Icon of the Theotokos “Directress” (Mosaic) (Sinai, 13th Century) – T42

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This 13th century Byzantine icon of the Virgin Mary was made in Constantinople and then given to the monks at Saint Catherine’s Monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai in the Egyptian desert.  The monastery is on the site of the Burning Bush and has a chapel over the roots of the Bush (which is still alive) in which all pilgrims in reverence must still take off their shoes, for the Lord said “Moses, Moses…put off thy shoes from off thy feet; for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:4-5)  In this monastery is probably the greatest icon collection in the world. 

This icon is a portable mosaic, made from small pieces of polished glass and stone called tessera which are chosen for color and luminosity, cut, and then adhered and put together to form the details of the icon.  It is an ancient art technique known in ancient Greece, Rome, and other parts of Antiquity.  The term Directress (or in Greek, Hodegetria) means one that shows or guides us on the way, and the Virgin Mary in this icon clearly indicates to us her Son  with her left hand, Who is “the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)  May we seek this way to the end and find Him! 

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Mosaic, Hodegetria (Directress)


St. Catherine's Monastery, Sinai, Egypt


13th c.