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Rare Portraits of the Blessed Virgin MaryUpon thy right hand did stand the queen in gold of Ophir. (Psalms 45:9 - KJV)
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Excerpts from the Writings of H. H. Pope Shenouda III - Part 1
Excerpts from the Writings of H. H. Pope Shenouda III - Part 2
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IntroductionIt is well known that the Evangelist St. Luke was a talented painter as well as a physician. He painted an icon presenting the Virgin Mary holding the Child Jesus, which many churches all over the world later on copied (see Image Gallery below). Also, in a reference, it was mentioned that the historian Van Celub found an icon of the Archangel Michael during his visit to a Cathedral in Alexandria, that was also made by the Apostle Luke.
Three original copies of St. Luke's "Virgin and Child" were available, one, still present to our present day, at El-Seryan monastery of the Antiochene (Syriac or Jacobite) Orthodox Church, Jerusalem, the second at Virgin Mary (also called El-Seryan) Coptic Orthodox monastery, Egypt, and the third in Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome (? now in Cyprus).
St. Luke’s icons are said to be of the full "Hodegitria" type which means that the icon is a "guide" or "indicator of the way." (See Image Gallery below for details.) According to tradition, the Mother of God was supposed to have blessed the portrait and said, "My blessing will remain always with this icon." St. Luke sent the portraits to Antioch with the text of his gospel. It remained there until the middle of the fifth century, when it was taken to Constantinople and placed in a monastery founded by the powerful Pulcheria, sister of Theodosius II. Finally, this version of the icon was brought from Constantinople to Cyprus during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus (1080-1118) and is present now at the "Holy Royal Monastery of Kykko Founded with a Cross" in Cyprus.
Saint Luke the EvangelistSaint Luke, the author of the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, was a companion and fellow worker of Saint Paul. According to Colossians 4:11-14, he was a Gentile and a physician. St. Luke was arrested and martyred in Rome under Nero. He is the patron saint of physicians and artists. Feast day: October 18 (Coptic Orthodox: November 1).
The Holy IconExcerpts from: "The Holy, Royal Monastery of Kykko Founded with a Cross (Stavropegiac)" by his very Reverence the Abbot of Kykko Chrysostomos (1894-?), Cyprus 1969
Preface by the (late) Archbishop of Cyprus, Makarios III
The Holy, Royal and Stavropygiac Monastery of Kykko is for the people of Cyprus not only an important religious institution and a place of pious Christian worship but also a wider national, spiritual and moral symbol, inextricably woven with a long tradition and history.
Hallowed by the sweet figure of the Mother of God, invested with the imperial protection of Byzantium and strengthened with privilege granted by the Byzantine overlords of Cyprus, the Monastery of Kykko has been the holy Ark in which the miraculous icon of the Mother of God, which according to tradition was painted by St. Luke himself, has been preserved. (...)
Description of the Holy Icon
In the middle of the screen, to the left of the main entrance, third in order, is the Icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Tradition attributes this Icon, which is made of wax and mastic, and depicts the Mother of God with the Only Begotten Son on Her right arm, to the Apostle Luke, who painted it with two other icons while the Blessed Virgin was still alive. According to tradition, St. Luke received the three boards for the paintings from angels. The Virgin Mary saw this Icon and admired it, and said: "May the grace of Him that is born of me be with it through me."
The Icon was embellished (covered with a layer of gilded silver) for the first time in 1576. This original embellishment, which is still on the screen, to the left of the Icon, behind a large Cross, was replaced by another one like it in 1795. On the lower part of the gilding there is the following inscription: "This is one of the three Holy Icons painted by St. Luke at the command of the Blessed Virgin seven years after the Ascension of the Lord. The Virgin is called Merciful, as She is the source of mercy. The Icon was brought here in the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus (1080-1118), and was covered with precious metal first when Gregory was Abbot in 1576, and again, in its present form, by Meletios of the same Monastery, humble Abbot in the year 1795. Accept therefore, O Virgin, also thou this embellishment, just as thy Son (of whose eternal glory may I partake through thee) accepted the widow's mite."
The Holy Icon is placed on a throne carved from oak and inlaid with mother of pearl, made in 1757. It is covered in such a way that the face of the Blessed Virgin cannot be seen, either because the Emperor Alexius so wished, or in order to inspire worshippers with more reverence.
To the right as one looks at the Holy Icon there is a model of a hand, in remembrance of an incident in which the hand of a Negro who dared to profane the Icon was withered.
From this model of a hand there hangs part of a sword-fish's tongue, which was dedicated to the Monastery (as the inscription on it shows) in remembrance of the following miracle. On October 15th, 1718, a ship was sailing from Alyki to the Promontory of Apostle Andreas, when in the middle of the night a great sea-monster known as a sword-fish struck the side of the ship and damaged it, and the sea immediately poured in, wherepon the whole ship nearly filled with water and was about to disappear. The men on board saw, what was happening, and in their terror uttered a great, yearning cry: "Blessed Virgin of Kykko, help us!" and, lo and behold! the ship was saved.
In front of the Icon of the Blessed Virgin there burn day and night lamps of great value. The whole church is adorned with single and septuple lamps, great candelabra, and chandeliers, all of them works of art, particularly of late eighteenth-and early and mid nineteenth-century Russian art. The icon to the left as one looks at the Holy Icon of the blessed Virgin represents the Apostle and Evangelist Luke painting the Holy Icon, and above him the watchful eye of God, which sees the creator and his creation. The inscription on the icon is: "It was the hand of the painter Kornaros from Crete."
- The recently discovered icon of the Annunciation at El-Seryan Coptic Orthodox monastery, Egypt.
- Virgin Mary, Close-up of above.
- Virgin of Tenderness, School of the Greek Islands, 17th century.
- Another close-up of Virgin and Child, Florence, 13th century.
- Virgin and Child, Emmanuel Tzanes of Crete, 1664.
- Virgin of the Passion, School of Crete, 16th-17th century.
- NON-HODEGITRIA TYPE. Madonna Vadstena, Russian, 16th century. The Mother of God holds the infant Jesus on Her left arm, and points to Him with Her right hand. Her head is inclined towards His, and because Her eyes are NOT directed at the onlooker or on the Christ She has a remote and pensive air. The Christ Child looks to the right, and His eyes too are NOT directed outside the picture. He blesses with His right hand, and holds a scroll in His left. Although St. Mary offers a gesture of presentation, this icon is not the full Hodegitria type since the Virgin and Child are not looking out of the picture.
- Virgin and Child, School of Salonika, 14th century.
- Icon of the Virgin and Child, Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
- Coptic icon from El-Seryan Coptic Orthodox monastery, Egypt.
- The Holy Icon (at Monastery of Kykko, Cyprus -- covered except for its lower part; see description above).
- Covers of the Holy Icon in bracade of great value (1).
- Covers of the Holy Icon in bracade of great value (2).
- St. Luke handing the icon painted by him to the Mother of God.
Did you notice the GREAT resemblance between all the above portraits?
- The Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at El-Zeitoun Coptic Orthodox Church, Egypt + ARABIC Holy Bible Software and Online Search Engine.
- Copt-Net: The Essential Link.
- St. Anthony Coptic Orthodox Church, San Antonio, Texas (Southern Diocese of USA).
- Coptic Calendar of Saints (Synaxarium).
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