Icon of the Theotokos “Hodegetria Pyrphoros” (Sinai, 13th Century) – T41

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This icon is from the unusual 6th century fortress Monastery of Saint Catherine at the foot of Mount Sinai in Egypt.  Mount Sinai is referred to in the Old Testament as Mount Horeb, or the Mountain of God, the place where the Prophet Moses received the Law directly from God, and also the Prophet Elias heard the still small voice.  The monastery was formed early when hermits came to live at this remarkable place, the very site of the Burning Bush which was at the base of this mountain.   Later the great law codifier, the Roman Emperor Justinian the Great, sent workers out to build a fortress to protect the monks, which it has done until today.  There has been continuous monastic life in this fortress for more than the last fourteen centuries. 

Because of the unusual dry climate, lack of marauders (for the fortress has never been breached), and lack of persecution from the iconoclasts of the 8th and 9th centuries, there is a remarkable icon collection still at the monastery.  Hodegetria means Directress, for she shows us the way to her Son, and Pyrphoros means Fire-Bearer; as bearing God, she is an icon of the Bush that did not burn.

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Hodegetria (Directress)


St. Catherine's Monastery, Sinai, Egypt


13th c.