The Life-Giving Font

The Life-Giving Font

Beloved brothers and sisters in Our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen! Χριστός Ανέστη! Αληθώς Ανέστη!


The holy Feast of the Life-Giving Spring (Greek: Ζωοδόχου Πηγή) which is kept on the Friday of Renewal or Bright Week according to the Patriarchate of Constantinople usage has its origins in the 5th century. It is the feast that commemorates the consecration of the Church of the Life-Giving Spring outside of the city of Constantinople in Valoukli.

There are two accounts extant concerning the revelation of the Life-Giving Spring or Font just outside the City of Constantinople. It is likely that in either case, before the 5th-6th century monastery was erected, a shrine was already in existence with a spring of water, near a grove of trees, and was dedicated to the Mother of God from early times. Over time, the grove had become overgrown and the spring became fetid.

Nikephoros Kallistos Xanthopoulos

The traditional account is recorded by Nikephoros Kallistos Xanthopoulos, the last of the Greek ecclesiastical historians, who flourished around 1320. This tradition begins with a miracle that occurred involving a soldier named Leo Marcellus, who would later become the Byzantine Emperor Leo I the Thrasian 457-474 A.D.). While Leo was on his way to Constantinople he encountered a blind man near the Golden Gate who was thirsty. Though he agreed to search for water, he was unable to find any. A female voice was then heard who told the future Emperor that there was water nearby. Looking about, he could see no one, and neither could he see any water. Then he heard the voice again:

"Emperor Leo, go into the deepest part of the woods, and you will find water there. Take some of the cloudy water in your hands and give it to the blind man to drink. Then take the clay and put it on his eyes. Then you shall know who I am."

The same voice added that she had chosen that very place to be worshiped and prophesied that he would one day receive the crown to the Byzantine Empire. Leo followed her order and at once the blind man recovered his eyesight. After his accession to the throne, the Emperor erected a magnificent church on this place, and the water continued to work miraculous cures. Therefore, it was called "The Life Giving Spring."


A second account is given by the prominent Byzantine scholar Procopius of Caesaria (flourishing 500-565 A.D.). In this version, the Emperor Justinian was out hunting when he came upon a small chapel in a beautiful wooded area, surrounded by a large crowd of people and a priest in front of a spring. Inquiring about this site, he was told that this was the "source of miracles". He at once ordered that a magnificent church be built there, utilizing materials that had remained after the erection of the Hagia Sophia. The church was erected in the last years of his reign 559-560 A.D., near the holy spring. After the erection of the sanctuary, the Gate that was situated outside the wall of Theodosius II was named by the Byzantines Gate of the Spring (Greek: Πύλη της Πηγής).

The holy Icon

The holy icon representing the Ever-Virgin Mary of the Spring shows the Ever-Virgin blessing and embracing the Child Jesus. She is surrounded by tow Angels, and is sitting on the more elevated of two basins, presumably representing the "living water" which is Christ. The living water from the more elevated basin flows into a larger marble basin below, which is in the shape of a cross. In one version of the holy icon that was found on Naxos Island, Greece, some differences are shown with respect to the ancient type. Around the cross-shaped basin stands the Emperor with his guard, while on the right is the Patriarch with his bishops. In the background, is represented Leo I with the blind man, and the walls of the City. Under the basin a paralytic and a madman are healed with the spring's water.


In Orthodox Christian hymnography, the Theotokos is frequently compared with a holy fountain. The hymns and prayers of the feast are combined with the Paschal hymns, and there is often a Lesser Blessing of Waters performed after the Divine Liturgy on Bright Friday. In Old Russia, continuing Greek traditions, there was a custom to sanctify springs that were located near the churches, dedicate them to the Holy Mother of God, and paint icons of her under the title The Life-Giving Spring.


As a Life-Giving Fount, thou didst conceive the Dew that is transcendent in essence, O Virgin Maid, and thou hast welled for our sakes the nectar of joy eternal, which doth pour forth from thy fount with the water that springeth up wherein, taking delight, we all cry out: Rejoice, O thou Spring of life for all men.

KONTAKION (Plagal of Tone 40)

O Lady graced by God, you reward me by letting gush forth, beyond reason, the ever-flowing waters of your grace from your perpetual Spring. I entreat you, who bore the Logos (Word), in a manner beyond comprehension, to refresh me in you grace that I may cry out, "Hail redemptive waters."

[source: Orthodox Wiki]

After the fall of Constantinople in 1453 A.D. to the Muslim (Ottoman) Turks, this church was razed to the ground and the materials from it were used for building the mosque of Sultan Bayezid. Nothing remained of that church's ancient beauty, except for a small chapel, almost completely buried in the ruins. This chapel had twenty-five steps going down into it, and a transom window on roof, from which it received a little light. Toward the western side of the chapel was the holy Spring, fenced about with a railing, and with fish swimming in it.

In 1821 even that little remnant was destroyed, occasioned by the uprising of the Greek Nation against the Ottoman Empire. The sacred Spring was buried with it and disappeared altogether. But in the days of Sultan Mahmud, when those subject to him were rejoicing in their freedom to practice their religion, permission was sought by the Orthodox Christian community to rebuild at least the chapel. Permission was granted to build a church which was consecrated in 1835. On September 6, 1955, however, it was desecrated and destroyed again by the Muslim Turks; it has been restored again, but not to its former magnificence. 


With sincere agape In Our Risen Lord Jesus Christ,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George