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Washington, DC: Sitka Icon of the Mother of God visits U.S. Capital

On Saturday, March 30, the Sitka Icon of the Mother of God visited the American capital. The wonderworking icon remains on a permanent basis in St. Michael Diocesan Cathedral in Sitka, Alaska, and is one of the more venerated icons of the Mother of God in North America.

The authorship of this icon is attributed to the master Vladimir Lukich Borovikovsky (1758-1826), protégé of the Empress Catherine II, who taught at the Academy of Arts in the Imperial Russian capital of St. Petersburg. As a great portraitist, V.L. Borovikovsky painted many icons for the renowned Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg.

Painted in the style of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God, the Sitka Icon is roughly 36"x18" in size. The icon is adorned in a beautiful silver frame and located in a special place of honor on the north side of the iconostasis.

This icon of the Mother of God was a pious gift from the workers of the Russian-American Company. The donation was made in 1850, two years before the completion of the Sitka cathedral’s completion.

Exactly at 4:45 PM, the car transporting the icon arrived at St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Washington. She was accompanied by His Grace Alexei, Bishop of Sitka & Alaska. His Grace and the icon were greeted with full honors by the cathedral clergy and choir. During the greeting, cathedral rector Archpriest Victor Potapov addressed Bishop Alexei with words of welcome. He expressed the common joy of the Washingtonian flock at the icon’s visit.

In response, Bishop Alexei expressed his joy at being able to visit the main ROCOR church in the U.S. capital. He said that, since the beginning of the 19th century, when the icon was brought from St. Peterburg to adorn the cathedral founded by the Holy Hierarch Innocent (Veniaminov), the great missionary of Alaska, the image has only rarely left Sitka.

Bishop Alexei further spoke about the difficult situation that arose prior to their flight to the East Coast. The diocese purchased an expensive first-class ticket for the icon. This was done so that the icon would not wind up in the airliner’s luggage compartment. The airline employees announced that a ticket for an inanimate object would not be honored under any circumstances. These were the rules. His Grace explained to them that the icon is not an ordinary object, but a holy one. The airline employees continued to insist, and called over a supervisor. The supervisor arrived irate and refused to compromise. His Grace then removed the icon from its carrying case. The airline representatives were so taken with the beauty of the Most Holy Theotokos’ face that their anger turned to mercy, and they permitted the icon to be seated in first class.

Bishop Alexei related further than many native Alaskans consider themselves to be members namely of the Russian Orthodox Church, as they remember with fondness the glorious past of the Russian Church mission and its distinguished laborers – Venerable Herman, St. Innocent, and others.

After the greeting, the triumphal All-Night Vigil began, at which two choirs – Slavonic and English – sang.

Upon completion of the evening service, a support was served for the clergy. Here, brotherly interaction with the visitors from Alaska continued in a relaxed atmosphere.

Meanwhile, worshippers made no haste to leave, although the hour had grown late. Cathedral cleric Priest Damian Dantinne served a moleben before the icon, during which he read a multitude of commemorative slips.

A basket was placed by the icon to collect donations. In the course of two hours, $3,500 was gathered to benefit Alaskan priests in need.

The icon remained in the cathedral only for Saturday Vigil. Everyone wanted for her to remain on Sunday, as well, but her schedule did not allow for it, as the icon had many more parishes of various Orthodox jurisdictions left to visit.

In any case, the parishioners of St. John the Baptist Cathedral are immeasurably grateful to the Lord, Who gave them the opportunity even for a few grace-filled hours to remain in the presence of the wonderworking icon in their church.

Archpriest Victor Potapov


Washington, DC: Sitka Icon of the Mother of God visits U.S. Capital - 03/30/24

Photos: Y. Gripas

(7 images)

Kursk Root Icon



Eastern American Diocese | Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia