The Phanuel icon of St. George
In the written records known so far, this icon is mentioned for the first time in a Russian description of Mount Athos, composed between 1489 and 1543. Its author, Stefan the Hagiorite, tells us that it was originally in a monastery church in the Palestinian village of Phanuel, not far from the city of Lydda, but after the Arab conquest of Palestine, its image inexplicably disappeared from the board on which it was painted. Saint George appeared to the Abbot of the Monastery and explained to him that he had sought refuge on Mount Athos. The monks set out together on a pilgrimage there, and as soon as they reached the Monastery of Zograf, they saw in the church there the icon, which had mysteriously painted itself on the prepared board at the foundation of that monastery, and recognized in it the holy image, which had left them.
The inscription on the silver setting of the icon reads, “With the blessing of His Eminence the Most Reverend Seraphim, Metropolitan of Novgorod and St. Petersburg, the diligence of most Christ-loving benefactors, and the care of the epitropos [steward] of the Zograf Monastery on Mount Athos, Archimandrite Anatoly, this setting of the miraculous icon of St. George the Trophy-Bearer was made, which appeared here as a pillar of fire to three diligently praying brothers of the same womb, descendants of Justinian the Great, who first erected this monastery on the present site with their own funds in 898, and gave it the name “Zograf” after the miraculously inscribed image of the saint, called from the old time “zografos”. S. P. [St. Petersburg], 1837.”
The Arabian icon of St. George the Trophy-Bearer
This icon is first mentioned in a note left by Venerable Pimen of Zograf at the end of a liturgical book he copied in 1618. There is an inscription on the silver setting of the icon, which reads, “This miraculous icon of the Holy Gloriuos Great Martyr, Trophy-Bearer and Wonderworker George, by mysterious command of God, sailed across the sea from Arabia to Mount Athos and at first shone like a ray of sunshine in the arsanas [harbour] of the Vatopedi Monastery. As soon as they saw this, the monks of the other Athonite monasteries also flocked to this miraculous event, each of them wishing to take the icon back to their own monastery. Nevertheless, by the will of God and of the Passion-Bearer [Martyr] George, it again miraculously moved from there and settled in the Zograf Monastery, where to this day it continues to bestow unceasing miracles on the diligent worshippers who faithfully come in pilgrimage to this monastery. In honor and memory of the Holy Glorious Great Martyr George, this setting was made with the diligence of the Reverend Fathers of the Zograf Monastery, Vikenty and Anatoly, and with the donations of Christ-loving servants of God, Slavic-Bulgarian merchants of Odessa, originally from various dioceses of Macedonia, whose names are recorded in the Monastery’s Book for Commemoration [of the Living and the Dead] for eternal commemoration among the blessed donors of this Holy Monastery. [In the year] 1822, St. Petersburg.”
The Moldovan icon of St. George the Trophy-Bearer
This icon was mentioned for the first time in a Russian description of Mount Athos in 1663. A manuscript from the 18th century kept in the Monastery tells about it, “The third icon of St. George was brought to the Monastery in the following way: Stephen, Voivode of Moldavia and Wallachia (who later became Monastery's sponsor) fought frequent wars with the Turks. Once an innumerable multitude of Turkish soldiers marched against him and wanted to destroy him. At the sight of such a multitude, he, as a common person, was discouraged and scared. [Then] with a sorrowful heart toward the Lord, he fell asleep. And in this sorrowful sleep the Holy Great Martyr George appeared to him and said to him, “Have courage with the Lord and do not be terrified by this multitude, but in the morning gather your regiments and with a solemn trumpet call send them against the enemies of Christ. Now you know the ever-helping power of God. I am sent to show thee who is the Victor and His great power working in thee, and to help thee in this battle. And thou shalt renovate my house - the abandoned monastery called Zograf, which is on the Mount Athos, and send thither my icon, which thou hast with thee.” As soon as he arose from his sleep and reflected on what he had seen, the Voivode did not doubt God’s mercy in the least, but gathered his regiments, attacked the enemies with a trumpet call, and destroyed them. While they were conquering and slaughtering, St. George the Great Martyr, as many of the worthy were able to see, marched before his army. Grateful for the help of St. George the Trophy-Bearer, the Voivode Stephen without delay sent to Mount Athos one of his revered dignitaries and handed him this holy icon to carry, giving orders that the said monastery be rebuilt from the foundations and that the holy icon be placed in it. And what was commanded was fulfilled. Stephen, called the Great and Good, became a Voivode in 1456 and died in the Lord in 1504.”
There is an inscription on the setting of the icon (in Church Slavonic language), which reads, “With the blessing of His Eminence the Most Reverend Seraphim, Metropolitan of Novgorod and St. Petersburg, the diligence of most Christ-loving benefactors, and the care of Archimandrite Anatoly, who in 1838 was epitropos [steward] of this Stavropegial Zograf Monastery on Mount Athos, and of the Ecumenical Patriarchal See, this setting was made in St. Petersburg for the present miraculous icon of the Holy Great Martyr George the Trophy-Bearer, which appeared in 1484 to Stephen the Great, Voivode of Moldavia, who subsequently restored the present Holy Monastery of Zograf.”
Icon of the Mother of God “of the Akathist” (“Foreteller”)
This icon is associated with the martyrdom of the 26 Monastic Martyrs of Zograf Monastery in 1276. After the conclusion of the Union of Lyons between the Pope and the Byzantine Emperor, Mount Athos stood in firm opposition to this lawless act. Therefore, punitive detachments of papal warriors marched to Mount Athos in order to convert the disobedient monks to the union.
There was a certain Elder at that time, who spent his life in ascetical struggles in a remote cell in Herovo area, belonging to the Zograf Monastery, about half an hour walk away. He had the pious custom of reading the Akathist Hymn before the icon of the Mother of God every day. One day, while reading the Akathist, and repeating the word “rejoice,” the Elder suddenly heard a voice coming from the icon, “Rejoice also, Elder of God!”
The ascetic trembled in horror, but the voice continued: “Do not be afraid, but go to the Monastery as soon as possible and announce to the brethren and to the Abbot that the Monastery is in danger from the enemies of Mine and of My Son, and they are already close by. Whoever is weak in patience, let him hide until the temptation passes; but as for those who are seeking crowns, let them stay.”
The Elder left the cell right away and hurried to the Monastery. As soon as he entered the gate, his eyes beheld the very icon from his cell, before which he had just read the Akathist Hymn. An invisible, miraculous power had brought it there from the ascetic’s cell to support with its presence the faith of the monks.
The Elder fell down before the icon with ardent prayer, and then with the icon in his hands, he went to the Abbot and the brethren and told them everything. Then twenty-six brave monks, including the Abbot Thomas, and four laymen decided to remain within the Monastery tower with the icon in their hands and to wait for the coming of the Latin invaders. The Latins came, but failed to persuade the monks to participate in common prayer with them and accept the Union. The papal representatives then lit a fire around the tower and it burned with the Holy Martyrs in it.
The wonderworking icon of the Mother of God, who warned the Elder about the impending disaster, was subsequently found unscathed under the ashes in the ruins of the Monastery. Today this icon is in the Monastery, in the Dormition Church, and an unsleeping lampada burns before it.
Icon of the Mother of God “The Hearer” (Epakouousa)
This is a fresco in the katholikon of the Monastery, in the altar, on the eastern wall, which extends into the diakonikon. Through this icon, the Mother of God once spoke to St. Cosmas of Zograf. The altar has been enlarged three times so far, but due to the value of the fresco, this part has not been altered. St. Cosmas was an ecclesiarch in the Monastery, lit the candles and prayed before the icon every day with tears in his eyes. Zealous for his salvation, he asked the Mother of God for a sign of her special favor. Unexpectedly, one day he heard her voice emanating from her icon, asking her Son, “My Son and Lord, what must this monk do to be saved?” The Lord replied, “He must leave the Monastery and live in solitude.”
Icon of the Mother of God “Stabbed” (“Esphagmeni”)
According to the accounts of the Abbot Kliment of Zograf and Father Gabriel of Vatopedi Monastery, in 1821 a Turk from the Monastery guards entered the katholikon and stabbed the icon of the Mother of God with his yatagan. Blood flowed from the place where the icon was stabbed on the face of the Mother of God. The spot is still visible today. The Turk was terrified and fled, but as soon as he was out of the Monastery, he died. His companions refused to bury him, scared by what they had done.
The Cypriot icon of the Dormition of the Mother of God
In our time, the Church of the Dormition has acquired another treasure, a testimony of God’s mercy towards us. This is the icon of the Dormition of the Mother of God, miraculously brought to its place. It was a gift from a pious Cypriot Christian named Stelios Chatzicharalampous, as it is marked on a small metal plate on the icon. Following a vow, he ordered the icon from an icon-painter in Cyprus and brought it to Mount Athos. On the way to our Monastery, St. George himself met him on horseback, took the icon and brought it to the Church.