Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

The Nicopeia of San Marco

July 20th, 2010, Promulgated by Bernie

"Nicopeia" before (left) and after (right) theft of the icon's jewels

Byzantine school, first half of the twelfth century
(cleaning and consolidation, 1969,
in conjunction with the International Fund for Monuments)

(left) Chapel of the Nicopeia Madonna in the Basilica de San Marco, Venice; (right) detail of "Piazza San Marco" by Canaletto, Venice, c.1730-35

When Doge Enrico Dandolo returned from the Fourth Crusade in 1204, he brought with him many spoils from the horrible sacking of Constantinople. Among these were the famous Horses of San Marco and the Nicopeia Madonna. This icon had been carried in battle at the head of the Imperial Army. Venetians venerated the Nicopeia Madonna (“she who brings victory”) as protectress of their city and on solemn occasions they displayed her on Basilica de San Marco’s high altar. She had also been the protectoress of Constantinople before it was stolen by the Venetians. Both frame and image were encrusted with valuable jewels placed there as votive offerings. In 1970 a robbery resulted in the loss of the painting’s jewels. So warned, the procurators removed the rest of the jewels from the frame before those could be stolen. The image is not thought to be the original taken from Constantinople, but a copy painted over several times.

The Nicopeia (and others like it) is a version of the Kyriotissa type but without a throne and in a portrait format rather than full figure. It has much in common with the next category of Marian icon we will explore, the Mother of God Platytera type.


Image Sources:

Nicopeia images:…/ (the right image was edited by me)

Chapel of the Nicopeia Madonna in two picture panel:

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