Retiring Alderney Canon blesses iconic painting

THE Virgin Mary on Braye Beach is the focus of a new piece of artwork for Alderney’s Saint Anne & Saint Mary Magdalen Catholic Church.

Six Marian Franciscan sisters live a solitary convent life there, devoted to prayer, and will use the icon as a point of prayer.

As his final act before retiring to Ireland, Canon Michael Hore blessed the artwork, to protect and grant graces to the island.

Alderney-born icon writer Annette Ashton Melzack spent a year researching to create Our Lady of Alderney, using durable egg tempera and handmade colours.

‘The person who paints an icon actually writes an icon – it is not until you have written the name of the icon on the piece that it is complete,’ said Ms Melzack’s sister, Helen Arkwright, who lives in Alderney.

‘Artists spend time in meditation and prayer while creating it. You start with researching the devotion to our lady on the island and plan very carefully.

‘Made of egg tempera, the paint takes a long time to dry but the medieval paintings made with it still glow today.’

Included within is a modernised depiction based on the traditional Madonna and Child.

‘The Blessed Virgin and Child is a very common theme, but the way she has done it is unique.’

Braye Beach, blonde hedgehogs and barbed wire feature in the background, plus the gates to Lager Sylt and rare flora.

Vincent Arkwright, their father, was born in Alderney before the war and returned early to help restore the island.

‘The mines didn’t really bother him.

‘With the soldiers I believe their first task was to rebuild the pub.’

Both sisters have memories of post-war Alderney.

‘As a child the whole place was covered in barbed wire.

‘If you look closely, you can see the blessed Virgin Mary has got her foot on a piece of barbed wire, as though to trample down on the evil memory of what happened here, almost as an act of defiance.’

Currently a mainland resident, Ms Melzack tries to visit frequently.

Roughly a decade ago she developed an interest in icon writing, studying under prominent sacred icon artist Adrian Hart, and now takes 12 students every three years.

‘She asked Canon Michael Hore if he would like to have an icon. We know the sisters very well, being part of the church.

‘They are lovely ladies whose life is dedicated to prayer and who have really given the parish a spiritual lift.

‘We just feel they’re an oasis of prayer and calm.’

Ms Melzack’s piece was very well received by the church, where it will be displayed for all to see.

‘Hopefully it will be a focus of healing.

‘At a time of an awful lot of talk about what happened during the war, it offers a calming respite.’

Most Read

Top Stories

More From The Guernsey Press

UK & International News