Here tourists become pilgrims

People, who claim that life has no wonders to see, just don’t believe in them. Wonder-working St. Mary Icon of Zhirovichi has been healing those, who genuinely seek abolition of various diseases, for over half a millennium already. The sacred relic is one of the one hundred most significant and revered icons of the Orthodox world
People, who claim that life has no wonders to see, just don’t believe in them. Wonder-working St. Mary Icon of Zhirovichi has been healing those, who genuinely seek abolition of various diseases, for over half a millennium already. The sacred relic is one of the one hundred most significant and revered icons of the Orthodox world.

Legends say, in 1470 peasants saw an unusual light while shepherding the cattle of boyar Alexander Soltan. The light came from a tiny icon nested in branches of a pear tree. The magnate built a wooden temple at the site of the wonderful event. Some time later a monastery appeared there. Till 1520 the icon stayed there. But the church was burnt down and the wonder-working icon disappeared. However, the world regained it soon enough…

The Assumption monastery of Zhirovichi always welcomes hermits. Not everyone visiting the place is a pilgrim. There are enough common tourists. Here is the story of chief tour guide Alexander Palchevski.

“Our cloister welcomes guests practically every day. There are many of them on Sundays and holidays. On weekends we, for example, arrange up to 20 excursions. In summer the figure is even larger.

The facility includes 5 temples, an education wing of Minsk Spiritual Academy and Divinity School, other buildings. The excursion starts out from the place the wonder-working icon appeared. After that we introduce the history and interior dйcor of the Assumption monastery, tell tourists about the 220 years of the divinity school development. Further on, the way turns to the Epiphany Church, whose main relic is a stone, on which Madonna appeared with a wonder-working icon in her hands in 1520. The most elevated space is occupied by the Exaltation of the Holy Cross Church with a unique staircase of 28 stairs. Earlier the stairs had in-built relics of saints.

The view opens onto a lake, an ancient graveyard and the 18th century temple of megalomartyr George the Victor. Pilgrims can drop in at the temple of Saint Nikolai the Thaumaturge, a museum of icons and ancient books, and visit a healing shrine any time of the year.

Apostolic Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksiy II visited the cloister too. Prominent bishops, clergymen, and theologians of the Russian Orthodox Church and other Orthodox churches visited the monastery. Actually we see people of various ages and interests.”

“Do they ask a lot of questions during excursions?”

“Yes, various questions, sometimes unexpected ones. More often tourists are interested what disciplines students of the academy and the divinity school study, what they do in their spare time, what made them come here and what they expect in the future life. They ask about monkhood, Christian beliefs, the history and the modern position of Zhirovichi monastery, peculiarities of the church service and orthodox traditions.

Those, who genuinely wish to feel the spirit of the Orthodox belief, can live in the monastery for a while. We have everything available.”

“In your opinion do you think it is possible to combine the pilgrim mission and tourist feelings?”

“I think the two aspects can successfully co-exist. While visiting Zhirovichi monastery, people carry away joy in their hearts and pacification by our god-blessed land.”

“What does Zhirovichi wonder-working icon look like?”

“It is the smallest one of the worshipped Saint Mary’s icons. It is a stone oval as big as a child’s palm with a carved image of Madonna and Eternal Innocent in her hands. The relic is kept in a silver and gold icon case in the iconostasis of the Assumption monastery on the left of the royal gates. Iconography defines the icon’s type as affection. The relic appeared in a divine way and there is regarded as uncreated”.

by Veronika Filipovich
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