The Theodorovsk (Feodorovsk) Kostroma Icon of the Mother of God
Commemorated on August 16, March 14
(Feodorov) - Kostroma Icon of the Mother of God was written by the
Evangelist Luke and is close in iconography to the Vladmir Icon of the Mother
This icon received its name from GreatPrince Yaroslav Vsevolodovich (+ 1246), the father of Saint Alexander Nevsky, and who received in holy Baptism the name Theodore (Feodor) – in honour of Saint Theodore Stratelates. It was found, according to tradition, by his elder brother, Saint Yurii Vsevolodovich (+ 1238, Comm. 4 February), in an old wooden chaplet near the old city of Gorodets – later on at this spot was built the Gorodetsk Theodorov monastery. Prince Yaroslav-Theodore became the GreatPrince of Vladimir after his brother Saint Yurii perished in battle with the Tatar-Mongols at the Sita River, and subsequently in the year 1239, he solemnly transferred the relics of his brother from Rostov to the Vladimir Uspenie (Dormition) cathedral. And with this same icon inherited from his brother, he blessed his own son, Saint Alexander Nevsky, who that very year entered into marriage with the daughter of the Polovetsian prince Briacheslav.
Yaroslav-Theodore left behind in Russian history a remarkable memory of himself. He continued with the glorious traditions of his uncle – Saint Andrei Bogoliubsky (Comm. 4 July), and of his father – Vsevolod III Big-Nest ("Bol'shoe Gnezdo"), and he was thus connected to almost all of the significant events in the history of Rus' in the first half of the XIII Century. He inherited the legacy of Rus', burnt and hacked apart in the years 1237-1238 by the Tatar-Mongols. He raised it up from the ashes, rebuilt and embellished the cities, the holy monasteries and the churches. He restored cities along the Volga devastated by the enemy: Kashin, Uglich, Yaroslavl', Kostroma, Gorodets. The church of Theodore Stratelates at Kostroma and the Theodorov monastery near Gorodets were founded by him in honour of his patron saint. For all of eight years he stood at the helm as greatprince, but during this while he had to guide the land through a singularly difficult path for these times – maintaining a military-political balance with the Golden Horde to the East, while mounting an active opposition to Catholic Europe in the West. His closest companion was his son, Saint Alexander Nevsky, who also continued his governing policy.
The wonderworking Theodorov Icon of the Mother of God – with the blessing of his father – was constantly with Saint Alexander, and it was his prayer-icon. After his death (Saint Alexander Nevsky died on 14 November 1263 in Gorodets, at the monastery founded by his father), the icon was taken by his younger brother Vasilii.
Vasilii Yaroslavich was the "little-est", that is, he was the youngest (eighth) son of Yaroslav Vsevolodovich. In 1246 after the death of his father, (prince Yaroslav was poisoned in the capital city of Mongolia – Karakorum), when he was but five years old, he became prince of the Kostroma appanage-holding – the least important in the domains of his father. But in the year 1272 God destined for him to become GreatPrince of Vladimir. His four years as greatprince (1272-1276) were filled with the typical for these times princely fratricidal quarrels. For several years he waged war against Novgorod with an unruly nephew Dimitrii Alexandrovich. In becoming greatprince, however, Vasilii did not journey off to Vladimir, but remained under the protection of the wonderworking icon at Kostroma, regarding this place more hopeful in case of new outbreaks of strife.
He had occasion also to defend Rus' against external enemies. In 1272, during the course of a Tatar incursion, a Russian army came forth from Kostroma to engage them. On the example of his grandfather, Saint Andrei Bogoliubsky – who took with him on military campaigns the wonderworking Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God, – prince Vasilii went off into battle with the wonderworking Theodorov Icon. Bright rays shot out from the holy image, striking the enemy; the Tatars were routed and expelled from the Russian land.
The chronicles relate, the GreatPrince Vasilii had an especial love for the Church and the clergy. After the martyr's death of the Vladimir bishop Mitrophan during the storming of Vladimir by Tatars on 4 February 1238, the Vladimir diocese had for a long period of years remained as though widowed. This grieved GreatPrince Vasilii. With his help in 1274 there was constructed in Vladimir the large Cathedral church. This was apparently in connection with the consecration as bishop of Vladimir of Sainted Serapion (+ 1275, Comm. 12 July) – who was an hegumen from Pechersk; this was presided over by Metropolitan Kirill III (+ 1282) and a sobor-council of Russian hierarchs. The purpose of the council's actions was quite extensive – this was the first Sobor in the Russian Church since the time of the Mongol invasion. Many a problem and disorder had arisen in church life, but the Russian Church was just barely beginning to recover from the woe that had befallen it. A chief task for it was the rebirth of Russian churchly literacy, and the restoration of the tradition of the ancient Russian "princely order". Without books the salvific activity of the Church would be well nigh impossible: they were needed for the Divine-services, and for preaching, for cell meditation by monks, and for at-home reading by believers. With the efforts of Metropolitan Kirill together with the Russian bishops and monk-scholars, this task, – the most important for the subsequent Christian enlightenment of Rus', was successfully undertaken. The Sobor adopted a new redaction of the essential books – the fundamental canonical codex of Orthodox churchly life.
In the year 1276 prince Vasilii finished his life's journey, the most important steps along the way of which were beneathe the overshadowing blessing of the Theodorov Icon of the Mother of God. He died at Kostroma and there also found the place of his final rest. The holy icon has been from that time in the Kostroma cathedral of Saint Theodore Stratelates.
Renewed interest in the Theodorov Icon of the Mother of God and the wide spreading about of its veneration throughout all Russia is connected with events of the beginning of the XVII Century – with the cessation of the Time of Troubles. In the year 1613 the wonderworking Theodorov Icon from the Kostroma cathedral was used in blessing the selection of Mikhail Romanov as the new tsar. In memory of this historic event there was established under 14 March the general commemoration of the Theodorovsk Icon of the Mother of God. Numerous copies were made from the Kostroma Theodorovsk Icon, and one of the first was commissioned and brought to Moscow by the mother of tsar Mikhail – the nun Martha. From the second half of the XVII Century, various copies of the Theodorov Icon received an enlargement with vignettes, depicting events from the history of the wonderworking icon.
In the year 1670 the monk-deacon Longin from the Kostroma Ipat'ev monastery wrote the "Narrative concerning the manifestations and miracles of the Theodorov Icon of the Mother of God in Kostroma". Not all the things contained in its information co-incides with things previously stated, reflecting the people's memory as regarding chronology and laws.
The Theodorov Icon is two-sided. On the reverse side – is the image of the holy GreatMartyress Paraskeva, depicted in the splendid attire of a princess. It is conjectured, that the image of Paraskeva on the reverse of the icon is connected with the spouse of Saint Alexander Nevsky.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.