On this day in 1579, Our Lady of Kazan, a holy icon of the Russian Orthodox Church, was discovered underground in the city of Kazan, Tatarstan. It went on to become one of the most revered and well-known icons of Russian Orthodoxy.
The story of the icon’s discovery begins with a fire that burned down the house of a local merchant in Kazan, the capital city of the Republic of Tatarstan, Russia, which lies at the confluence of the Volga and Kazanka Rivers. After the fire destroyed his home, the merchant’s young daughter, Matrona, began to have dreams in which the Virgin Mary appeared and relayed to the girl the location of the holy icon in the debris of the fire. According to tradition, Matrona saw the Virgin Mary in a Marian apparition, an event in which the Virgin Mary is believed to have supernaturally appeared to one person or to many people simultaneously.
Though her family ignored her tales, Matrona continued to have the dreams and decided to search for the icon herself. After searching the ruins of her house, Matrona found the icon buried deep beneath the furnace. It showed a concerned Virgin Mary, her head covered in a black veil, against a gold background, with Christ standing guard. Both their heads are crowned with golden halos. Miraculously, the icon was in immaculate condition.
News of the miraculous discovery spread quickly and churches were built in honour of the Our Lady of Kazan icon. The Theotokos Monastery of Kazan was built to commemorate the spot where the icon had been discovered. Copies of the picture were made and distributed around the empire to help Russians through their darkest hours of the Polish invasion of 1612, the Swedish invasion of 1709, and the Napoleonic War of 1812.
Our Lady of Kazan quickly became the most well known icon of Russian Orthodoxy, revered for centuries. But in 1904, tragedy struck when the icon was stolen by thieves seduced by the jewels that covered its frame. Its disappearance was thought to have contributed to a series of unfortunate events in Russia, including the peasant’s revolt of 1905 and Russia’s defeat in the Russo-Japanese war. Though the thieves were later caught, only the frame remained. To this day, the original Our Lady of Kazan icon remains missing.