The official recognition of the miraculous Hirbovat Icon of the Mother of God took place in 1859, and over time, its veneration has increased so, that it has became the patroness of all Moldova. At the same time the decision of the Holy Synod to transfer the shrine for winter time for better preservation in Kishinev from the Hirbovat Monastery was adopted.
The Hirbovat Assumption Monastery was one of the largest monasteries and was one of the Bessarabian Thebaid monasteries. It is located about 50 km from Kishinev, near the Hirbovat village, on the bank of the Ikel river. The monastery grew from the ancient Hirbovat skete, founded in the middle of the XVII century by the monks of Podolsk Bershad Monastery, who fled from the persecution of the Uniates.
The appearance of the miraculous icon in the Hirbovat monastery is associated with an event that happened almost before Christmas 1790. Then Colonel Nikolai Alekseevich Albaduev, an old friend of Abbot Pakhomiy, arrived at the monastery from Moscow. Here a tragic incident happened to him: after falling from a horse, he suddenly died. He was buried on December 17 in the monastery church. The wife (according to another version – the mother of the deceased) donated a family heirloom, an old Icon of the Mother of God which was a family shrine, as a gift to the monastery. Since that time, the Icon was named Hirbovat Icon. Soon, the image began to show numerous miracles of healing of the sick and started to be venerated by the locals.
According to iconography, the Hirbovat Icon belongs to the Hodegetria type. Virgin Mary is presented to the knees, Infant Jesus is sitting on Her left hand. She is blessing with her right hand, and is holding the scroll in her left hand. The icon is painted on canvas, subsequently stuck to a linden board, and has dimensions: 58 centimeters wide and 89 centimeters long.
Subsequently, the Hirbovat Icon was decorated with a silver oklad by Kishinev citizens’ zeal, and the Icon itself was placed in a magnificent icon case.
The Hirbovat monastery, during the time the Icon was in it, was ruined three times and burned by the Turks, but each time the Icon was found on the ashes of the intact, lying face down on the ground. Today, traces of the fire, burned just the edges of the Icon, are still visible on it. The paint on the clothes of the Mother of God has also blackened, but the face and hands of the Virgin and Child after all fires did not suffer at all – “completely clean and of beautiful painting” – as noted in the inventory list drawn up in 1817.
Repeated healings, which were always clearly fixed and double-checked, has come from the miraculous Icon of the Mother of God. The Hirbovat Icon showed its power, helping people during the pestilence and cholera epidemic. Here are just some cases of its gracious help. In 1861, during a procession with the Icon from Kishinev to the monastery, a priest suffering from fever and a woman who was paralyzed were healed. At the same time the five-month-old daughter of one priest received healing. Or another good example. In 1862, three children contracted rabies from a dog bite. But one of them, the son of a priest, was sent to pray in front of the Hirbovat Icon, and he survived, while the remaining children died.
Since 1908, when the holy martyr Seraphim (Chichagov) became the bishop of Kishinev, they started to perform weekly services with the reading of an akathist before the miraculous Icon. This tradition started by him has remained unchanged even until now.
In 1995, the monastery was returned to the Church; and now the miraculous Icon abides in it in winter until Easter, and then it is carried through the churches of neighboring villages and arrives at the Kishinev Cathedral. The feast day of the Hirbovat Icon of the Mother of God is on October 14 (1).
Modern Moldova is an Orthodox country in which there are 42 monasteries, 8 sketes and 1264 parishes, although it is 20 times smaller than Ukraine in the territory and 4 million people live in it. However, the Moldavian people preserved their faith from the first centuries of Christianity. More than 93% of the population profess Orthodoxy, despite the fact that for 300 years this country has been under the Turkish yoke.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds