The “Weeping Mother of God” refers to an event that took place on November 27, 1165, in the city of Novgorod. The city was under siege, and the citizens took the icon to the city wall. The icon was pierced by an arrow, and the icon began to shed tears. Upon seeing this, the citizens and soldiers rallied and the city was saved. The Russians have given this icon the name “Our Lady of the Sign”, or “Znamenie”. To this day the Russian Church celebrates the Feast of the Our Lady of the Sign on, December 10, which is November 27 in the Old Julian Calendar.
As to the sign, this has two meanings. The first is a reference to Isaiah 7:15, where it is said the virgin would conceive and bear a son, and His name would be Immanuel, which is God with us. The second is the icon that wept when pierced by an arrow.
The similarities between “The Weeping Mother of God of the Sign” and “The Great Panagia” are striking. The differences are that “The Great Panagia” contains the images of archangels and pictures Mary from her feet up; while “The Weeping Mother of God of the Sign” contains images of the seraphim and pictures Mary from the waist up. Both portray the infant Christ in the womb of His mother, the Virgin Mary. In Orthodox churches, “The Weeping Mother of God of the Sign” is visible above the altar.