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#120133 - 05/25/05 03:28 PM Mary with Three Hands Icon
St. Gabriel Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/24/05
Posts: 17
Loc: Denver
Greetings All,

First time poster, long time lurker. Some time ago, my parents came into posession of an old Russian icon dating back to the 1500's. It's an icon of the Theotokos with the Christ child. The odd thing about it is that the Theotokos clearly has three hands.

I scoured the internet to see if I could find some tradition for this and all I came up with was a monk who had his hand chopped off (because he had displeased a secular authority) and it miraculously grew back after praying to the Theotokos. The icon associated with this event depicts the Theotokos only and the severed hand appears as a third hand under the depiction of the Theotokos, all in silver inlay.

This is something different and I would appreciate any insight anyone might have on this. I'm including a link to the image, which is a little over 1 MB in size (dial ups beware). I intentionally left it at this size so that the detail can be examined.

Thanks, in advance, for any feedback.

In Christ
Gabriel

na

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#120134 - 05/25/05 03:55 PM Re: Mary with Three Hands Icon
Intrigued Latin Offline
Member

Registered: 06/16/04
Posts: 506
Loc: Toronto , Canada
St. Gabriel, Welcome to the forum.

I don't think I'll be able to answer your question, but I did have a look the Icon and can only see two hands on Our Blessed Mother.

Brad - Thinking he should have his eyes examined.

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#120135 - 05/25/05 03:55 PM Re: Mary with Three Hands Icon
Orthodox Catholic Online   content
Member

Registered: 11/05/01
Posts: 24131
Loc: Canada
Dear Gabriel,

This is the icon of the Three-handed Theotokos, the cell-icon of St John of Damascus.

John had his hand cut off by the emperor for refusing to stop writing in defence of Orthodoxy.

He asked for his hand back and it miraculously grew back on his arm!

He then hung a silver votive hand over the icon in thanksgiving and the icon was soon known as the "Three Handed" or "Triherousa."

It was taken to Mt AThos and enshrined at the Serbian Hilandar monastery where it became the patronal Madonna icon of Serbia.

It is invoked against hand pain as is St John Damascus as well.

My wife was quickly cured of a mysterious hand pain (doctors didn't know what caused it) after I placed a copy of this icon near her side of the bed.

Alex

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#120136 - 05/25/05 03:55 PM Re: Mary with Three Hands Icon
Tony Offline
Member

Registered: 09/27/02
Posts: 971
Loc: Crestwood, NY
Gabriel,

This icon is somewhat well known and it is connected with St. John Damascene.

Here are some links that may be helpful:

one about the icon

one about St John

toward the bottom of this page is another

The attaching of the silver hand is example of early usage of what is now called in Greek tama or tamata in the plural, also called ex voto in Latin, the commemorative depictions of the favor granted that are seen in Orthodox and Roman Caholic churches which have Mediterranean influence. These commemorative depictions are left there by the faithful in gratitude for the favor granted.

In the New World these items are called by different names, in Mexico I understand they are called milagros or miracles, in Costa Rica where I have roots, they are called ex votos.

In some Greek parishes one may see the small silver tamata hanging around an icon, or placed in the corner of a frame of an icon.

Perhaps this helps.

T

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#120137 - 05/25/05 03:57 PM Re: Mary with Three Hands Icon
Intrigued Latin Offline
Member

Registered: 06/16/04
Posts: 506
Loc: Toronto , Canada
Oops... I now see the third hand.

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#120138 - 05/25/05 04:00 PM Re: Mary with Three Hands Icon
Tony Offline
Member

Registered: 09/27/02
Posts: 971
Loc: Crestwood, NY
The inscription is partly typical abbreviation. It looks like: Troeruchitsa Bogoriditsy but that should mean there is another word missing, or implied, Obraz.

I would expect troeruchnitsa...maybe I just can't make it out...

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#120139 - 05/25/05 04:00 PM Re: Mary with Three Hands Icon
St. Gabriel Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/24/05
Posts: 17
Loc: Denver
Thanks for the replies.

Brad, the third hand is on the left side supporting the Christ child. It's somewhat faded compared to the other two hands.

The reason I think it's not related to St. John Damascene, is that the hand is not severed or detached, and not in silver, but is part of the Theotokos and is supporting the Christ child.

Thanks again.

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#120140 - 05/25/05 06:40 PM Re: Mary with Three Hands Icon
Pani Rose Offline
Member

Registered: 11/06/01
Posts: 10685
Loc: Irondale,AL
Here is a Russian version very similar to yours. Sometimes it depends on where the iconographer originates as to how it is expressed, but always with the same purpose.

http://www.therussianshop.com/russhop/icons/088t.jpg

here are more of their icons
http://www.therussianshop.com/russhop/icons/russianicons.htm

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#120141 - 05/25/05 07:24 PM Re: Mary with Three Hands Icon
St. Gabriel Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/24/05
Posts: 17
Loc: Denver
Thanks Pani Rose,

Ok, mystery solved then. The different style of depictions threw me off. It's all adding up now. I've been convinced.

Thanks again.

In Christ
Gabriel

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#120142 - 05/26/05 04:49 PM Re: Mary with Three Hands Icon
Edward Yong Offline
Member

Registered: 11/02/01
Posts: 758
Loc: Singapore
XB!

The other explanation (aside from the St John of Damascus one) is that there was an Arab pirate who, during an arab raid of Athos, dared to strike an icon of the Virgin. As he raised his hand to hit it - his hand disappeared and appeared in the icon. He was converted and became a monk and so on...

On another note, the tamata and ex votos are a very old custom, far predating Christianity - the current Medeterranean practice of offering them is a direct descendant of the pagan Greek practice of doing the same thing to the shrines of Asclepius and other healing gods!

Note the thanks offered to Asclepius, Hygeia and Tyche (Lady Luck)!

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#120143 - 05/26/05 06:29 PM Re: Mary with Three Hands Icon
Orthodox Catholic Online   content
Member

Registered: 11/05/01
Posts: 24131
Loc: Canada
Dear Edward,

Actually, that story is associated with another miraculous icon of Mt AThos, the name of which escapes me right now . . . I think it was an Hodegitria icon.

A pirate did strike it with his sword or knife and it flowed blood.

The pirate was so upset that he repented, converted to Christianity and became a monk (I think he was a Turk).

He lived as a saintly monk for years on Mt Athos, but when people asked him his name, he always replied, "The only name I could have is 'Barbarian' after what I did (to the icon)."

He died and was glorified a saint of Mt Athos where, to this day, he is known as "St Barbarian."

The other situation where this occurred is, as you know, with the icon of Poland of Czestochowa.

It was struck by a Hussite and the marks are still on the icon.

There is also a miraculous icon of St Nicholas on Mt Athos that was rescued from the depth of the sea (it is a mosaic icon).

A conch shell was attached to the head of St Nicholas, but when it was yanked off, blood flowed from the icon.

One may still see the dried trace of blood on it.

Alex

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#120144 - 05/26/05 06:31 PM Re: Mary with Three Hands Icon
Tony Offline
Member

Registered: 09/27/02
Posts: 971
Loc: Crestwood, NY
Edward,

BB!

Also, let's not forget the account of the capture of the Ark by the Phillistines in I Sam 6:8ff where God required of the captors golden offerings representing their ills of which they were healed.

Tony

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#120145 - 05/26/05 06:35 PM Re: Mary with Three Hands Icon
Tony Offline
Member

Registered: 09/27/02
Posts: 971
Loc: Crestwood, NY
Quote:
Originally posted by Orthodox Catholic:
Dear Edward,

Actually, that story is associated with another miraculous icon of Mt AThos, the name of which escapes me right now . . . I think it was an Hodegitria icon.

A pirate did strike it with his sword or knife and it flowed blood.

The pirate was so upset that he repented, converted to Christianity and became a monk (I think he was a Turk).

He lived as a saintly monk for years on Mt Athos, but when people asked him his name, he always replied, "The only name I could have is 'Barbarian' after what I did (to the icon)."

He died and was glorified a saint of Mt Athos where, to this day, he is known as "St Barbarian."

The other situation where this occurred is, as you know, with the icon of Poland of Czestochowa.

It was struck by a Hussite and the marks are still on the icon.

There is also a miraculous icon of St Nicholas on Mt Athos that was rescued from the depth of the sea (it is a mosaic icon).

A conch shell was attached to the head of St Nicholas, but when it was yanked off, blood flowed from the icon.

One may still see the dried trace of blood on it.

Alex
Alex,

XB!

Similarly the Icon of the Theotokos in Klokočov (in modern Slovakia) wept when attacked.

Tony

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#120146 - 05/26/05 07:51 PM Re: Mary with Three Hands Icon
Orthodox Catholic Online   content
Member

Registered: 11/05/01
Posts: 24131
Loc: Canada
Dear Tony,

Great - I have a copy of that icon!!

Alex

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#120147 - 05/26/05 09:43 PM Re: Mary with Three Hands Icon
rcguest Offline
Bill from Pgh
Member

Registered: 06/12/06
Posts: 712
Loc: Pittsburgh, PA
Years ago,the first icon I ever bought,was a small cheap diptych of Christ and the Theotokos with Three Hands. I didn't notice the third hand until I got the icon home. I didn't know much about the Eastern Church at the time, but this third hand intrigued me and led me to learn more about iconography and henceforth the Eastern Church, which I am still doing today. I can attribute my discovering of, and my love for, the Eastern Churches to the Theotokos with Three Hands.

Bill

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