Begun in 450 by Empress Aelia Pulcheria, the church complex of St. Mary in the Blachernae district of Constantinople was one of the most sacred sites in Byzantium, housing a fountain of holy water, a miraculous icon of the Virgin, and her robe, sash, and veil. As the Greek word for veil or mantle also means “protection,” the relics of Blachernae became associated with God’s protective power manifested through his mother. The feast of Our Lady of Protection (Russian Pokrov) is celebrated throughout the Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic churches, on October 1 (Julian Calendar), 14 (modern Gregorian calendar) or 28 (date of the liberation of Greece). Today’s date (October 14) commemorates an apparition to St. Andrew the Fool (d. 936), his disciple Epiphanius, and other people praying in the church during an all-night vigil. Those who witnessed the Virgin enter the church, kneel in tearful prayer, then ascend, holding her veil over the congregation, took it as a sign of her care for them. Some sources place the October apparition in 911, others during the Russian naval siege of the 860s.
Other sources include:
“The Miracle of the Virgin Mary at the Church of Blachernae in Constantinople,” The M+G+R Foundation, www.mgr.org/TheVeil.html
“The Protection of our Most Holy Lady the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary,” Orthodox Church in America, oca.org/saints/lives/2014/10/01/102824
Catherine Aslanoff, Paul Meyendorff, and Andrew Tregubov, The Incarnate God: The Feasts of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Yonkers, New York, 1994