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Exhibition of miraculous icons of the Mother of God and saints binds Balkan nations together

Photo: Facebook / @culturalinstitute.mfa

The reverence of the Orthodox world for the icons of the Mother of God and the saints is particularly strong. They are a means of communication with the Lord, which is why the faithful address their prayers to them.

"The living faith in the miracle-working images of the Mother of God is the binding fiber between churches and monasteries in the Balkans, where miraculous icons and holy relics are kept as precious reliquaries," said Snezhana Yoveva, Bulgaria’s State Cultural Institute (SCI) with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, on the occasion of the poster exhibition "Miraculous Icons and Holy Relics in the Balkans". The exposition is the work of a team of medievalist researchers at the Sofia University Center for Slavic-Byzantine Studies "Prof. Ivan Duichev", with the support and partnership of the SCI.

The exhibition of icon photographs opens today (15 August) on the great Christian feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in the hall of the Trakart Cultural Centre in Plovdiv. It is an account of the miracles associated with the miraculous icons and holy relics from various Balkan monasteries.

What is the idea behind this exhibition?

"In the Balkans we should strive for dialogue rather than confrontation, which is more often the case", Snezhana Yoveva said in an interview with Vatican Radio.

Snezhana Yoveva

- By preserving the faith and the memory of the miracles performed by these icons in the chronicles of the monasteries or through the human accounts of the miracles performed, we strengthen our sense of common belonging. And you will see evidence of this in the narrative of the 24 poster panels that describe the miracles of the icons and holy relics in the monasteries of the Balkans, such as the Monastery of St. Gjon Vladimir near Elbasan, Albania, the Bigor Monastery in the Republic of North Macedonia, the Rila Monastery in Bulgaria, and many others. It seemed important to us to share this collective memory of the miracle and make people be more confident when the turn to God and faith."

Since its opening last year, the exhibition has featured in the cultural programmes of our diplomatic missions around the world and has attracted great interest. Early this year, it visited the Bulgarian Cultural Information Centre in Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia, highlighting the miracles associated with the icon of Saint Jovan Bigorski and the preserved remains of St. Clement of Ohrid in the Church of St. Panteleimon in Ohrid. It was previously presented in Belgrade, Berat and Tirana, and then in South Africa, Italy, Switzerland and Belarus.

"The path of the exhibition is to the world, if we can sum it up like this," says Snezhana Yoveva, "It premiered in August (2021 - ed.), on the eve of the great Christian feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in our renovated Mission Gallery at the MFA. It can be displayed in all our diplomatic missions, not only in the Balkan countries, but wherever there is interest in it. It is available in Bulgarian and in English."

A bilingual catalogue with the stories of the miraculous icons and holy relics from the Balkans will be presented at the opening of the exhibition in Plovdiv.

You can read more about the Bulgarians' veneration of the miraculous icons of the Mother of God and the saints in Radio Bulgaria's publication "Miracle-making icons".

Compiled by: Darina Grigorova

Photos: Facebook / @culturalinstitute.mfa, vaticannews.va

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