Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Anna Akhmatova in Mullingar

The Cathedral of Christ the King in Mullingar, County Westmeath with its twin towers and dome is an impressive building, a landmark to us who have travelled the main road from Sligo so often. I included the Cathedral's mosaic of St Patrick  here for the recent feast day.

The most famous mosaic in the Cathedral is the other one, in the chapel of Saint Anne, by the same artist, Boris Anrep (1883-1969).

He was a Russian born mosaic artist active in Britain, whose work may also be found in the National Gallery, London, Westminster Cathedral and the Bank of England.

In this Saint Anne mosaic, the name is spelled "Anna". The saint's image is also said to resemble the poet Anna Akhmatova (1889 – 1966) with whom Anrep had an affair during World War I. Many of the poems in Akhmatova's third collection, White Flock (1917) are dedicated to Boris.

He left Russia before the revolution while she remained on and survived great difficulties, official opposition and disfavour.

In “Ana Achmatova and Mullingar Connection”, broadcast on Sunday Miscellany, RTÉ 4th May 2008, the poet Joseph Woods told the story of the mosaics.

Top: The mosaic in Mullingar Cathedral.
Below: Portrait of Anna Akhmatova by Olga Della-Vos-Kardovskaya, 1914 (from Wikipedia)

The most recent collection of work, their fifth, by the very active Mullingar Scribblers writers group, led by Grace Brennan, has a poem by Phil Tierney on the subject of the mosaic, including the following stanzas:

Separated by space and time
The poet wrote of love 
Of the soldier, of life and God.
No love letters, just memories.

Silenced by the hammer of Russia
Poured all into her Requiem.
The soldier surrendered his sword
To work in pictures made in stone.

Invited to adorn our cathedral
A picture in stone and glass.
Anna standing proudly presents 
Her child to the Priests.

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