Panagia Blachernitissa

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The Panagia of Blachernitissa (Gr. Παναγία η Βλαχερνίτισσα), also known as Blachernae, Vlachernae, or Vlahernon, is a 7th century Byzantine icon from Constantinople preserved in the imperial palace of Blachernai. The icon, according to tradition, was not written; rather, it was made from a composition of wax and the ashes of 6th-century martyred Christians.[1] Within the Church, there is only one other icon of this type—see the icon of Archangel Michael of Mantamados. The icon of Blachernitissa is currently located in Russia at the Tretyakov Gallery.


Name ambiguity - There are two places with the name "Blachernae." The first location, and most recognised, is in Constantinople and is spelt with a 'B'. The second, is a municipality in the prefecture of Arta, Greece. It is not so well known and most commonly spelt with a 'V'.

The history of the Blachernae is closely linked with the history of the Monastery of the Hodegetria.

Blachernae, Constantinople

Blachernae is near the northern tip of the walls of Theodosios built by the Empress Pulcheria (ca. 450). Inside is now the best known and most celebrated shrine of the Holy Virgin in Constantinople. The circular chapel (the Soros), was built by Emperor Leo I (457-474) next to the church to hold the robe of the Virgin Mary, brought from Palestine in 473. The chapel of the Virgin's robe was covered in silver and considered a "reliquary of architectural dimensions." Lay people were not allowed inside but could pray in the main church.[2]

In 625, Heraclius (reigned 610-41 AD) added the famous quarter of Blachernae with its venerated church of the Blessed Virgin, whose image was considered as the palladium of Constantinople. The circumference of the walls were then, and still are, eleven to twelve miles. By 627, the church of Blachernae had around 75 endowed clerics.

There was a specific icon, the Panagia Hagiosoritissa, associated with this shrine.[3] The church was burnt down in 1070 and rebuilt by the year 1077 either by Romanos IV Diogenes (1067-71) or Michael VII (1071-87) and then destroyed again in 1434. Next to it was a bathhouse where a spring flowed, and which still flows in the modern church on the site.[4] From the time of the Patriarch Timotheos [511-18] there was a procession—the "panhgur j"—which would take place every Friday from Blachernai to the Church of the Chalkoprateia, near Hagia Sophia, at the other end of the city.[5]

Also associated with this church, is the Eastern Council of Blachernae (Constantinople) in 1285. At this council, a significant statement was produced addressing the theological issue of the 'Filioque'. Despite the concern of Byzantine theologians to oppose the idea of the Filioque and its addition to the creed, there is no reference to it in the Synodikon of Orthodoxy [6]

The original icon of Tikhvin (Hodegetria) was painted by the Holy Apostle Luke and was kept in the Church of Blachernae for about five hundred years. It was sent to Russia in 1383, before the fall of Constantinople. It is said that fishermen saw it surrounded in lights over the Lake of Ladoga in Russia. The icon was later found on the bank of the Tikhvin River and was placed in the local church. Recently, the icon was kept in Chicago and returned to Russia.

Other churches

  • The Church of Vlacherna, Pontikonisi (Corfu, Greece)
  • The Church of Vlacherna, Peloponneso
A majestic 12th century church decorated with beautiful frescoes of St. John the Baptist.
  • Isle of Dias, village of Kalligata (Kefalonia, Greece)



  1. Blachernitissa at Wikipedia
  2. ODB 3:1929.
  3. ODB 3:2171.
  4. Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium (ODB) 1:293; Janin, Eglises CP, 161-71 and the end map entitled "Byzance Constantinople," ref. D2; George P. Majeska, Russian Travelers to Constantinople in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries, (Washington, D.C.: 1984), 333-337.
  5. Janin, Eglises CP, 177.
  6. a collection containing more than sixty anathemas representing the doctrinal decisions of Eastern councils through the fourteenth century.

See also


External links