A Hodegetria, or Virgin Hodegetria, is an iconographic depiction of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary) holding the Child Jesusat her side while pointing to him as the source of salvation for humankind. The Virgin's head usually inclines towards the child, who raises his hand in a blessing gesture. In the Western Church this type of icon is sometimes called Our Lady of the Way.
The most venerated icon of the Hodegetria type, regarded as the original, was displayed in the Monastry of the Panaghia Hodegetria in Constantinople, which was built specially to contain it. Unlike most later copies it showed the Theotokos standing full-length. It was said to have been brought back from the Holy Lan by Eudocia, the wife of emperor Theodosius II(408–450), and to have been painted by Saint Luke the apostle himself.The icon was double-sided, with a crucifiction on the other side, and was "perhaps the most prominent cult object in Byzantium".
The original icon has probably now been lost, although various traditions claim that it was carried to Russia or Italy. There are a great number of copies of the image, including many of the most venerated of Russian icons, which have themselves acquired their own status and tradition of copying.
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