The Miraculous Icon of The Mother of God of Iveron (Panagia Portraitissa)

Apolytikion Hymn of Panagia Portaitissa. First Tone

Your sacred icon O Lady Portaitissa, which has come by the sea, is wondrous in your flock, we honor as a pure blessing, and faithfully as a repository of your glory, from it you pour forth gifts, to those who cry out fervently. Glory to your wonders O Pure One, Glory to your providence, Glory to your rich goodness towards us.

One of the countless holy Icons of the Ever-Virgin Mary and Mother of God is the holy Icon of Panagia Portaitissa. This holy Icon is one of the most treasured holy Icons of Mount Athos and throughout the world. In fact, Panagia still works many miracles through the copies of her holy Icon.

The Iberian (Monastery of Iveron of Mt. Athos) holy Icon of the Most-Holy Virgin, which is especially honored and venerated above all of the Icons of Mt. Athos, first appeared about the middle of the 9th century. The Holy Orthodox Church at that time was profoundly agitated by fresh waves of iconoclasm under Emperor Theophilus; and to protect the Holy Icons from being burnt and desecrated, pious Orthodox Christians tried to hide or set them afloat on swift rivers or seas, entrusting their destiny to the will of God. Such was the case of the Iberian Holy Icon of the Mother of God. 

According to Church Holy Tradition, to save the holy Icon from the iconoclasts, a certain pious widow who lived not far from the town of Nicea, floated the holy Icon on the water of the sea, committing it to the case of the Theotokos. But as the widow and her son, who helped her to set the holy Icon afloat, watched, the Holy Icon did not disappear into the water, but floated westward in an upright position. This moved the widow’s son to dedicate himself to God and secretly he set out for Thessaloniki and from there to Mt. Athos, where he settled after taking monastic vows at the Iberian monastery (Iveron), it was he who told the monks there about the holy Icon and thus preserved its sacred memory.

One day in the latter half of the 10th Century, the Monks of Iveron Monastery saw a pillar of fire rising from the sea. It continued for several days and nights. Soon the Monks who gathered on the shore saw an icon of the Virgin which seemed to be standing upright on the surface of the water, giving off rays of light. The mystery of the miraculous appearance of the holy Icon was revealed by the Holy Mother of God Herself to Gabriel, a hermit of the Monastery Iveron, whom she willed to walk over the water and receive the holy Icon in his hands. With great rejoicing and ceremony the Monks greeted the Holy Icon on the shore and a Chapel was built on the spot soon after. 

The Holy Icon, placed by the Monks on the Holy Altar Table of the Monastery church, was soon found to have changed its place and to stand above the gates of the Monastery. And every time the Monks returned the holy Icon to the place they had chosen, it miraculously moved back to the gates of the Monastery. Finally it was revealed to the Monks by the Theotokos through the hermit Gabriel that this was a visual sign that she herself wished to be their Gatekeeper and Guardian not only in their present life, but also in the hereafter. Thus, at this special Sign, the Monks built a special Chapel for the holy Icon by the inner gates of the Monastery, where they worshipped zealously every day. The holy Icon was called Iberian (or Of Iveron) after the Monastery, and Portaitissa (or Gatekeeper), after its place by the gates.

One day, a blow dealt by a bandit left a mark on the cheek of the Holy Virgin Mary. The sight of the blood that ran down the cheek terrified the robber. He repented of his actions and dedicated the rest of his life to God and to the life of a holy ascetic. Since then all copies of the Iberian holy Icon of the Theotokos have depicted Her with a scar and drops of blood on Her cheek.

The fame of the holy Icon reached Russia through pious pilgrims. It became especially venerated in Orthodox Russia in the 17th Century when two early copies of it were brought from Mt. Athos (Holy Mountain) one in 1648 and the other in 1656 both being made at the order of Patriarch Nikon. One copy was placed in the Tsar’s palace and later in a special Chapel built for it by the Resurrection Gates of Moscow.

In the Church Calendar, the Iberian holy Icon is commemorated on three occasions: October 13, the day when the holy Icon was brought from Mt. Athos to Moscow, in 1648; February 12, when the main feast of the Holy Icon was established; and of Bright Tuesday, according to the Athonite tradition. The many prayers that are offered up to the Iberian holy Icon of the Ever-Virgin Mary and the services in its honor testify to the great love and veneration in which it is held among all the holy Icons of the Theotokos which are the spiritual beauty of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The holy Icon was glorified with numerous miracles attributed to it by the faithful. The holy Icon of Iveron became known as the Myrrh-streaming Icon. For fifteen years, between 1982 and 1997, myrrh continually flowed from this holy Icon. Father Jose Monoz-Cortes devoted himself to the care and protection of the holy Icon, and accompanied it on numerous trips to parishes all over the United States and Canada, South America, Australia, and Europe.

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