An icon with a mysterious charm that appears in times of need to support all the Russian people, through the heartfelt prayers of the Tsar and rulers; nor will it miss its intercession until peace among religions thanks to the intervention of Pope St. John Paul II.
According to experts, the icon of the Mother of God of Kazan dates back to the thirteenth century. Mary is portrayed in half-length with her face tilted towards the Child, who stands upright on the knees of the Mother and blesses with his right hand. Coming from Constantinople, the sacred icon would have been placed in a monastery in Kazan, from which it disappeared in 1209, during the invasion of the Tartars. After Tsar Ivan the Terrible re-occupied the vast territory in 1552, much of the city of Kazan was burned by a terrible fire. It was then that the Mother of God appeared three times to a ten-year-old girl, Matrëna (Matrona), to invite her to search under the rubble of a destroyed house for her icon, hidden by some faithful during the Tatar domination.
The girl was not believed, neither by the archbishop, nor by the clergy, nor by the rulers, so, alone with her mother, she began to dig the earth in the place indicated until the icon was found, wrapped in old rags, absolutely intact and as if radiant with light. It was July 8, 1579. The news spread quickly in the city and the Archbishop himself went to the place of finding. Then, in a solemn procession, the icon was transported to the nearby church of St. Nicolas. On the day of the “discovery” two blind men, Giuseppe and Nikita, recovered their sight. Later, Tsars Ivan IV, the Terrible, Fedor Ivanovich and Catherine II erected magnificent churches in honor of the Virgin of Kazan. The importance of the prodigious icon was recognized by all Russia, especially in the most difficult moments of its history.
In 1612, when Moscow was besieged by rioters, the soldiers took with them the revered icon as “Victory Flag”, “Liberator of Russia” and on November 27 they freed the city. Likewise Peter the Great, in 1709, before waging the decisive battle against the troops of Charles XII of Sweden, spent three days of fasting and prayer before this image with all his army. It was still at the intercession of Our Lady of Kazan that the defeat of the Napoleonic armies, which began on 22 October 1812, the day of one of the three annual festivals of the icon, was attributed.
Unfortunately, on the night of June 29, 1904, the sacred icon, rich in gold and diamonds, revered since 1721 in the Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg, was stolen. Since then nothing has been known. Someone wrote that “in still unknown ways, she arrived in Fatima, where she is guarded by the Blue Army”. The fact is that behind the Portuguese Basilica of Fatima, there is a chapel of the Byzantine rite in the center of the Blue Army”, where on July 21, 1970 the miraculous icon was processionally brought by the Bishop of Leiria and placed there on July 26, waiting for someday to return to its sanctuary in Russia.
In favor of its authenticity, an author has put forward an acceptable hypothesis. When in 1923 the Kazan basilica in St. Petersburg was transformed into a “Museum of the history of Religions”, everything that was included in the auction, not excluding the miraculous icon, which ended up first in Poland, then in England, until in 1960 it was purchased by some Americans and by the center of the “Blue Army”, which made them reach Fatima – linked to Russia for the 1917 apparition to the three shepherd children. It is a evocative hypothesis that might also have some repercussions in the near or distant future. However, copies of Kazan’s Mother of God are currently numerous throughout Russia and in Russian churches and monasteries around the world. Among the churches dedicated to Our Lady of Kazan, the one in St. Petersburg deserves to be mentioned, which recalls the Roman basilica of St. Peter for its dome and the colonnade in front, and two in the city of Moscow, the first in the Kolomenskoe sector, which remained open to worship even during the communist regime, the other, on the Red Square, restored and officiated.
Our Lady of Kazan performed a miracle in her homeland: peace between religions. Pope John Paul II gave the patriarch of Moscow the sacred icon of Our Lady of Kazan kept in the Vatican in the pontifical palace on 28 August 2004, the feast of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary in the Orthodox calendar. But Muslims and Jews also welcomed it.