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Our Lady of the Sign (Novgorod)

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Title: Our Lady of the Sign (Novgorod)  
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Subject: Cathedral of St. Sophia, Novgorod, Church of the Transfiguration on Ilyina Street, Novgorod, Russian icons, List of oldest Russian icons
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Our Lady of the Sign (Novgorod)

The Icon of the Mother of God of the Sign, housed in Novgorod's cathedral.

The Novgorodian icon of Our Lady of the Sign (formally the Mother of God of the Sign, or Znamenie, Знамение) is one of Russia's oldest icons which was for centuries regarded as the palladium of the Republic of Novgorod. It is tentatively dated to the mid-12th century. The reverse of the icon shows Saint Joachim and Saint Anne.

Znamenie is a medieval Russian painting depicting the Theotokos and the infant Jesus. The icon is said to have miraculously saved Novgorod the Great during an attack by Suzdalian forces in 1169, an event depicted in several paintings illustrating the Battle of the Novgorodians with the Suzdalians.[1]

The origin of the icon is unknown. According to the legend (probably passed on orally for centuries before being written down by Pachomius the Serb in the fifteenth century under the auspices of Novgorodian archbishop Evfimy II) during the siege of Novgorod by the forces of Prince Andrei Bogolyubsky, Archbishop Ilya ordered the icon brought out of the Church of the Transfiguration on Ilin Street to be displayed to the Novgorodian troops. It was carried across the river to the Detinets where it was venerated in the Cathedral of Holy Wisdom. To commemorate the miracle, the Church of the Sign was built next to the Church of the Transfiguration and the icon was housed there for several centuries. It is now housed in the cathedral in front of the main iconostasis.[2]


  1. ^ “Povest’ o pobede Novgorodtsev” nad” Suzdal’tsami,” in Grigorii Aleksandrovich, graf Kushelev-Bezborodko,, and Nikolay Kostomarov, eds. Pamiatniki starinnoi russkoi literatury. 4 Vols. (St. Petersburg: Tipografii P. A. Kulish, 1860-1862), vol. 1, pp. 241-2; “Skazanie o bitve Novgorodtsev s Suzdal’tsami,” in L. A. (Lev Aleksandrovich) Dmitriev and D. S. (Dmitrii Sergeevich) Likhachev, eds. Pamiatniki literatury drevnei Rusi XIV-seredina XV veka. (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1981), 448-53. See also, Michael C.Paul, A Man Chosen by God: The Office of Archbishop in Novgorod Russia 1165-1478. Ph.D. dissertation. University of Miami, 2003, p. 258
  2. ^ See Slovo o znamenii, in I. Kuprianov, Obozrenie pergamennykh rukopisei Novgorodskoi Sofiiskoi biblioteki (St. Petersburg: N.p., 1857), 71-75 and L. A. (Lev Aleksandrovich) Dmitriev’s modern translation in L. A. (Lev Aleksandrovich) Dmitriev and D. S. (Dmitrii Sergeevich Likhachev), eds., Pamiatniki literatury drevnei Rusi XIV-seredina XV veka, 3 vols., (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1981), 448-453; Janet Martin, Medieval Russia 980-1584 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 114-115; E. S. (Engelina Sergeevna) Smirnova, “Novgorodskaia ikona Bogomater’ ‘Znamenie’: Nekotorye voprosy Bogorodichnoi ikonografii XII v.” in A. I. (Aleksei I.) Komech and E. O. Etingof, eds., Drevnerusskoe iskusstvo. Balkany. Rus’ (St. Petersburg: Dmitrii Bulanin, 1995), 288-309.Elisa Aleksandrovna Gordienko, Vladychnaia Palata Novgorodskogo Kremlia (Leningrad: Lenizdat, 1991), 49; Gail Lenhoff, “Novgorod’s Znamenie Legend in Moscow’s Steppennaia Kniga,” in Moskovskaia Rus’: Spetsificheskie cherty razvitiia. (Budapest: Lorand Eotvos University Press, 2003): 178-186.
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