An annual procession of a miraculous icon of St Nicholas the Wonder-worker has just finished, with around 35,000 pilgrims participating in the ninety-three mile round trip.
The icon associated with the procession was discovered by a peasant named Semyon Agalakov on the bank of the Velikaya River, in 1383. Later an invalid villager was able to walk after being brought before the icon in prayer. This healing, along with others, the icon’s mysterious appearance, and the fact that it was of St Nicholas – among Russia’s most loved Saints – inevitably led to the village becoming a destination for pilgrims.
Later, the leaders of the region’s capital, Khlynov, requested the icon be brought from the countryside to the more convenient city location. Taking the icon, the city leaders promised to return the icon every year to the place of its appearance on the Velikaya River.
And so, every year, between 3-8 June pilgrims have accompanied the icon on its journey from the Holy Dormition Cathedral in Kirov to the village of Velikoretsky and back. The total length of the journey is 150km, or just over 90 miles. Even during Communist times, when the procession was officially banned and the icon confiscated, the procession still took place: the tiny bands of pilgrims benefiting from the journey, and receiving God and St Nicholas’ help, even without the icon. Today, tens of thousands of pilgrims, from Russia and elsewhere, make the annual procession, sleeping in the fields that lie along the route.