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The Icon of the Theotokos of the Gate of Dawn

On October 27, the Russian Orthodox Church celebrated the Icon of the Theotokos  of the Gate of Dawn. The icon is found above the northern city gate in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. The icon is venerated by both Roman Catholics and the Orthodox. It is considered one of the most important Christian relics in the country. Numerous legends and stories are related to this holy image.

The icon was painted with tempera on two oak planks two meters wide and 1.65 meters high. It is one of the rare icons of the Mother of God portrayed without the child in her hands. According to a research conducted in 1927, the image was painted in the second part of the 16th century, probably by an Italian artist.

The figure of Theotokos is almost entirely covered by a gilded silver casing. The only visible parts are the face and the folded hands. The silver moon in the lower part of the icon is a votive gift. She has a baroque crown on her head as the Empress of Heaven.

There are several versions about the origin of the icon. According to one of them, the Great Lithuanian Duke Algirdas (1296-1377) brought it home from Crimea and presented it to his first wife, Maria. According to another story, the icon was sent to Algirdas by the Byzantine Emperor John Palaeologus, when he found out that Algirdas became Christian.

The first miracle was recorded in 1671, when a two-year old child fell from the second floor of a house and died. The parents brought the lifeless body of the child to the icon, and prayed to her with tears. On the next day, they found the child alive without a single scratch. In 1706, when a great fire was approaching the Gate of Dawn from two sides, monks took the icon to the church, and the fire turned away and was soon extinguished. Two years later, a soldier wanted to strip the silver casing and sell it. He had hardly touched the icon when an unseen force hit him against the wall, and he expired. There are numerous contemporary miracles recorded to this date. 

The Gate of Dawn in Vilnius, Lithuania. The icon can be seen through the window on the second floor

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