The Virgin Mary has been, since the XVII century, venerated as the Saviour of Russia. This veneration has its origin in an Icon of the Virgin Mary which was miraculously resurfaced in 1579, in Kazan.
At the beginning of the XVII'th century, after the decisive victory of Peter the Great over the Swedish army, during which the Icon had been brandished as the flagship of victory, a cathedral was built in honour of Our Lady of Kazan, on what has since become known as Red Square in Moscow. The Icon has been venerated there until 1721, after which it got transferred to Saint-Petersburg, the new capital.
Napoleon's retreat in Russia has been attributed to the intercession of Our Lady of Kazan.
After the 1917 October revolution, at the time when three young children had just been spoken to by Our Lady regarding the conversion of Russia a few months earlier, in Portugal, many sanctuaries were plundered, stripped and desacrated. The Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan, deprived of its Icon for the past two centuries, was destroyed in 1936.
Suddenly, in 1970, the Icon resurfaces: a Jesuit priest from San-Francisco (United States), also rector at the Russian Catholic Center of Our Lady of Fatima spots it while being offered for sale. With the approval of duly consulted Orthodox priests, the Icon is bought, and then transferred to Fatima (Portugal) on July 21st the same year (on the anniversary date of Our Lady of Kazan according to the Julian calendar). The Icon is presently kept at the Byzantine Chapel in Fatima (Domus Pacis).
There is in Saint-Petersburg (the city of Saint Peter), a church consecrated to Our Lady of Kazan and which was converted, under communism, into a museum for atheism. On May 1st, 1994 (the Orthodox Easter day of that year), the Church has been reconsacrated to Our Lady of Kazan, and spectacularly reopened to the cult: a huge cross was installed on the dome of the Church on that day with the help of a helicopter. A Cathedral for Our Lady of Kazan is also being rebuilt since November 4th, 1990, with the blessing of the Orthodox diocese, on Red Square, at the same spot where the original cathedral was standing.
Extracts from the book entitled "ART RUSSE - ICONES TYPE ICONOGRAPHIQUES" - pages 478-479.
OUR LADY OF KAZAN - 17TH Century
Documents indicate that a huge fire took place in Kazan in 1579 which destroyed a good part of the city. This icon was found in the rubble of a burnt home by a ten year old girl to whom the Virgin Mary appeared on several different occasions commanding her to go and search in that location. The young girl found the icon under the stove. It is said that the icon was found there because during the domination of the Tatars in Kazan, people of the orthodox faith had to hide their liturgical items and practice their faith in secret. Once found, the icon was delivered during a solemn ceremony to Saint Nicolas’s Church and later on to the Cathedral of the Annunciation.
Tsar Ivan IV the Terrible, to whom a copy of the image of the icon of Kazan had been sent that same year, gave orders to build a woman’s monastery at the same location where it was found. This was the monastery of Our Lady of Kazan and the original icon was placed there. In 1594, Tsar Fedor Ivanovitch built a large church in stone dedicated to the Assumption and the icon was housed there permanently. The following year it was decided that Our Lady of Kazan would have an annual feast day on July 8th. Much later, under the reign of Catherine II, plans were made to build a new church as the old one was in a severe state of disrepair. This new church was inaugurated in 1808, under the reign of Alexander I. However, on June 29, 1904, the icon which was covered by a rich sheen of diamonds and other precious stones was stolen.
There are now only 2 copies of this icon, and they are found at the monastery of Our Lady of Kazan.
This image is in the Hodiguitria style, very similar to the Smolensk icon. The Virgin holds her Son in her left arm, her head bent towards Him. The Child holds himself very straight and blesses with His right hand. (see plate V, no 5).