Life-Giving Spring

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An icon of the Panagia the Life Giving Spring, from Messinias (Pilos, Greece).
Procession on the feast day of Panagia of the Life-giving Font in the village of Kastri, Arcadia, Greece, ca.1959, on Bright Friday.

Panagia the Life-Giving Spring or Life-Giving Font (in Greek: Ζωοδόχος Πηγή) is both the feast day of a historic church just west of Constantinople in Valoukli, and an icon of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary) which is venerated by the Orthodox Church, commemorated on Bright Friday of each year.


The image in the icon includes the Virgin Mary with her child standing within a stone chalice that presumably represents the living water which is Christ. This "living water" is contained in the cross which all who follow him must bear as he did. In the early Church, the baptismal font was actually in the form of a cross just like the cross of this icon and the Christians would enter in from the base of the cross and come out at the top, and then re-enter from the left of the cross and come out on the right of the cross; then the priest, who would be standing in the middle of the cross/baptismal font, would commune them.

During the reign of Emperor Marcian (d. 457), a blind man had lost his way and the famous warrior, Leo Marcellus, passing by, helped him. As he went to search for some water to refresh the exhausted man, he heard a voice directing him to the spring.

In Constantinople, sometime in the 5th century, there was a garden that was dedicated to the Virgin Mother of God. In the garden was a spring and it was well-known for its miracles. In its history, the fountain had been destroyed and then rebuilt on many occasions, at the request of the Virgin Mother.

In the 15th century, the city of Constantinople fell into the hands of the Muslims. The Church of the Life-giving Spring was destroyed, and its building materials were used to construct a mosque for Sultan Bayazet. The church site was covered with earth and crushed stone, so that the very foundations of the church disappeared from sight. The beautiful surrounding areas were turned into a Muslim cemetery. A Turkish sentinel, placed at the ruins of the church, forbade Christians not only to gather at the site, but even to approach there.

Little by little, the strictness of this ban eased, and Christians were permitted to build a small church there. However, in 1821, it was destroyed as well, and the spring itself was filled in. Once again Christians cleaned up the ruins, reopened the spring, and once again drew water from it. Even upon these shards of the former magnificent holy structure, the Theotokos, as before, granted hearings through her grace. Later, among the broken pieces in one of the windows was found, already half-rotted away through time and dampness, a panel on which were recorded ten miracles which occurred at the Life-giving Spring during the period 1824-1829.

During the reign of Sultan Mahmoud, the Orthodox received a measure of freedom to conduct religious services. They used it to erect, for the third time, a church above the Life-giving Spring. In 1835, with great pomp, the Ecumenical Patriarch Constantine, celebrating with 20 bishops and an enormous flood of the faithful, consecrated the church which stands to this day. Nearby was built a hospital and alms-house. Even the Muslims spoke with great respect of the Life-giving Spring, and of the Theotokos, who through it pours out her grace-filled power. "Great among women Holy Mary" is how they refer to the Most Holy Virgin. The water from the Life-giving Spring they call the "water of Holy Mary."




In Orthodox hymnography, the Theotokos is frequently compared with a Holy Fountain.

Kontakion (Tone 8) [1]

O most favored by God,
You confer on me the healing of your grace from your inexhaustible Spring.
Therefore, since you gave birth incomprehensibly to the Word,
I implore you to refresh me with the dew of your grace that I might cry to you:
Hail, O Water of salvation.

See also

External links