About 200 to 300 years ago, this icon could be found in one of the men’s monasteries of Tver. The rector gave the icon to Cosmas Volchaninov in thanks for his excellent work in the monastery church. The icon was passed on from generation to generation as a holy object. However, a certain impious grandchild of Cosmas put the inherited icon into his attic. His wife bore many insults from her husband and his relatives. In despair, the woman decided to commit suicide in a deserted bathhouse. Along the way, a monk appeared to her and said “Where are you going, unfortunate one? Turn back. Go, pray before the Mother of God of the Bountiful Hill, and you will live well and in peace.” Returning home, the distraught woman related everything that had happened, and even revealed her criminal intention to commit suicide. People looked for the monk, but he was nowhere to be found. No one other than she had seen him. This took place on the eve of the Feast of the Annunciation of the Most-holy Theotokos.
The icon was immediately found in the attic, was cleaned, and was installed in a place of honor in their home. The parish priest, invited to visit that evening, came and served an All-night Vigil before the icon, and thereafter a Vigil was served before it yearly on that date. For more than 150 years, the icon remained in the Volchaninov family. When Ekaterina, daughter of Vasily, last of the Volchaninovs, married Georgi Ivanovitch Konyaev, she took the icon of the Mother of God with her as her most precious inheritance. In the Konyaev home, All-night Vigils continued to be served before the icon each March 24th and November 7th. Apparently, the latter was the day of the icon’s translation from the monastery to the home of Cosmas Volchaninov.
In 1863, it was decided to add a chapel, dedicated to Holy Hierarch Tikhon [of Zadonsk] and St. Makary of Kalyazin, to the Church of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God. Georgi Konyaev (†1868, at age 97), who was then curator of the icon, expressed the desire to donate the healing image of the Theotokos to the church. He approached the clergy with a request that yet another chapel be built and dedicated to the Miraculous Icon of the “Bountiful Hill” Mother of God. He added, “I consider the Church of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God to be the best place for it, because the site upon which the church was erected was known in olden times as “the hill”, as it was the highest point in the town. During times of flood, the residents would take their possessions up that hill, and there they would save themselves from ruin. “Let the Queen of Heaven, the Bountiful Hill, rest through her grace upon this hill and with her mercy protect all those buried here.” On July 15, 1866, the icon was transferred to the newly erected chapel, which on the following day was consecrated by Bishop Anthony of Staritsa.
In the icon, the Most-holy Theotokos is depicted standing on a semi- circular hill. In her left arm, she holds the Divine Infant, Whose right hand is raised in blessing. The Mother of God wears a crown, and in her hand holds a small hill, on top of which is depicted a church with cupolas and crosses.
Parish Life, March 2021
St. John the Baptist Church, Washington, DC