Today (Nov 15th according to the old Church calendar), the Russian Church celebrates the Kupyatich Icon of the Mother of God (Купятицкая икона Божией Матери).
The Kupyatich Icon of the Mother of God appeared in the 1180s nearby the village of Kupyatich in the Minsk area. The icon was found in the forest on a tree by the peasant maiden Anna, a cattle herder. The image – in the form of a cross – shone with an unusual light. On the spot of the miraculous appearance of the icon, peasants built a church in the name of the Mother of God, and placed the discovered icon within it. The rest of the Kupyatich Icon’s story is related here.
The Kupyatich Icon is in the form of a small copper cross. The Mother of God is shown standing, holding the infant-Christ in her arms. The right and left arms of the cross have medallions containing the busts of, now, unknown Saints, whilst at the top is a medallion containing an image of what is probably the Ancient of Days.
On the “reverse” side is a scene of the Crucifixion. Given the shape of the Icon, it is almost certain that the icon was originally a Crucifix, and that the Mother of God was depicted on the reverse side. In 12th-century Russia, there were countless crucifixes which depicted the Mother of God on the reverse side. Some surviving examples are shown here (site in Russian). Upon such Crosses, the beginning (the Mother of God) and fulfillment (the Crucifixion) of Christ’s Incarnation are shown together.
Nevertheless, in the case of the Kupyatich Cross Icon, its miraculous discovery means this specific 12th-century crucifix is now honoured as an Icon of the Mother of God. It has even inspired later, regular-shaped, Icons of the Mother of God standing before a cross, described as Kupyatich Icons.
O Most-holy Mother of God, Bride of God,
Thou wast the Bodily Throne of Christ God,
Thou didst bear the King of Glory in thy body,
Thou gavest birth to Him Who gavest life to a dead world.
By His Blood, His holy Blood, He redeemed the world,
Gloriously glorifying Himself and thee, O Virgin.
But thy true glory shines in heaven,
Where thou sittest on the right hand of Christ Himself.
And the rays of thy glory descend to earth,
And shine at night on the path of the sojourners.
Glory to thee, Mother of God, throughout the ages,
The first Temple, the wonderful Temple of the glory of Christ!
-Hymn of Praise by St Nikolai Velimirovich