Healing, Water, and Art

Visualizing and mapping the Byzantine and post-Byzantine cult of the Virgin Zoodochos Pege

Project team

Healing, Water, and Art

This project explores the cult of the Virgin Zoodochos Pege (Ζωοδόχος Πηγή) in the late Byzantine and post-Byzantine period, connecting disability studies, medieval and early modern art and architecture, and environmental history. Originally associated with a particular monastery and a spring located outside the walls of Constantinople (Istanbul) around the fourteenth century, it developed into a cult with a new iconographic type that continued to grow in popularity throughout the Balkans and into the modern era. The iconography shows the Virgin with Christ Child in a basin full of holy water which flows in a fountain below. Disabled figures are gathered at the fountain hoping to receive a miracle, showcasing the healing powers of the spring. Two datasets will advance this research: 1) a comprehensive dataset of all representations of the Virgin Zoodochos Pege, including information such as key dates, artistic media and techniques used, subjects/keywords related to the iconography and original/current location; and 2) a dataset of churches dedicated to the Zoodochos Pege, including geolocational data about these churches and nearby springs, and data regarding stories of miraculous healings associated with these springs. The objective is to connect the information from these two datasets and use both geo-spatial and temporal analysis to find patterns between the evolution of the Zoodochos Pege in art and the presence of churches and springs associated with miraculous healings.

Image: Icon of the Virgin Zoodochos Pege, eighteenth century, Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai. By permission of Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai, Egypt. Photograph courtesy of Michigan-Princeton-Alexandria Expeditions to Mount Sinai.

CDH Grant History

  • 2023–2024 Data Fellowship