Inspired by Jo’s Monday Walk around Santa Luzia
There is a mysterious mosaic in Odessa, known to few, noticed by no-one. Not in a church, but out in the open, up above the heads of passerbys, beneath the rooftops. It is right there, just a few steps into the city from the famous Potemkin Stars. It is right there, facing the Empress, Katherine the Great. Yet, it is hardly ever noticed, but for some very local tour guides.
I am a 7th generation Odessite and here is the story my grandmother told me.
Odessa was born as a sea port, Southern Gate to the Great Russian Empire, where seamen were a common lot. A most superstitious and religious lot, at that. Before every trip to sea, they would pray. Pray to Saint Mary. For protection, for good trade, for what not. This was the very icon, icon of Saint Mary, all seamen prayed to before setting sail and its location is not accidental. It was placed high on a building, on one of the very last buildings one passes going to the post and one of the very first buildings on the way from port to home.
Another version claims it was a portrait of Katherine the Great, who was no less than a patron saint for the people of Odessa!
With time, the icon was forgotten and almost destroyed in WW2. After the war, a woodworker discovered the remains of the mosaic during a reconstruction of the building. He was no artist, no professional. But he took it to restore the mosaic. He created mosaic tiles from wood, painted them and recreated the icon. The rumor has it that the good man immortalized the image of his wife in the mosaic.
This is how the mosaic looks now, hidden by trees, still gracious and impressive, surrounded by numb decay: