The Tambov (Utkinskaya) Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos

In 1686, Saint Pitirim (July 28) arrived in Tambov and, along with other holy objects, he brought a copy of the Il’insk-Chernigov Icon of the Mother of God, which was considered to be the patroness of the southwest territory. Therefore, the copy was placed at the southwestern gate of the city. After a while, the Icon was called Tambov, especially since the copy differed slightly from the original Il’insk-Chernigov Icon. On either side of the Virgin, Saint Alexis, the man of God, and Saint Eudokia were depicted. It has been suggested that these were the patron saints of Bishop Pitirim’s parents, and it is quite possible that he himself painted the images of these saints.

Later, on the site of the southwestern city gates, a small wooden church was built and dedicated to the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. In that church, there was an Icon. When the merchant Ivan Utkin built a stone church in honor of the Protomartyr Archdeacon Stephen with his own funds in 1771–1778, the Tambov Icon was transferred here and placed in the altar above the Table of Oblation. People started to call the church Utkino, after the builder, and subsequently, the Icon was completely forgotten.

However, the Queen of Heaven made them remember her. At the beginning of the XIX century, a certain provincial priest from Kaluga suffered from an affliction in his leg, and he was unable to walk. It was this Icon of the Mother of God which appeared to him in a dream, and a voice told him, “Look for this icon. Pray before it, and you shall be healed.” After this, the priest obtained some relief from his illness, so that he could walk. Right away, he began to search for the Icon he had seen in his dream. After visiting several villages and cities, he finally reached Tambov. He looked in all the churches until in the altar of the Utkino church he found the Icon from his dream. After praying before this Icon, he was completely healed. This incident became widely known in the city, and thereafter several more miraculous healings of the townspeople took place.

The Tambov Icon became known once again, and in 1835, when the old Utkino church was in a terrible state of disrepair, the townspeople requested that the right side-altar be dedicated to the Tambov Icon of the Mother of God. Over time, the grateful people of Tambov diligently adorned the Icon. A luxurious silver riza was made, studded with many gems. There were so many cases of healing before the Icon that there was not enough time to record all of them. In 1888, by a decree of the Holy Synod, all the churches of the city were ordered to have a Cross Procession on April 16 in honor of the Tambov Icon. In 1900, the church itself was named for the Theotokos.

Following the Russian Revolution, the churches of Tambov were ravaged, and the wonderworking Icon suffered. They removed the riza and picked out the gems, and she herself disappeared without a trace. The city has preserved accounts of the miracles performed by the Icon.