The Wonderworking Mother of God Icon from Neamts Monastery is the oldest documented icon in Romania, and considered the most valuable, from a historical and spiritual point of view. The icon was donated to the Moldovan King Alexander the Good in the year 1401 by the Byzantine Emperor Manuel Paleologos. For over 600 years this icon strengthened the Christian Orthodox faith of kings, monastics and the faithful throughout Romania.
Commissioned by St. Germanos in the year 665 in Lydda, it is a copy of an icon of the Mother of God from the year 35. On the reverse side it features an icon of the Great Martyr George, born in Lydda. It was brought to Constantinople by St. Germanos when he became Patriarch, and given as a gift to the Heleopatra Monastery. At the beginning of the iconoclast persecution of the Byzantine Emperor Leo the Armenian, in 714, the icon was hidden, and in 716 was secretly sent by St. Germanos to Rome to Pope Gregory III.
The Wonderworking Mother of God Icon was in the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome for 106 years. After the victory of Orthodoxy in the East, and the end of the iconoclastic persecutions, Pope Sergius II returned the icon to Constantinople. The Holy Empress Theodora, St. Methodius, the Patriarch of Constantinople and the people of the Byzantine Empire welcomed the icon and it stayed in the Heleopatra Monastery for 555 years.
In 1401 Emperor Manuel Paleologos sent three icons as gifts to strengthen the alliance between the Byzantine Empire and the Moldovan kingdom:
- • One for the King Alexander the Good – known now as the Wonderworking Icon of St. Anna of Bistritsa Monastery, Romania
- • One for his wife Queen Anna – known now as the Wonderworking Icon of the Mother of God of Agapia Monastery, Romania
- • One for the Moldovan Metropolitan Iosif Mushat – known now as the Wonderworking Mother of God Icon of Neamts Monastery, Romania – which was previously gifted by St. Germanos to the Heleopatra Monastery in Constantinople.
The icon stayed in the St. George Orthodox Church in Mirautzi-Suceava for 14 years, near the court of the Moldovan kings. In 1415 it was brought to Neamts Monastery, where it has remained ever since.
During an Ottoman Empire invasion in June 1821, the icon was hidden underground in Rusu Mountains, until October 1822. Today there is a small skete called “The Icon” in the Rusu Mountains on the site where valuable Christian documents and sacred objects were safely hidden in 1821.
The icon is 3’4″ x 4′ in size, and since 1853 is protected by a gilded silver panel. The Wonderworking Mother of God Icon of Neamts Monastery is very well preserved, given the 1339 years since it was commissioned.
Archimandrite Ioanichie Balan
Holy Wonderworking Icons from Romania
Roman Episcopate, Romania 1999.
of the Three Hands
In 1959, a church dedicated to St. George was constructed within the monastic complex of Neamts. In this church is treasured the old iconostasis of 1798 (i.e., four years after the repose of St. Paisius), as well as many other liturgical objects, among which is the Mother of God Icon of the Three Hands. It is a very old wonder-working icon, which is a copy of the original located in the Serbian Hilandar Monastery on Mount Athos.