The whirlwind history of this Marian icon (according to Tradition written by St. Luke the Evangelist) begins in Novgrod, when fisherman discovered the image of the Theotokos and Child, hovering above the waters of the lake, bathed in light. After this miraculous appearance, the icon continued to appear to many neighboring towns. When the icon settled in the town of Tikhvin, the wooden monastery dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos was constructed to house the image. The icon even survived several fires, and eventually, a stone church was constructed to replace the original.
Between 1613-1614, the Swedish army made several attempts to destroy the monastery. Eventually, the monks attempted to remove the icon for safekeeping, but found that it was rooted to the spot. Interpreting this as another sign, the monks chose to stay through yet another siege—when an army from Moscow miraculously arrived and caused the Swedes to flee. And as copies of this wonderworking icon were created, miracles continued to occur. In gratitude, pilgrims gave offerings of thanksgiving, and the cover fixed to the original came to be decorated with precious stones and jewels.
During the early years of communism, the Tikhvin icon managed to remain in the monastery, avoiding confiscation and destruction by the atheist Soviet authorities. During the German occupation however, the Nazis staying in the monastery removed the icon. The icon ended up in Riga, Latvia, where it was placed into the care of the city’s Orthodox hierarch, Bishop John. When that city was evacuated, Soviet authorities allowed Bishop John to take the original icon to America, mistakenly believing it to be no more than a simple copy.
When he was elevated to Archbishop of Chicago, the icon was installed in Holy Trinity Cathedral. Even after his retirement, and up until his death on Palm Sunday 1982, the icon regularly accompanied the Archbishop on his travels to the faithful. The icon passed to the Bishop’s adopted son, Fr. Sergei Garklavs, who held fast to the Archbishop’s wish that the icon be returned to Russia when it was safe for believers to venerate it publicly.
In 2003, more than a decade after the fall of communism and the restoration of the church in Russia, the decision was made to restore the icon to its original home.
Fr. Sergei Garklavs fell asleep in the Lord on October 19th, 2015.
The icon of Tikhvin resides in the monastery to this day.