The Church tradition ascribes the Feodorovskaya icon of the Mother of God from Kostroma to the Evangelist Luke.
The history of its discovery is filled with the most dramatic events. Originally it belonged to the Grand Duke Yaroslav Vsevolodovich, who was baptized with the name Theodore in honor of the ancient Roman Christian saint Theodore Stratelates. The Gorodets St. Theodore Monastery was built to host this icon. However, Gorodets was captured by the troops of Batu Khan in 1238. During the massacre the icon disappeared, and it was presumably stolen or destroyed by fire. However, a year later Alexander Nevsky’s younger brother Vasily of Kostroma went hunting and found the icon of the Virgin on the branches of a fir tree. The prince reached out to take the icon, but it rose up into the air. Struck by the obvious miracle, the prince informed the clergy, and after a large crowd of people had served a prayer before the icon of the Heavenly Protectress, it descended to earth. A monastery was built at the place where the icon was found. In the year 1239 the holy Prince Alexander Nevsky was blessed by it to marry Princess Bryachislava of Polotsk (baptized as Alexandra).
In the same year 1239, the church and nearby houses caught a fire. The locals saw the icon of the Mother of God rising to heaven amidst the flames. The people, terrified that the Virgin leaves the city, forgot to rescue their property, fell to the ground and tearfully begged the Queen of Heaven not to leave them. The icon stopped in the air and remained there until the fire died out. The grateful city dwellers built the Assumption Cathedral for the icon on the territory of the Kostroma Kremlin. Interestingly, the altar of this cathedral faces not the east but the north – the place where the icon was found.
The Tatars came to Kostroma again in 1260 and the city was in danger of complete devastation. Prince Vasily had a small corps. He did not rely on his own strength, so he gathered all his men in the cathedral and prayed for a long time for the deliverance of the city from destruction, and then before the battle he ordered to carry the image of the Feodorovskaya icon of the Blessed Virgin, the Defender of Christians. The battle was marked by a miracle: the face of the Blessed Virgin began to blast blinding rays of light. Struck by the fiery rays, the Tatars fled and the Kostromians won the battle. The prince erected a cross in memory of this miracle at the place where the icon had been during the battle. Later they built a stone chapel there, and the nearby lake was called Lake Svyatoye (Holy).
In the Time of Troubles, people’s militia led by Prince Dmitry Pozharsky and the Nizhni Novgorod citizen Kozma Minin liberated Moscow from the Poles in 1613. People were tired of bloodshed and unrest. Election of a new tsar became a pressing and urgent issue. Following a three-day fast, the entire nation elected a Kostroma boyar Mikhail Romanov. He and his mother, Nun Martha, were at the Kostroma Ipatiev Monastery at that time. Young Michael has not considered becoming the tsar, nor did he want to be the tsar. His mother, Nun Martha, was also opposed to it. When Nun Martha prayed in front of the wonder-working Feodorovskaya icon of the Mother of God, she exclaimed: “Thy will be done, O Lady! In Thy hands I commit my son: guide him to the true path, for the good of Thyself and of the Homeland!” The mother and the son were assured in their hearts that the election of Mikhail to the All-Russian throne was pleasing to God. Mikhail Romanov was proclaimed Tsar on March 14, 1613. Nun Martha herself painted a copy of the wonder-working image and transported it to Moscow. This was how the reign of the Romanov dynasty began. That day became the feast day of the Feodorovskaya Icon of the Mother of God. Many Russian empresses from other countries received the patronymic Feodorovna in honor of the wonder-working icon.
The iconography of the icon belongs to the Eleusa type (Greek “Sweet Kissing”), which was widespread in Russia at that time. A rare detail of the Feodorovskaya icon is the depiction of the bare feet of Jesus. The Virgin presses the Son to her cheek with her left hand, while her right hand points at Jesus as the Savior of the world. This gesture is called a gesture of prayer for the whole human race.
The Feodorovskaya icon of the Mother of God is two-sided: there is an icon of the Holy Martyr Paraskeva on the reverse side. This holy virgin-martyr is revered in Russia as the patroness of brides and marriage.
The wonder-working icon is still on display in the city cathedral of Kostroma. It continues to deliver gracious help to the believers. They come to the Mother of God pleading for Her mercy and intercession before the Lord. She never fails to grant the petitions of those who come to her with faith and love.
Feast Day: March 27 (March 14 O. S.).
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds