Mother of God of "the Life-Giving Spring"

My beloved spiritual children in Our Risen Lord, Redeemer, God and Only Savior,

Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn: Third Tone

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 unto everlasting life in unending and mighty streams; wherein taking delight, we all cry out: Rejoice, O thou Spring of life for all men.


Kontakion Hymn of the Feast: Plagal of Fourth Tone

From thine unfailing fount, O Maid supremely graced of God, thou dost reward me by the flow of the unending streams of thy grace that doth surpass human understanding. And since thou dist bear the Word incomprehensibly, I entreat thee to refresh me with thy grace divine, that I may cry to thee: Rejoice, O Water of salvation.


April 17th

The feast of the Life-Giving Spring which is kept on the Friday of Bright Week has its origins in the 5th century. It is the feast that commemorates the consecration of the church of the Life-Giving (Zoodochos Pege) Spring outside of the city of Constantinople.

The very large and beautiful church named in honor of the Theotokos of the Life-Giving Spring was built about the middle of the 5th century by the Emperor Leo the Great (457-474 AD), outside of Constantinople. Emperor Leo was pious man (he is commemorated on January 20th) and before he became Emperor, he had encountered a blind man, who being tormented with thirst asked him to help him find water. Leo felt compassion for him and went in search of a source of water, but found none. As he was about to cease his search, he heard a voice telling him there was water nearby. He looked again, and found none. Then he heard the voice again, this time calling him "Emperor" and telling him that he would find muddy water in the densely wooded place nearby; he was to take some water and anoint the blind man's eyes with it. When he had done this, the blind man received his sight.

After Leo became Emperor, as the Most Holy Theotokos had prophesied, he raised up a church temple over the spring, whose waters worked many healings, as well as resurrections from the dead, through the intercessions of the Theotokos. From this, it came to be called the "Life-Giving Spring."

Justinian the Great (527-565 AD) was also cured by the waters of "The Life-Giving Spring" and in gratitude built a new church temple, larger than the first. It was destroyed by earthquakes and rebuilt by grateful Emperors.

After the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453 AD, this church temple was razed to the ground and the material from it were used for building the mosque of Sultan Beyazit. Nothing remained of the 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 the roof, from which it received a little light. Toward the western side of the Chapel was the holy Spring, fenced about with a railing.

In 1821 AD even that little remnant was destroyed by the Turks. 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 temple and it was consecrated on Bright Friday in 1853 AD. But on the night of September 6-7, 1955, it along with 73 other Orthodox churches in Istanbul, was desecrated and burned to the ground by the Muslim Turks. The church has been restored yet once again, but not anywhere its former magnificence. O Most Holy Theotokos of the Life-Giving Spring, save us!

Nicephoros Callistos Xanthopoulos, the last of the Greek ecclesiastical historians, who flourished around 1320 AD, writing in the 14th century about the hagiasma (holy water from the spring) quotes from various sources a total of 63 miracles, of which 15 in his own time. According to Callistos's description, the church was of rectangular plan, with entrances at each of the four sides. Part of the church was built underground and two marble stairways, with 25 steps each, led down to the holy spring. The richly decorated church had a gilded ceiling, fine wall paintings and icons. Of the wall paintings, Callistos mentions the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, the Transfiguration, the Crucifixion, and the Appearance of Christ to the Holy Women, the Ascension and Pentecost. He also refers to the depicting miracles, probably with scenes from the main spring Zoodochos Pege.

The chronicler gives even the names of the painters: Ignatius and hieromonk Gabriel. Near the church three parecclesia (chapels) honoring St. Eustathius, Saint Anna and the Theotokos.

The holy icon of Zoodochos Pege: Zoodochos Pege (i.e., Life-giving Fount) is an epithet of the Holy Virgin Mary and Her representation as Zoodochos Pege is related to the sacred spring. It soon became very popular and this type of icon spread throughout the Orthodox Christian world, particularly in places where a spring was believed to be hagiasma.

In the 9th century, Joseph the Hymnographer gave for the first time the title "Zoodochos Pege" to a hymn for the Mother of God.

A marble fountain, from which water flows, occupies the center of the holy icon. Above, the Theotokos is holding Christ Who makes the sign of blessing. Two Angels hovering over Her head carry a scroll inscribed with the verse: "Hail! That you bear. Hail! That you are." Around the fountain the Emperor and many ailing people are shown, in a variety of postures, being sprinkled with Holy Water. According to the tradition, a small pond with fish is painted to the side. Actually, it is the fish that have given its present name to the locality, for Balikli in Turkish means "a place with fish".

The Zoodochos Pege type of icon is found in many variations in all the Orthodox Christian regions. Miniatures, mosaics, icons, woodcuts, copperplates have been in great demand these last centuries.

The north arch of the esonarthex of Holy Savior in Chora, one of the monasteries nearest to the shrine of the Pege, has preserved the upper part of a composition showing the Virgin-Zoodochos Pege and Christ.


In Orthodox 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 (Mikros Hagiasmos) performed after the Divine Liturgy on Bright Friday. In old Russia, continuing Greek traditions, there was a tradition to sanctify springs that were located near churches, dedicate them to the Holy Mother of God, and paint icons of her under the title the Life-Giving Spring.





With sincere agape in Our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
+Father George