise that already during the time of the siege Pskov people shared with each other the story about the miraculous vision to monk Dorofey, which was later put on paper and on icon boards.

On August 26, 1581 Pskov was beseiged by the army of the polish king Stephan Bathory. Not long before that Pskov archibishop sent a request to Pskov Cave Dormition monastery, asking the hegumen of the monastery to come to Pskov with the miracle-working icons “The Dormition” and “The Eleusa”. The archibishop, seeing the perturbation of the Pskovites set all his hopes upon the patronage of the Holy Theotokos and his hopes were justified.

The 27th of August came. There were several days left before the decisive storm by Stephan Bathory’s army. The monk of the Intersession monastery Dorofey was sitting in his monastic cell and sadly thinking about the fate of Pskov. And he saw a miraculous vision: the Holy Theotokos was walking on air, accompanied by reverend Antoniy from Kiev Cave monastery and reverend Korniliy from Pskov Cave monastery. The Most Holy Theotokos together with st.Antoniy and st.Korniliy entered the Intersession church. Then, having come out of the church, She stopped on the town’s wall and asked: “Where is Nifont, the archibishop of Novgorod, the builder of the Mirozha monastery’s Transfiguration cathedral?” Nifont, the Novgorodian archbishop, appeared by Her side and, bowing to her, said with great sadness: “The Most Holy Theotokos! There has long been no church service in my monastery!” The Holy Theotokos answered him: “This has been the will of my Son”. Then She said: “Where are the ones, chosen by God, from the Holy Trinity cathedral?” And at once saint princes Vassiliy (Vladimir) of Kiev, Gavriil and Timofey of Pskov, st.Nicholas the blessed and st.Evfrosin and st.Savva appeared in front of Her and bowed to Her with great veneration. The Holy Theotokos, looking at the town with great sadness, said: “Oh, people with no consciousness! You have called down the wrath of my Son and defiled the town with bad deeds. And now this great trouble has come upon you!” And saint hegumen Korniliy, Evfrosin and Savva and Nicholas the blessed fell to their knees in front of Her and prayed to Her: “The Most Holy Theotokos! People have commited a lot of sins, but please, don’t be angry with them! Please, pray to Your Son and out God for the salvation of this town and its people”. After that saint princes fell to their knees and prayed to the Holy Theotokos, asking Her to protect the town. Then the Holy Theotokos told Dorofey to come closer to her and he at once saw himself standing by Her feet. She said to him: “Go to the mayors and to the hegumen of Pechory Cave Dormition monastery and to the Holy Tinity Cathedral and tell them to pray to God ardently about the protection of Pskov and to bring the old icon from the Dormition cave monastery and a holy banner to the place where I am standing. And tell them to put a cannon here and to put another cannon at the foot of the wall and to shoot at the marquees of the Polish king and to the left from them.” Pointing at the specified places the Holy Theotokos told the elderly monk to announce to the people that they should repent their sins and pray to God asking Him to forgive their sins.

The day of the decisive battle was approaching... On the 7th of September a big breach in the wall was made, and a fierce battle began. On the 8th of September at 5 o’clock the storm started.The enemies broke into the town through the breach, captured 2 towers and put their military banners on their tops. Pskov mayor, prince Ivan Shuiskiy was wounded in this battle and the defenders began to lose their strength. At that dramatic moment the holy relics of Pskov saint prince Gavriil and miracle working icons were brought to the place of the fierce battle and a miracle happened. In front of the icon, which was being carried to the breach in the fortress wall, there apeared riding horses three monks of the Dormition Cave monastery, who had long been dead. Having approached the fighting townspeople they said loudly: “Brothers, don’t be afraid! Let’s unite and attack the enemies! The Holy Theotokos and all the saints are with us!” This unexpected encouragement strengthened the spirit of the fighting warriors and mayors. And people exclaimed with great joy:

“The Holy Theotokos is coming! Let’s die for our faith and the orthodox tsar. And let’s not betray Pskov!”

The religious procession was approaching. It inspired the warriors and they continued fighting, exclaiming: “Let’s not betray the Holy Theotokos and st. Vsevolod!”

The fight went on till late at night and the Poles were driven out of the walls.

Being grateful to the Holy Theotokos for her help Pskov people decided to build a church in honour of Her Nativity. The victory by the walls of the Intercession monastery was won on September 8 (September 21 according to the new system of chronology), on the day of the Nativity of the Holy Theotokos. The church was built by the Intercession tower, near the place, where the breach had been made in the wall. Later the icon, which got the name of Pskov-Intercession, was painted and placed in the Intercession church.

A religious procession was established in 1601 in the memory of the events of 1581, it followed the route of the religious procession, which was organized during the siege of Pskov. When the procession with the most venerated icons of the Trinity cathedral approached the Intercession church it was met by the miracle working Intercession icon of the Holy Theotokos.

There are no icons with such iconography. The miraculous vision to monk Dorofey is depicted in it: The Holy Theotokos with the holy princes Vladimir of Kiev, Vsevolod and Dovmont of Pskov, Nifont, the archibishop of Novgorod, reverend Antoniy from Kiev Cave monastery and st.Korniliy from Pskov cave Dormition monastery and st. Nikolay the blessed from Pskov and also st. reverend Evfrosin of Pskov and Savva from Krypetsky monastery. The icon depicts also Pskov Intercession monastery and the Intercession tower – the center of the events of the siege, the Trinity cathedral and some other churches, the Velikaya river, fortress walls, Mirozha and Pechory Cave monastery. The icon also depicts the appearance of the Holy Theotokos. This icon became famous for many miracles which happened from it. The icon itself never left the church till 1920-s of the XXth century. During the confiscation of church valuables the silver frame, which was covering it, was taken off the icon and after that it disappeared. The father superior of the the church gave the icon to the museum so that it would not be destroyed (according to other sourses up to 1944 the icon was kept in the Epiphany church in Pskov).

In 1944 during the last days of Nazi occupation of Pskov the icon was taken to Germany. For several decades the icon was thought to have been lost to us forever. Pskov archaeologists, architects, restourers used to be very glad to find its old photos or drawings.

In 1970 its location suddenly became known to us. In Munich, in Haus der Kunst the exhibition “Iconen 13 bis 19 yarhundert” was held and under the number of 234 the icon from the private collection in Berrchtesgadene with a strange name “Pskov (Pleskay) and seine Umgebung” (Pskov (Pleskay) and its vicinities). And it was commented on the subject; “The transferral of the icon from Pechory cave monastery to the Trinity cathedral in Pskov”. It was the Pskov Intercession icon of the Holy Theotokos. For almost 40 years the icon belonged to a catholic family in Bayern, but during all those years its owner – Mrs. Hilda Karbacher wished it to come back to Russia.

But time did not come for the icon to come back to Russia yet. At the beginning of 1990-s a list of outstanding valuables which had artistic and historical significance and which were taken to Germany in 1941-1944 and were not returned to the museum, was passed to the Ministry of culture of the Russian Federation by Pskov state musum-preserve. The Pskov Intercession icon of the Holy Theotokos was number one on that list.

During the visit of the president of Russia Vladimir Putin to Germany in 2000 the icon was simbolicly given to him by the chancellor Gerhard Shreder. President Putin gave a promise that the icon would be given back to the Russian Orthodox Church and will return to Pskov, where it belongs. On August 31 2000 the icon was given to the Patriarch of Moscow and the whole of Rusia Alexiy II by the ambassador of Germany to Russia Ernst York fon Shtudnits.

“For us, first of all, it has great spiritual value, which cannot be measured with any material criteria”, - the patriarch said. He also said that it would be found out in what church the icon used to be kept and provided that “the church is active and safety is guaranteed to the holy icon, it would be given back to this church”.

On September 7th, 2001 the Pskov-Intercession icon of the Holy Theotokos was solemnly met in Pskov. This icon is an integral part of the ancient city of Pskov, we cannot imagine Pskov without it, as well as without the Trinity cathedral or the Intercession tower.

Today the Intercession icon is in the Trinity cathedral in Pskov. In January 2005 the icon began to shed holy ointment. According to the father superior of the Trinity Cathedral – father John, it is for the first time we saw such abundant holy ointment shedding. It is possible that in earlier times it was also giving signs but such cases were not documented. Presently an exact copy of the miracle working icon is in the church of Intercession (in the photo below)



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