This mosaic icon was originally from the famous Byzantine church of St. Mary Pammakaristos (or Joyous Birth-Giver of God), that was built between the 11th to 12th centuries. When Constantinople fell to Islam in 1453, the seat of the local Ecumenical Patriarchal church was moved for three years to the Church of the Apostles, and then to this church from 1456 to 1587. When the Patriarch’s See was moved to the Church of St. George, this portable mosaic icon was moved with it.
Hodegetria icons, or icons “Directress” or “Indicators of the Way,” refer to the Virgin pointing her right hand towards the Lord and Her Son, Who is “The way the truth and the life.” The style and execution of this icon shows affinity to both the Macedonian and Comnenian schools of iconography in the late flowering of Byzantine art. Here expressive faces of the Lord and His Mother, and the rich golden background and highlights show classical influence of the Post-Iconoclastic (post icon-smashing) period of the East Roman Empire. Iconoclasm lasted from 730 to 787 and from 814 to 843, and destroyed many great icon treasures.