Stories about Miracle-working Icons in the Structure of Licevoj letopisny'j svod


  • Liudmila Zhurova Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences



Licevoj letopisny'j svod of Ivan the Terrible is a major monument of the Old Russian written tradition of the 16th century which completed a centuries-long history of Old Russian chronicling. Stories on miracle-working icons in its multileveled system were included into a vast historical context and acquired a new publishing tone. The author aims to determine the role of icons of the Virgin Mary in Old Russia in Licevoj letopisny'j svod and how episodic and semantic memory about them is preserved.

The arrival of a large number of transferred and displayed icons as well as the ones painted by hermits in Russia was a characteristic feature of the late 14th – early 15th centuries. Stories of icons developed into an established narrative form in the print culture of the 16th century and chronicling played significant role in the literary process of the epoch. This fact can be explained by the establishment of the ideology of autocracy, which was based (among other things) on the phenomenon of miracle-working icons.

In the structure of Licevoj letopisny'j svod, there are stories that stand out among others, and they are those of three miracle-working icons, namely, the Theotokos of Tikhvin (1383), the Theotokos of Vladimir and the Theotokos of Kolocha (1413). It is noteworthy that these three legends found in Licevoj letopisny'j svod contain subjects connected with the names of Dmitry of the Don’s three sons: Vasily, the Grand Prince of Moscow, Yuri of Zvenigorod and Andrei of Mozhaysk. This without a doubt granted them an official status in the historiographical narrative.

What makes the legends in Licevoj letopisny'j svod stand out is the combination of two texts: verbal and visual. The illustrators of Licevoj letopisny'j svod added to the written text, not following it completely at times yet complying with the existing cultural tradition. The chronicle’s interpretation of the stories was different for all of the abovementioned icons. The Story of the Meeting of the Theotokos of Vladimir was most likely written specially for Licevoj letopisny'j svod. One of the peculiarities of the text is its poly-figural architectonic which is congenial to the structure of Licevoj letopisny'j svod, demonstrating its connection with the history of Licevoj letopisny'j svod. It was only in the late 15th – early 16th century that the story of the miraculous manifestation of Theotokos of Tikhvin in Novgorod in 1393 appeared as an independent legend. In Licevoj letopisny'j svod it is represented as a short, chronicled account borrowed from Voskresenskaya letopis' and, according to a textological analysis, from Library Manuscript II. The brevity of the story of Theotokos of Tikhvin in the Licevoj letopisny'j svod is a characteristic feature of the monument, testifying to scant knowledge of the event during the entire 15th century. These circumstances make the rise of the importance of the icon even more meaningful. The analysis of the chronicle’s history of Theotokos of Tikhvin demonstrates that its political cult grew in the 16th century, and Licevoj letopisny'j svod played a decisive role in the process. The plot describing the manifestation of the icon of Theotokos to a common villager on the Kolocha River around Mozhaysk is documented in a majority of Russian chronicles. The expansive chronicle history of Theotokos of Kolocha spreads over the period from the 15th to the 17th century. The form and content of chronicle articles on Theotokos of Kolocha are varied, which is conditioned by the aim and orientation (including both political and ideological ones) of various chronicles. According to textological analysis, Theotokos of Kolocha was transferred into Licevoj letopisny'j svod from Nikonovskaya letopis' retaining all the peculiarities of the chronicle. The role of Theotokos of Kolocha was considerably less pronounced in the political mythology of Ivan the Terrible’s epoch, which is supposedly due to the fact that the text bore semantic memory of the struggle between minor appanage princes of Mozhaysk and the grand princes.

Consequently, the three legends of miracle-working icons in Licevoj letopisny'j svod had different sources. The chronicle’s writing in the second half of the 16th century was another stage in the history of the text’s well-known subjects. The analysis of stories about icons enabled the author to reveal a number of features in the formation of Licevoj letopisny'j svod, to specify its connections with Voskresenskaya letopis' and Nikonovskaya letopis' and the chronicle of 1560 and to determine the role of the legendary “biographies” of icons in the structure of Licevoj letopisny'j svod.

Author Biography

Liudmila Zhurova, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Associate Professor


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How to Cite

Zhurova, L. (2015). Stories about Miracle-working Icons in the Structure of Licevoj letopisny’j svod. Quaestio Rossica, (3), 179–199.



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