The Zhirovits Icon of the Mother of God appeared in 1470 in the vicinity of Zhirovits, Russia on the Grodnensk frontier. While peering through the branches of a pear tree that stood over a brook at the foot of a hill, shepherds beheld an extraordinarily bright light. They came closer and saw a radiant icon of the Mother of God on the tree. With reverence, the shepherds took the icon to the local Orthodox dignitary, Alexander Solton. Solton did not pay any attention to the shepherds’ story. He took the icon from them and placed it in a chest.
The next day, Solton was entertaining some guests, and wanted to show them the icon. However, to his amazement, the icon was not in the chest, even though he had seen it shortly before this. A few weeks later, the shepherds found the icon in the tree, and again took it to Alexander Solton. This time, however, Solton received the icon with great reverence and vowed to build a church in honor of the Most Holy Theotokos at the place of its discovery. A settlement soon gathered around the wooden church and a parish was formed.
Around 1520, the church was completely burned, despite the efforts of the townspeople to extinguish the blaze and their attempt to save the icon. Everyone thought that the icon had been destroyed, but peasant children returning from school one day beheld a miraculous vision. The Virgin, extraordinarily beautiful and radiant, sat upon a stone at the burned church, and in Her hands was the icon which everyone believed had been destroyed. The children did not dare approach Her, but ran and told their families about the vision.
Everyone accepted the story of the vision as a divine revelation, and they traveled to the hill where the church had been located with a priest. The Zhirovits Icon of the Mother of God, totally unharmed by the fire, stood on a stone with a burning candle before it. The people placed the icon in the priest’s house, and the stone where the icon was found was fenced in. The faithful eventually built a stone church where they placed the wonderworking icon. A men’s monastery later grew up around the church.
In 1609, the monastery was seized by the Uniates and remained in their possession until 1839. During this time, the Zhirovits Icon of the Mother of God was venerated by both Uniates and Catholics. In 1839, the monastery was returned to the Orthodox Church and became the first place where Orthodox services were restored on the Western Russian frontier.
During World War I, the Zhirovits Icon of the Mother of God was brought to Moscow, but it was eventually returned to the monastery in the early 1920s. At present, it is in the Dormition Cathedral of the Zhirovits Monastery in Minsk and is deeply revered for its grace-filled help.
The icon is carved in stone and measures 43 x 56 cm.
By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org )