The Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God was painted by the Evangelist Luke on a board from the table at which the Savior ate together with His All-Pure Mother and Righteous Joseph. The Mother of God, upon seeing this image, exclaimed, “Henceforth, all generations shall call Me blessed. The grace of both My Son and Me shall be with this icon.”
In the year 1131, the icon was sent from Constantinople to Rus to holy Prince Mstislav (April 15) and was installed in the Devichi monastery in Vyshgorod, the ancient appanage city of the holy Equal of the Apostles Princess Olga.
The son of George Dolgoruky, St Andrew Bogoliubsky, brought the icon to the city of Vladimir in 1155 and installed it in the renowned Dormition cathedral which he built. At this time the icon received its name of “the Vladimir Icon.” The icon was first brought to Moscow in the year 1395. Thus, the blessing of the Mother of God established the spiritual bonds of Byzantium and Rus via Kiev, Vladimir and Moscow.
The festal celebration of the Vladimir Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos occurs several times during the year (21 May, 23 June and 26 August). The most solemn celebration occurs on August 26, the Feast established in honor of the Meeting of the Vladimir Icon upon its Transfer from Vladimir to Moscow.
In the year 1395, the fearsome conqueror Khan Tamerlane (Temir-Aksak) reached the Ryazan frontier, took the city of Elets and advancing towards Moscow he came near the banks of the River Don. Great Prince Basil Dimitrievich went with an army to Kolomna and halted at the banks of the River Oka. He prayed to the holy Hierarchs of Moscow and St Sergius for the deliverance of the Fatherland, and he wrote to the Metropolitan of Moscow St Cyprian (September 16), that the pending Dormition Fast should be devoted to zealous prayers for mercy and repentance.
Clergy were sent to Vladimir, where the famed wonderworking Vladimir Icon was. After Divine Liturgy and a Molieben on the feast of the Dormition, they clergy took the icon and brought it to Moscow. Along the way, on both sides of the road, countless people prayed kneeling: “O Mother of God, save the land of Russia!” At that same hour, when the people of Moscow were meeting the Vladimir Icon on Kuchkov Field, Tamerlane was sleeping in his tent. Suddenly, he saw in a dream a great mountain, at the summit of which were the holy hierarchs with golden staffs coming towards him. Above them, in a brilliant radiance, was a Majestic Woman. She commanded him to leave the domains of Russia.
Awakening in fright, Tamerlane asked the meaning of the vision. The experts answered that the Radiant Lady was the Mother of God, the great Protectress of Christians. Tamerlane then gave the order for his troops to retreat. In memory of this miraculous deliverance of the Russian Land from Tamerlane, they built the monastery of the Meeting on Kuchkov Field, where the Meeting of the Vladimir Icon took place. On August 26, the all-Russian celebration in honor of the Meeting of the Vladimir Icon of the Most Holy Mother of God was established.
Very important events in Russian Church history have occurred before the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God: the election and elevation of St Jonah, advocate of an Autocephalous Russian Church (1448), and of St Job, first Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia (1589), and of His Holiness Patriarch St Tikhon (1917). The enthronement of His Holiness Pimen, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, occurred on a day of celebration in honor of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God on May 21 (O.S.), 1971.
The historical days of 21 May, 23 June and 26 August, connected with this holy icon, have become memorable days for the Russian Orthodox Church.