On February 25th Orthodox Christians Venerate Iberian Mother of God Icon

The history of, presumably, Moscow's best-loved holy images, the icon of Our Lady of Iberia, dates back to the 4th century, when a pious widow of the Byzantine town of Nivea gave the miracle-working original icon to the sea to preserve it from iconoclasts, led by the emperors of the Isaurian dynasty.

The icon rose vertically and floated away on the waves to be found on the seashore, days later, near Mount Athos, the stronghold of ascetic monasticism. It was solemnly carried to the central church of the Iberian Monastery to be found above the monastery gates the next morning. The miracle repeated several times before the icon was left above the gates for good. Hence its other, folk name of Gatekeeper.

A copy of the icon was brought to Moscow in 1648 to be placed above the Kremlin's Resurrection Gates. A chapel was built for it on the site in 1660.

In present-day terms, the image became very popular in Moscow at once. Every pious Muscovite family sought to receive a procession with the icon at home once a year. The holy image was travelling about the city all day and night long to spend only a quarter of an hour in its chapel every day. Worshippers who desired special intercession from Our Lady made the vow of visiting the Iberian Chapel in the dead of night three, seven or twelve times.

In the Soviet times the chapel was pulled down in the small hours of July 29, 1929. The icon disappeared never to be recovered. The chapel was rebuilt in 1995, with a newly painted copy of the miracle-working image placed there.

The Russian Orthodox Church has four feasts of Our Lady of Iberia, one of them on February 25th (February 12th by the Julian calendar).

Several copies of the icon of Our Lady of Iberia are known in the world. One is preserved in Serbia, and another in Canada.