The war-ravaged city of Mariupol is located on the Sea of Azov and the Taganrod Bay, connecting by land Russian-occupied Crimea with Donbass and the rest of Russian territory. This is why it is so fiercely attacked. Its capture would virtually cut off Ukraine’s access to both the Sea of Azov and the Crimean Peninsula.
Historians argue about the genealogy of the city’s name. For centuries, as in Crimea and southern Ukraine, Greeks settled in the region. Greek merchants were active in the Black Sea basin, shipping goods to Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and Turkey.
The Greek name of the city, Μαριούπολη, means “a city ofMary.” Others believe that the city was named after Maria Fedorovna, the wife of Tsar Paul I.
The city is home to the Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, where the Mother of God is venerated in her icon of Our Lady of Mariupol. The icon is the Hodegetria type, i.e. it shows the Virgin Mary holding Baby Christ, and pointing to him as the way of salvation. In the West, Mary in this posture is sometimes known as Our Lady of the Way.
The icon made its way to Mariupol from Crimea.
Legend has it that centuries ago, one of the Crimean shepherds named Mikhail inadvertently drove the cattle he was herding into a steep gorge. All of a sudden, the shepherd saw a large icon of Our Lady on a rock and a candle burning beside it. After a while, he found an easy path out of the gorge and saved his flock.
A small chapel was built in the rock where the icon was found. During the numerous Muslim raids in Crimea, the icon was hidden in a barrel and finally, in the 18th century, it was found in Mariupol.
On March 13, Pope Francis prayed for the city to be spared.
Brothers and sisters, we have just prayed to the Virgin Mary. This weekend, a city that bears her name, Mariupol, has become a city martyred by the ruinous war that is devastating Ukraine. Faced with the barbarism of the killing of children, and of innocent and defenseless citizens, there are no strategic reasons that hold up: The only thing to be done is to cease the unacceptable armed aggression before the city is reduced to a cemetery.
Prayer to Our Lady of Mariupol
Blessed Intercessor of the land on the Sea of Azov
and of the city of Mariupol,
the health and the purity of Orthodoxy,
of all who reach You with their prayers,
Holy Mother, ask our Christ for deliverance from every misery
and the salvation of our souls.
Rejoice, Most Holy Mother of God and Queen,
our tireless Intercessor.
Rejoice, Hodegetria the Purest,
who shows us the path to salvation.
Rejoice, o Graceful,
asking the Lord to shed his grace on us.
Rejoice, Pure Heaven,
filled with the purity of the Spirit of God.
Rejoice, o Merciful,
who graciously protects us from misery.
Rejoice, the Brightest Star,
who shows the path to the Sun of Truth.
Rejoice, Blessed Virgin Mother of God,
the glory of Mariupol and our Intercessor.
(Excerpt of an Akathist hymn to Our Lady of Mariupol, after: http://www.deva-maria.ru/)