The holy and wonder-working icon of the Virgin Portaitissa is the oldest on Mount Athos and the one most venerated by monks and pilgrims alike.
The figure of the Mother of God instils compunction in the soul and appeals to generation after generation of faithful who revere Her grace, entrust Her with their lives and receive Her blessing.
The origins of the icon of the Virgin Portaitissa go back to the troubled times of the iconoclast controversy. It was then that a pious widow from Nicaea in Bithynia placed the icon on the sea to safeguard it from iconoclast rage. The icon stood upright on the waves and began to travel in the direction of Mount Athos. Many years later it appeared off the coast of Iviron Monastery as a resplendent figure identifiable by a column of light that reached the sky.
Yet when the dazzled monks attempted to reach it, the icon moved farther away. Only one monk, Saint Gabriel, was able at the Virgin’s behest to walk on the waters, reach the icon, receive her Holy figure and bring it ashore. A spring of holy water immediately started flowing at the point where the icon landed. Ιt has flowed uninterruptedly since then, sanctifying those who approach it with faith.
Monks carried the icon in a solemn procession and placed it in a specially designated icon stand inside the monastery katholikon. On the following day, however, the icon was inexplicably found at the monastery gate. It was brought back to the icon stand and again it left and was found at the same place. This happened three times. The Virgin then appeared in a vision to Saint Gabriel and told him not to remove the icon from the gate (Gk porta), as She had come not to be guarded but to guard the monastery and the entire Holy Mountain.
It was then that the actual chapel was constructed near the gate. Τhe icon was placed there at the command of the Mother of God, and was hence named Portaitissa. The icon has stayed there without ever leaving the monastery bounds, and the Virgin’s blessing has since flowed abundantly for the spiritual consolation and manifold edification of all Athonite monks and faithful pilgrims who come to pray at Her chapel.
The grace of the Virgin Portaitissa has spread all over the world. Countless copies of Her icon are venerated worldwide and numerous churches and monasteries have been dedicated to Her name. A copy of the icon of the Virgin Portaitissa sent to Russia in 1648 is particularly famous and is still venerated at the entrance of Moscow’s Red Square, in the heart of the Russian lands, where pilgrims come in thousands to receive the blessing of the Mother of God in their tormented souls.
Now that with the Grace of the Mother of God you are worthy of holding in your hands an authentic copy of the holy and wonder-working icon of the Virgin Portaitissa, we pray that She who gave birth to the Son and Word of God and held Him as an Infant in her arms may always bestow Her divine love and affection on all aspects of your lives and may guide your steps in the path of true joy and salvation which lies with Her Son and God.