The Marian Spiritual Centre in Zarvanytsia in the Ternopil region is well known not only in Ukraine, but also beyond its borders due to its miraculous icon of the Mother of God. Its history is connected to the story of a Kyivan monk who survived the devastating Mongol invasion of 1240, having found a safe refuge here in Zarvanytsia, and who in a dream saw an image of the Virgin holding the baby Jesus in her arms. In 1867 Pope Pius IX crowned the icon and granted Zarvanytsia its status as a significant pilgrimage site. Since then, thousands of pilgrims have visited this holy place.
The Podillian sanctuary suffered repeatedly from the devastations of the Tatar attacks, and was destroyed both during World War I and World War II. However the greatest damage inflicted on Zarvanytsia was by the Bolshevik totalitarian system, which destroyed the monastery, closed the Church of the Holy Trinity, and forbade pilgrims from praying at the healing spring. Greek Catholics were then forced to conduct their masses in secret in the forests and in their houses.
After the proclamation of independence of the Ukrainian state, the Zarvanytsia shrine began to rise again from the ruins and became an important place of pilgrimage to the Virgin Mary. In honour of the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Christ, there were built and consecrated here the magnificent Zarvanytsia Cathedral of the Mother of God, the Church of the Annunciation above the gates, a sculptural composition of the icon of the Virgin, a four storey bell tower, the Stations of the Cross, the Holy Spring of Saint Anna bath, and a “singing field” (an open air stage). The combined ensemble of this spiritual centre has recently been complemented by the new Church of the Holy Eucharist and the sacred building where one can find an exact copy of Holy Mother s hut in Nazareth.
Grateful believers have erected a monument at the Zarvanytsia spiritual centre to Pope John Paul II, who was officially canonized by the Catholic Church in 2014. During his official visit to Ukraine in June 2001, he prayed to the miraculous icon of the Holy Mother of Zarvanytsia, which for the occasion was transported to the Church of Saint Nicholas situated onAscold’s Grave in Kyiv.
It has become an important tradition here to conduct all-Ukrainian pilgrimages, in which young people play an active part, with the assistance of the Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, – His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk. Further development of the Zarvanytsia spiritual centre has been promoted by the creation of the Ternopil and Zboriv archbishopric on the 22nd of December, 2011, led by Bishop Vasyl Semeniuk, with whose name the current development and prosperity of the Podillian sanctuary is closely connected.
The Zarvanytsian Mother of God meets each pilgrim gently with a spread-out cloak.