Secrets and symbols of icons preserved in the Museum of Medieval Art



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The National Museum of Medieval Art presents the icon of Saint Mary Hodegetria in the “Discover the Byzantine icon” series.

The icon originates from the church of Saint Michael, in Vithkuq, Korçë. It dates back to the beginning of the 17th century with an unknown author.

The icon belongs to the Hodegetria type, which translates to Our Lady of the Way” from Old Greek and is conceptualized based on sacred scriptures, mentioning the words of Christ “I am the way”.

Saint Mary is depicted holding Christ in her arms. Her hand is stretched out and directed towards the child, guiding as the “only way we should follow”.

Christ holds a closed scroll in his hand symbolizing the logos or word of God. By following this path, his word is revealed and gives life to the saying “In the beginning was the Word”.

Although Christ appears in the form of a child, his features resemble those of an adult, implying the great wisdom he carries despite his young age.

In the Christian world, the figure of Saint Mary is also known as the spiritual leader of humanity. The Virgin Mary, mainly in iconography, is depicted in red, symbolizing the human part, victory of life over death, love, and hope for life, while at the same time conveying the pains and blood of her son. The blue color signifies her divine nature. The decoration with gold symbolizes the majesty of the Kingdom of God.

In the portrait of the Virgin, the nose is slender and long. Painted in the Cretan technique of iconography, it implies that a delicate scent is needed to find the right path.

Distinctive is the net that gathers the hair of the Mother of God under the upper mantle, symbolizing her virginity. Also, always in the figure of Saint Mary, there are three stars placed on her upper mantle, one in the center of her head and two on her shoulders, symbolizing her virginity, before, during, and after the birth of Christ.