The Icon of Our Lady of Iver. Portaitissa - Monastery of Iveron. Russian Orthodox Church
Size 4,6x5,6 inches (11,5x14 centimeters). There is a stamp of Moskow Patriarchy on the back of Icon. Made in church-factory Sofrino, double printed and metalized.
The original Miraculous Icon of the Iveron Mother of God is on Mount Athos, the famous center of Orthodox monasticism (known also as Agion Oros - Greek for the "Holy Mountain"). By tradition, it was painted by the apostle and evangelist Luke. In the 9th century, this Icon was in the possession of a widow who lived in Nicea. This town in Asia Minor no longer exists, but in its time it was the venue for two Ecumenical Councils; the first, which composed the first eight articles of Nicean Creed, and the seventh, which reinstituted the veneration of icons after a lengthy struggle with the iconoclast heresy, which had erroneously equated the veneration of icons to idol worship. It was during the reign of the iconoclast Byzantine emperor Theophilus that soldiers came to the house of the widow, where in a small chapel the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God occupied a place of honor. One of the soldiers struck the Icon with his sword, and immediately blood began to flow from the gashed cheek of the Virgin. Shaken by this miracle, the soldier instantly repented, renounced the iconoclast heresy, and entered a monastery. On his advice, the widow concealed the Icon in order to avert its further desecration. After praying for guidance before the Icon, the widow put the Holy Image into the sea. To her immense surprise and joy the Icon did not sink but, remaining upright, drifted away in a westerly direction. Fleeing persecution, the widow's son left Nicea and went to Mt. Athos where he led a saintly life as a monk to the end of his days. There he recounted the story of how his mother had set the Holy Icon upon the waves, and this story was handed down from one generation of monks to another.
Icon appeared on the Holy Mountain ("in a pillar of fire" as Athonite tradition recounts) from the sea, close by the Iveron monastery. At that time the holy monk Gabriel was one of the brotherhood in this monastery. The Mother of God appeared to him in a vision and directed him to convey to the abbot and brothers of the monastery that She wished them to have Her Icon as their help and salvation. She told Gabriel to approach the Icon on the waters without fear and take it with his hands. Obedient to the words of the Mother of God, says Athonite tradition, Gabriel "walked upon the waters as though upon dry land," took up the Icon and brought it back to the shore. The icon was then brought into the monastery and placed in the altar. On the next day the Icon disappeared from the sanctuary, and was found on the wall beside the monastery gate. It was returned to the altar, but the next day it was again found by the gate. This recurred several times, until the the Holy Virgin revealed to the monk Gabriel that it was not Her wish for the Icon to be protected by the monks, but that She wished to protect them. After this, a church was built near the monastery gate where the Icon resides to this day. In connection with the name of the monastery the Icon came to be known as the "Iveron" Mother of God, and because of its location, the "Portaitissa," or "Gatekeeper." In addition to many miraculous hearings, the Holy Virgin demonstrated Her protection of the Iveron Monastery during various assaults by Saracen pirates. News of this wonder-working Icon reached Russia through pilgrims who had visited Mt. Athos. In the 17th century Archimandrite Nikon of Moscow (later to become Patriarch) asked the abbot of the Iveron monastery to send a copy of the Icon to Russia, and this request was fulfilled.