The Theotokos of Vladimir (Greek: Θεοτόκος του Βλαντίμιρ), also known as Our Lady of Vladimir, Vladimir Mother of God, or Virgin of Vladimir (Russian: Владимирская Икона Божией Матери) is a medieval Byzantine icon of the Virgin and Child. No-one knows the name of the iconographer. The icon was painted, however, in Constantinople by a Hellenic iconographer at some time during the 11th and 12th centuries. We know that it turned up in Kiev, then the capital city of Russia, in 1131, when Byzantium was being ruled by the Macedonian dynasty. In 1169 Andrei Bogolyubsky sacked Kiev, and, after plundering the city, stole much religious artwork, including a Byzantine “Mother of God” icon which was transferred to Vladimir. Because of its location in Vladimir, which was the religious capital at that time, it was called ‘The Vladimir Virgin’. Later, Moscow became the religious capital, so the icon was moved there in 1395, where it has remained until now. It is housed in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. Even more than most famous icons, the original has been copied repeatedly for centuries, and many copies have considerable artistic and religious significance of their own.
Our Lady of Vladimir is one of the most venerated Orthodox icons. It is a fine, early example of the iconography of the Eleusa (tenderness) type, having the Christ child snuggling up to his mother’s cheek. Unlike some icons with a special following in religious terms, the high artistic quality of the work is universally agreed. The Vladimirskaya, as Russians call it, is generally accepted as the finest of the few Byzantine icons surviving from its period. According to the art historian David Talbot Rice, it “is admitted by all who have seen it to be one of the most outstanding religious paintings of the world“. The Theotokos (literally “the Birth-Giver of God”) is regarded as the holy protectress of Russia. Yesterday (August 26) was one of the feast days on which the Icon is venerated.
O Mistress, Empress and Lady, defend all who are in danger and misfortune or weak from many sins, and who stand before your holy Icon, praying with tears, humility, repentance, and invincible hope, free them from all evil, give them the grace they need and save us all, O Virgin Mother of God, for You are the divine refuge of those who follow you!