Intercession of the Theotokos

Last updated
Icon of the Protection, 19th century, Russia Icon 02041 Pokrov. Ikona. XIX v. Rossiya.jpg
Icon of the Protection, 19th century, Russia

The Intercession of the Theotokos, or the Protection of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, is a feast of the Mother of God celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic Churches. The feast celebrates the protection afforded the faithful through the intercessions of the Theotokos (lit. Mother of God, the Eastern title of the Virgin Mary). In the Slavic Orthodox Churches it is celebrated as the most important solemnity besides the Twelve Great Feasts and Pascha. The feast is commemorated in Eastern Orthodoxy as a whole, but by no means as fervently as it is in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. It is not a part of the ritual traditions of, and therefore is not celebrated by, the Oriental Orthodox Churches or Western Rite Orthodoxy. Yet the feast is perfectly consistent with the theology of these sister churches. It is celebrated on October 14 (OS October 1). [1]

Intercession or intercessory prayer is the act of praying to a deity on behalf of others. In Western Christianity, intercession forms a distinct form of prayer, alongside Adoration, Confession and Thanksgiving.

<i>Theotokos</i> Title given to Mary in Eastern Christianity

Theotokos is a title of Mary, mother of Jesus, used especially in Eastern Christianity. The usual Latin translations, Dei Genetrix or Deipara, are "Mother of God" or "God-bearer".

Easter Major Christian festival celebrating the resurrection of Jesus

Easter, also called Pascha or Resurrection Sunday, is a festival and holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, described in the New Testament as having occurred on the third day after his burial following his crucifixion by the Romans at Calvary c. 30 AD. It is the culmination of the Passion of Jesus, preceded by Lent, a 40-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance.



The Protection of the Theotokos or the Intercession of the Theotokos (Church Slavonic : Покровъ, Pokrov, Ukrainian : Покрова, Pokrova), like the Greek Skepê has a complex meaning. First of all, it refers to a cloak or shroud, but it also means protection or intercession. For this reason, the name of the feast is variously translated as the Veil of Our Lady, the Protecting Veil of the Theotokos. It is often translated as Feast of the Intercession or Feast of the Holy Protectress.

Church Slavonic language Liturgical language of the Orthodox Church in Slavic countries

Church Slavonic, also known as Church Slavic, New Church Slavonic or New Church Slavic, is the conservative Slavic sacred language used by the Orthodox Church in Bulgaria, Russia, Belarus, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Ukraine, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Slovenia and Croatia. The language appears also in the services of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese and occasionally in the services of the Orthodox Church in America. It was also used by the Orthodox Churches in Romanian lands until the late 17th and early 18th centuries as well as by Roman Catholic Croats in the Early Middle Ages. It is also co-used by Greek Catholic Churches, which are under Roman communion, in Slavic countries, for example the Croatian, Slovak and Ruthenian Greek Catholics, as well as by the Roman Catholic Church.

Ukrainian language language member of the East Slavic subgroup of the Slavic languages

Ukrainian is an East Slavic language. It is the official state language of Ukraine and one of the three official languages in the unrecognized state of Transnistria, the other two being Romanian and Russian. Written Ukrainian uses a variant of the Cyrillic script.

With some reservations, the Pokrov icon may be related to the Western Virgin of Mercy image, in which the Virgin spreads wide her cloak to cover and protect a group of kneeling supplicants (first known from Italy at about 1280).

Virgin of Mercy subject in Christian Art

The Virgin of Mercy is a subject in Christian art, showing a group of people sheltering for protection under the outspread cloak, or pallium, of the Virgin Mary. It was especially popular in Italy from the 13th to 16th centuries, often as a specialised form of votive portrait, and is also found in other countries and later art, especially Catalonia and Latin America.


Russian icon of Pokrov Icon of theotokos pokrov naive.jpg
Russian icon of Pokrov
Icon, showing a broad protective cloak. Mid 17th century, Ukraine. Icon 03050 Pokrova Bogorodicy. Seredina XVII v. Ukraina.jpg
Icon, showing a broad protective cloak. Mid 17th century, Ukraine.

According to Eastern Orthodox Sacred Tradition, the apparition of Mary the Theotokos occurred during the 10th century at the Blachernae church in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) where several of her relics (her robe, veil, and part of her belt) were kept. On Sunday, October 1 at four in the morning, St. Andrew the Blessed Fool-for-Christ, who was a Slav by birth, saw the dome of the church open and the Virgin Mary enter, moving in the air above him, glowing and surrounded by angels and saints. She knelt and prayed with tears for all faithful Christians in the world. The Virgin Mary asked Her Son, Jesus Christ, to accept the prayers of all the people entreating Him and looking for Her protection. Once Her prayer was completed, She walked to the altar and continued to pray. Afterwards, She spread Her veil over all the people in the church as a protection. [2]

Church of St. Mary of Blachernae (Istanbul) Church in Istanbul, Turkey

Saint Mary of Blachernae is an Eastern Orthodox church in Istanbul. The little edifice, built in 1867, got the same dedication as the shrine erected in this place in the fifth century which, until its destruction in 1434, was one of the most important sanctuaries of Greek Orthodoxy.

Constantinople capital city of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire, the Latin and the Ottoman Empire

Constantinople was the capital city of the Roman Empire (330–395), of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, of the brief Crusader state known as the Latin Empire (1204–1261) and of the Ottoman Empire (1453–1923). In 1923 the capital of Turkey, the successor state of the Ottoman Empire, was moved to Ankara and the name Constantinople was officially changed to Istanbul. The city is located in what is now the European side and the core of modern Istanbul. The city is still referred to as Constantinople in Greek-speaking sources.

Istanbul Metropolitan municipality in Marmara, Turkey

Istanbul, formerly known as Byzantium and Constantinople, is the most populous city in Turkey and the country's economic, cultural and historic center. Istanbul is a transcontinental city in Eurasia, straddling the Bosporus strait between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. Its commercial and historical center lies on the European side and about a third of its population lives in suburbs on the Asian side of the Bosporus. With a total population of around 15 million residents in its metropolitan area, Istanbul is one of the world's most populous cities, ranking as the world's fourth largest city proper and the largest European city. The city is the administrative center of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.

St Andrew turned to his disciple, St. Epiphanius, who was standing near him, and asked, "Do you see, brother, the Holy Theotokos, praying for all the world?" Epiphanius answered, "Yes, Holy Father, I see it and am amazed!" [2]

According to the Primary Chronicle of St. Nestor the Chronicler, the inhabitants of Constantinople called upon the intercession of the Mother of God to protect them from an attack by a large Rus' army (Rus' was still pagan at the time). According to Nestor, the feast celebrates the destruction of this fleet sometime in the ninth century.

<i>Primary Chronicle</i> literary work

The Tale of Bygone Years, known in English-language historiography as the Primary Chronicle or Russian Primary Chronicle (RPC) or, after the author it has traditionally been ascribed to, Nestor's Chronicle or The Chronicle of Nestor, is a history of the Kievan Rus' from about 850 to 1110, originally compiled in Kiev about 1113. The work’s name originates from the opening sentence of the text, which reads: “These are the narratives of bygone years regarding the origin of the land of Rus’, the first princes of Kiev, and from what source the land of Rus’ had its beginning.” The work is considered to be a fundamental source in the interpretation of the history of the East Slavs. The Chronicle's content is known to us today from several surviving editions and codices that have been revised over the years and evince a slight degree of variation from each other.

Nestor the Chronicler Saint and chronicler of Kievan Rus

Saint Nestor the Chronicler was the reputed author of the Primary Chronicle,, Life of the Venerable Theodosius of the Kiev Caves, and Account about the Life and Martyrdom of the Blessed Passion Bearers Boris and Gleb.

The Rus' Khaganate, also Russkiy Kaganate is the name applied by some modern historians to a hypothetical polity postulated to exist during a poorly documented period in the history of Eastern Europe, roughly the late 8th and early-to-mid-9th centuries AD.


The icon of the feast, which is not found in Byzantine art, depicts in its upper part the Virgin Mary surrounded by a luminous aureole. She holds in her outstreched arms an orarion or veil, which symbolizes the protection of her intercession. [3] To either side of her stand numerous saints and angels, many of whom are recognizable to the experienced church-goer: the apostles, John the Baptist, St. Nicholas of Myra, etc. Below, St. Andrew the Fool for Christ is depicted, pointing up at the Virgin Mary and turning to his disciple Epiphanius. Usually, the veil with which the Virgin protects mankind is small and held either in her outstretched hands or by two angels, [4] though a version similar to the Western European Virgin of Mercy image, with a larger cloak covering people is found in some Eastern Orthodox icons.


The Holy Virgin protecting the Ukrainian cossack hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky (at the right of image). Late 17 to early 18th century, Ukraine. Pokrova (Intercession of the Holy Virgin) with the Portrait of Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky. Kyiv Region.jpg
The Holy Virgin protecting the Ukrainian cossack hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky (at the right of image). Late 17 to early 18th century, Ukraine.

The Feast of the Intercession commemorates the miracle as a joyous revelation of the Theotokos' protection, which is spread over the world, and the Mother of God’s great love for mankind. [1] It is a religious holy day or feast day of the Byzantine Rite Eastern Orthodox Churches. [2] [5] It is not found in Oriental Orthodoxy nor Western Rite Orthodoxy though it is perfectly consistent with the theology and beliefs of these sister churches. It is held annually on October 14, which corresponds to October 1 on the "Old Style calendar" i.e. the Julian calendar still used in some Eastern Orthodox Churches. It is served as an All-Night Vigil, with many of the same elements as occur on Great Feasts of the Theotokos. However, Pokrov has no Afterfeast.

Some, but not all, regions of the Russian Federation celebrate the Feast of Intercession as a work holiday. In Ukraine, it is celebrated on October 14 as a religious, national, and family holiday. [5] The Mother of God as the Intercessor and Patron became firmly established among Ukrainians: princes, kings, cossacks, and hetmans chose the Mother of God as their patroness and protectress. An icon in the National Art Museum of Ukraine shows the Virgin Mary protecting the Ukrainian cossack hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky. By decree of the Ukrainian President, October 14 — Pokrova Feast Day was promulgated also as Ukrainian Cossack Day (Ukrainian : День Українського козацтва ). [6]

October 1 (in the Julian calendar) is also the feast of St. Romanus the Melodist, so he is often depicted on the same icon, even though he and St. Andrew lived at different times. He is often shown directly below the Virgin Mary, standing on a bema, or on a kathedra, chanting from a scroll. [4] The scroll represents the various kontakia which have been attributed to him.

The feast day of St. Andrew, the Fool-for-Christ, falls on the following day, October 2 (in accordance with the Orthodox liturgical tradition of the Synaxis).

Churches dedicated to Pokrov

Pokrov Cathedral on the Moat, better known as Saint Basil's Cathedral Sobor.JPG
Pokrov Cathedral on the Moat, better known as Saint Basil's Cathedral

Many Orthodox churches worldwide are named after this feast. The first churches dedicated to feast of Pokrov appeared in Russia in the 12th century. Probably the most famous Russian church named for the feast day is Saint Basil's Cathedral, Red Square, Moscow, which is officially entitled "the Church of Intercession of Our Lady that Is on the Moat" (Russian : Собор Покрова пресвятой Богородицы, что на Рву) or shortly "Intercession Cathedral upon moat" (Russian : Храм Покрова "на рву"). [7] The other one is the Church of Intercession in Bogolyubovo near Vladimir on the Nerl River (Russian : Церковь Покрова на Нерли, Tserkov Pokrova na Nerli). Both churches are on the United Nations' World Heritage List, the latter as part of the site White Monuments of Vladimir and Suzdal. There is also a Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin in St. Petersburg. [8]

Other notable churches commemorating this feast are Intercession of the Holy Virgin Russian Orthodox Church in Manchester, England, [9] and the Russian Orthodox Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin & St. Sergius in Glen Cove, New York.

Saint Mary the Protectress in Irondequoit, New York is a notable Ukrainian Orthodox Church dedicated to the feast of Pokrova. A great many Ukrainian churches are also named in honour of this feast in Canada. [3]

In north Wales there is the Church of the Holy Protection (Eglwys yr Amddiffyniad Sanctaidd) at 10 Manod Road, Blaenau Ffestiniog, where the liturgy is celebrated partly in Welsh, also English, Greek, and Church Slavonic. The church, under Archimandrite Deiniol, is under the omophor the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the diocese of Western Europe under the Ecumenical Patriarch. Previously it belonged to the Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, and previous to that to the Diocese of Sourozh of the Moscow Patriarchate.

See also


    Related Research Articles

    Dormition of the Mother of God Great Feast of the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches which commemorates the "falling asleep" or death of Mary the Theotokos ("Mother of God"), and her bodily resurrection before being taken up into heaven.

    The Dormition of the Mother of God is a Great Feast of the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches which commemorates the "falling asleep" or death of Mary the Theotokos, and her bodily resurrection before being taken up into heaven. It is celebrated on 15 August as the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God. The Armenian Apostolic Church celebrates the Dormition not on a fixed date, but on the Sunday nearest 15 August.

    Presentation of Mary liturgical feast

    The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known in the East as The Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple, is a liturgical feast celebrated on November 21 by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

    Great feasts in the Eastern Orthodox Church

    In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the feast of the Resurrection of Jesus, called Pascha (Easter), is the greatest of all holy days and as such it is called the "feast of feasts". Immediately below it in importance, there is a group of Twelve Great Feasts. Together with Pascha, these are the most significant dates on the Orthodox liturgical calendar. Eight of the great feasts are in honor of Jesus Christ, while the other four are dedicated to the Virgin Mary — the Theotokos.

    Blachernitissa Byzantine 7th-century encaustic icon representing Virgin Mary

    Blachernitissa, also called Theotokos of Blachernae or Our Lady of Blachernae, is a 7th-century encaustic icon representing the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. It is also the name given to the Church built in honour of the Virgin Mary in the Blachernae section of Constantinople. The name Blachernae possibly derived from the name of a Vlach, who came to Constantinople from the lower Danube

    Our Lady of Vladimir Medieval Byzantine icon depicting the Virgin and Child

    Our Lady of Vladimir is a medieval Byzantine icon depicting the Virgin and Child and an early example of the Eleusa iconographic type. It is one of the most culturally significant and celebrated pieces of art in Russian history. Many consider it a national palladium with several miracles of historical importance to Russia being attributed to the icon. Following its near destruction in the thirteenth century, the work has been restored at least five times.

    October 1 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics) day in the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar

    September 30 - Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar - October 2

    May 12 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics) day in the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar

    May 11 - Eastern Orthodox Church calendar - May 13

    May 21 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics) day in the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar

    May 20 - Eastern Orthodox Church calendar - May 22

    May 27 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics) day in the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar

    May 26 - Eastern Orthodox Church calendar - May 28

    Our Lady of Kazan holy icon

    Our Lady of Kazan, also called Mother-of-God of Kazan, was a holy icon of the highest stature within the Russian Orthodox Church, representing the Virgin Mary as the protector and patroness of the city of Kazan, and a palladium of all of Russia, known as the Holy Protectress of Russia.

    August 15 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics) day in the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar

    August 14 - Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar - August 16

    Marian devotions external pious practices directed to the person of Mary by members of certain Christian traditions

    Marian devotions are external pious practices directed to the person of Mary, mother of Jesus, by members of certain Christian traditions. They are performed in Roman Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity, but generally rejected in Protestant denominations.

    Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God Feast day in the Roman Catholic Church

    The Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God is a feast day of the Blessed Virgin Mary under the aspect of her motherhood of Jesus Christ, whom Christians see as the Lord, Son of God. It is celebrated by the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church on 1 January, the Octave (8th) day of Christmastide.

    Pokrov may refer to:

    Panagia Portaitissa icon

    The Panagia Portaitissa or the Iviron Theotokos is an Eastern Orthodox icon of the Virgin Mary which was painted by Luke the Evangelist, according to the Sacred Tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The icon is referred to as "Wonderworking" meaning that numerous miracles have been attributed to the intercession of the Theotokos by persons praying before it. The original of this image is found in the Georgian Iviron monastery on Mount Athos in Greece, where it is believed to have been since the year 999. The synaxis for this icon is on February 12, as well as on Bright Tuesday, and also on October 13 for the translation to Moscow of the Iveron icon.

    Life-giving Spring

    The Mother of God of the Life-giving Spring or Life-giving Font is an epithet of the Holy Theotokos that originated with her revelation of a sacred spring in Valoukli, Constantinople, to a soldier named Leo Marcellus, who later became Byzantine Emperor Leo I (457-474). Leo built the historic Church of St. Mary of the Spring over this site, which witnessed numerous miraculous healings over the centuries, through her intercessions, becoming one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Greek Orthodoxy. Thus the term "Life-giving Font" became an epithet of the Holy Theotokos and she was represented as such in iconography.

    December 4 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics) day in the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar

    December 3 - Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar - December 5


    1. 1 2 "Protection of the Holy Virgin", Tranfiguration of Our Laord Russian Orthodox Church, Baltimore, Maryland
    2. 1 2 3 "Holy Protection of the Virgin Mary". Protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church. Archived from the original on 5 January 2014. Retrieved 16 October 2013.
    3. 1 2 Demchinsky, Sterling. "Icons of the Theotokos (Bohoroditsia)". Ukrainian Churches of Canada. Retrieved 16 October 2013.
    4. 1 2 Neil K. Moran; Singers in Late Byzantine and Slavonic Painting, p. 126ff, Brill, 1986, ISBN   90-04-07809-6
    5. 1 2 "Feast of Intercession Celebrated in Ukraine as Religious and National Holiday". RISU - Religious Information Service in Ukraine. 14 October 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2013.
    6. "Про День Українського козацтва Президент України; Указ від 07.08.1999 № 966/99". Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. 7 August 1999. Retrieved 16 October 2013.
    7. Shvidkovsky, D. S. (2007). Russian architecture and the West. Yale University Press. ISBN   0300109121, ISBN   978-0-300-10912-2. p. 126.
    8. St. Petersburg website. Accessed February 7, 2010.
    9. Pokrov Church of the Russian Orthodox church website from UK. Accessed February 7, 2010.