May 20

Mother of God, Zhyrovichy, Slonim, Hrodna, Belarus

Zhyrovichy* is in the Grodno region of eastern Belarus, which belonged to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania when this story begins. One night around 1500 (storytellers and scholars disagree on the year), some herders noticed a wild pear tree radiating light, whose source in the branches turned out to be a jasper oval, about the size of a child's hand, carved with the image of a woman and child and the Slavonic inscription, "More honorable than the cherubim, And more glorious beyond compare than the seraphim, In virginity you bore God the Word; True Mother of God, we magnify you." The portrait was recognizable as an Eleousa or Tenderness type of icon, with the child's cheek against his mother's, and the words as the refrain of the Magnificat in the Orthodox liturgy. The herders took their find to the landlord, Alexander Soltan, who put it in a chest, but when the object reappeared in the forest, Soltan built a wooden church there. Some fifty years later, it burned down. Subsequently, some children passing the spot saw a radiant woman holding the stone icon. When their parents returned there with the priest, she had vanished, but the icon was there on the rock where she had sat. A new church was built of stone, to which pilgrims flocked from all over Lithuania and Ukraine.  

In 1558 the shrine became famous for a miracle of resurrection. Doctors had given up on gravely sick Iryna, 17, prescribing a pilgrimage to Zhyrovichy as a remedy of last resort. But when the family arrived at the shrine, the girl was already dead. Her parents decided to bury her there. Three days later, at the funeral, Iryna astonished the mourners by rising from her coffin to kneel before the icon. She became a nun at a convent in Pinsk, where she served as abbess for many years.

In 1575, the lord of Zyrovichy established an Orthodox monastery at the shrine. In the early 1600s, the monastery came under Basilian monks of the new Greek Catholic rite. A copy of the stone image was brought to Rome, where it is revered as the Madonna del Popolo in the Church of Sts. Sergio and Bacchus. In 1730, Athanasius Sheptitsky, Greek Catholic Metropolitan of Kiev and Galicia, solemnly crowned the Mother of God of Zhyrovichy with a Roman crown blessed by Pope Benedict XIII. In the 1800s, the monastery returned to Orthodoxy.

In 1915, the icon was moved to the crypt of St. Basil's Cathedral on Red Square in Moscow. Smuggled out of the Soviet Union in a shipment of jam, it returned to the Grodno diocese in 1938, missing most of its ornaments. It is now in the Church of the Exaltation of the Cross in Holy Dormition Monastery in Zhyrovichy. The Russian and Belarusian Orthodox Churches celebrate the feast of the Mother of God of Zhyrovichy on May 20 (May 7 in the Julian calendar).

*The name Жыро́вічы is transliterated variously: Zhirovichi, Zhirovits, Zhirovitsy, Zhuravichi, Zhyrovichy, Žyrovičy, Żyrowice.


bulletSvyatlana Marozava, "Жыровіцкая ікона," Хрысціянства ў гістарычным лёсе беларускага народа,
bulletGoogle cache of "May 20, 2010 – Commemoration of the icon of Mother of God of Zhirovichi," Свято-Елисаветинский монастырь,
bulletAliaks, "Беларускія манархістыя," 2006,развагі (picture)

Also commemorated this date:

bulletNuestra Señora del Socorro, San Pedro, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Church consecrated, 1896. Feast September 8.
bulletNossa Senhora da Luz, Diamantina, Minas Gerais, Brazil. Church reopened and image restored to altar, 1900.
bulletNotre Dame de La Ferté-sur-Grosne, Saint-Ambreuil, Saône-et-Loire, Burgundy, France. Abbey church dedicated, 1113.
bulletNotre-Dame des Aydes, Blois, Loir-et-Cher, Centre, France. Statue crowned, 1860. Former pilgrimage August 15.
bulletVergine delle Grazie, Farigliano, Cuneo, Piedmont, Italy, Mellea district. Apparition, 1537. Festa sixth Sunday after Easter.
bulletSanta Maria delle Grazie, Stia, Arezzo, Tuscany, Italy. Apparition, 1428.
bulletMaria Santissima Mater Domini, Laterza, Taranto, Puglia, Italy (Mary Most Holy Mother of God). Festa. 
bulletOnze Lieve Vrouw van Genooi, Venlo, Limburg, Netherlands. Statue crowned, 1917. 
bulletNuestra Señora dos Remedios de Tarnas, Cervantes, Lugo, Galicia, Spain. Fiesta.
bulletNuestra Señora de Argeme, Coria, Cáceres, Extremadura, Spain. Statue crowned, 1955. Fiesta Monday after 2nd Sunday.
bulletOur Lady of the Angels, Birmingham, Alabama, USA. Monastery of Poor Clares dedicated, 1962.

Where We Walked ~~~ Mary Ann Daly