Friday 17 February 2017

Coventry Cathedral

This was originally posted over on Smitten by Britain back in 2010 but as it's a place I love thought it was worth revisiting:

I have to be honest and say that Coventry is not necessarily one of the most exciting places in the world that you can ever visit but I love it there!  It was probably best known for manufacturing the first British motor car as well as being the car making capital of England until very recently.  Maybe worldwide it’s better known for the fact that Lady Godiva rode through the City naked to persuade her husband to abolish the crippling taxes he’d levied on the Townsfolk.

What I like best about Coventry though are its amazing Cathedrals.  My first visit there was about 20 something years ago on a school trip when we were doing a project about the Second World War.  Due to Coventry being successful as the major centre of car production this attracted the attention of the Luftwaffe and in November 1940 the City was almost obliterated.  The Cathedral of St. Michaels burned along with the rest of the City after being hit by several incendiary devices. The Spire and outside walls are the only things that survived:

You know it’s funny but when I first visited with the school purposely to talk about the War, it never occurred to me how close to home it actually was.  Maybe because I was 14 and too wrapped up in my own little world but when I was talking to my Grandma about writing this article she told me that she remembered the night Coventry was bombed.  She lived in Leicester about 30 miles away and the planes flew over them on the way.  She heard the bombs being released and felt the impact as they hit the ground and then exploded.

The morning after the destruction of the cathedral, a decision was taken to rebuild it.  A competition was held to choose the architect and Basil Spence won from over 200 entries submitted.  He made the bold decision to leave the ruins as they were in remembrance and to construct a brand new cathedral.

The statue is of ‘St. Michael’s Victory over the Devil’ and was designed by Sir Jacob Epstein.  It’s a bit like Marmite in my opinion in the fact that you either love it or hate it, although having said that I can never decided if I like it or not!  I certainly think it’s a very powerful piece though!

I don’t know much about architecture but I think it’s such an amazing building and was way ahead of its time!  It has stained glass windows built into the side of the church to direct light in a certain way towards the Altar and tapestry. The Cathedral is also home to the World’s largest tapestry called ‘Christ in Glory’ and was designed by Graham Sutherland.  The new cathedralis made from Hollington Sandstone so the two buildings  really complement each other.

Behind the font (which is made from a rough hewn stone from a hillside in Bethlehem) is my favourite part of the new Cathedral, the Baptistry window:

It’s the one thing that I always remembered from my first school trip all those years ago and is definitely worth a look if ever you are in the area. 

The Cathedral also do a lot of work under the ‘peace & reconciliation’ banner that has grown from the ashes of the ruins to include missions and working with terrorists and dictators in the Middle East and Central Africa.  It’s also not consecrated as a Church if England place of worship but is on a 999 year lease to a joint council.  This means that church goers of any denomination can come here to pray which I think is pretty cool way to run a Cathedral!!!

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