The icon shows the greatest sacred object of Russia, the most beloved and worshipped by believers – the Kazan icon of the Mother of God. The wonder-working image is set into an oval frame with symbolical ornament “blossomed hearts”.
The icon appeared miraculously in Kazan in 1579, 26 years after Tatar khanate being annexed to Russia by Ivan IV the Terrible. That year conflagration roared in Kazan that destroyed the city Christian part. As a chronicle wrote: “Belief in Christ became parable and desecration” for Moslem inhabitants. And then the Mother of God came to the dream of a girl Matrona by name, and ordered her to go to the scorched ruins of the house of merchant Onuchin wherefrom the fire started, and to take a wonder-working icon that She bestowed for the benefit of Orthodox believers.
The vision repeated thrice, and at last Matrona and her mother set out to the scorched ruins in search of the icon. Townsfolk joined them. When Matrona spaded out the icon wrapped in an old crimson shirt sleeve, it became straight away known by all the citizens. The Archbishop came to the finding place; and the icon was carried to the nearest church. It was taken by the senior priest Germogenes, the Patriarch of all Russia and the priest-martyr to be. It is from his pen that the icon finding story came from as well as the words of celebration troparion and service.
On the icon way to the church several blind men were healed. It was taken as a sign of the icon to become the enlightener of Russian country. The copy of the icon together with the wonders description were sent to the Tsar, and Ivan the Terrible enjoined to build a nunnery on the place of the icon apparition. Matrona and her mother took the veils there, and afterwards Matrona became Mother Superior of the new nunnery.
The Kazan icon of the Mother of God became the protecting veil for Russian volunteer corps and military shield of Russia in dreadful Time of Distemper (1604—1613) when Moscow and the south of the country were occupied by Polish invaders, when robbery gangs roamed around the country, murdered and plundered. At that time there came to light the core of of the icon having been bestowed, its unconventional iconography came clear. On Kazan icon the Mother of God and Divine Baby are standing “nip and tuck” facing not to each other but outside. Only the blessing right hand of the Savior is seen. Such a highly laconic composition brings to one’s memory Holy Fathers works whereat the Mother of God is glorified as “Indestructible Wall” and “Bestowing victory to strugglers”.
In summer 1612 people’s volunteer corps of Kozma Minin and the Prince Demetrius Pozharsky liberated Moscow after a public prayer service. After the victory the Prince Demetrius Pozharsky had a church in honor of the icon built on the Red Square; and Michael Romanov when he came to the crown ordered the wonder-making icon to be celebrated twice a year – on July 21, the day of miraculous appearance, and on November 4, the day of Moscow liberation.
Since the 18th century the Saint-Petersburg copy of the icon is particularly worshipped. It was taken by Grand Duchess Natalia, the sister of Peter I to the new capital of Russia. The Kazan icon is the main sacred object of the city, its patroness and protector. At the beginning of 19th century stately Kazan Cathedral was erected especially for the wonder-making icon.
During the Patriotic war of 1812 the commander Michael Kutuzov ordered to officiate a thanksgiving public service for the Kazan icon. Thereby he committed himself and the whole country to her aegis. After the war the Cathedral became a memorial to Russian victory. Here the standards of French regiments done to the wide were brought, as well as 40 poods of silverware that Cossacks took away from Napoleon. The silver was put forth to Iconostasis decoration and, to a candlestick for the wonder-making copy. The Saint-Petersburg copy of the icon is nowadays the most worshipped one since there is no longer the original old icon that appeared miraculously. On the night of July 12, 1904 a sacrilege was committed by a few persons: they got into Kazan cathedral of the Mother of God and stole the found Kazan icon. On July 21 thieves were caught but the icon was irretrievable.
But there remained its wonder-making copies, still possessing inexhaustible beneficial power. Until now the Kazan icon is the shield and the guard not only for Russian country as a whole, but for every person specifically. It is particularly venerated both as a helper in family troubles, and as a healer in diseases. The reverse shows the Blossomed Cross of the Lord – the symbol of His triumph over death and of His salvifical doctrine strengthening in our world. The prayer is written roundabout: “The Most Holy Mother of God, save us”.
The icon observance is instituted on November 4 (October 22), the day of Moscow liberation from Polish invaders.