1 Hill Top, Coventry, United Kingdom
024 7652 1200
Coventry Cathedral Reviews
Coventry Cathedral Jan 27, 2012
Coventry Cathedral, built in the 1950s to replace the bomb damaged medieval cathedral, is an unusual example of a modern cathedral and an extremely beautiful symbol and monument to peace.
Coventry was almost destroyed in the war, because of its role as an industrial centre, and the cathedral was one of the buildings that fell to the flames. The morning after the bombing, the first people back on the scene lashed two charred roof beams together to symbolise that the smoking ruins were still a church, and after the war (and long legal wrangling), the decision was made to replace the bombed cathedral. Although the original specifications only asked architects entering ideas to retain the spire of the old building, the winning design left everything that was left of the ruined medieval church as a shell, and replaced the entire cathedral with a modern red brick building next door. This church is now dedicated as having a specialist mission to promote peace and reconciliation in the world, and is a great place to see mid-twentieth century architecture at its finest. Which is just as well, because the rest of Coventry has a lot of examples of mid twentieth century architecture at its most brutally misguided.
Approaching the cathedral from a car park under what must be one of the least well signposted urban ring roads in Europe, you pass Coventry University and find yourself confronted with the new cathedral and, just behind it, the ruined old cathedral. Entrance to the ruins is free, and entrance to the cathedral is £7 for visitors and free if you are there to pray. I do not know how they know if you are praying or visiting, so you may get away with free, but I just paid – these buildings are very expensive to maintain, and it also allowed me to take photos without feeling guilty. The ruins contain some Epstein sculptures, some interesting other art, and the remains of the medieval chapels.
The new building is, tardis like, considerably bigger and more impressive on the inside. The windows (which hardly show up from the outside at all) are some of the most stunning pieces of stained glass work I’ve ever seen. The chapel of unity has a beautiful floor (a gift from Sweden), and there are a great many beautiful works of modern art, including one depicting a city and some beautiful tapestries in the chapels at the back. There is also the original charred beam cross, and the high cross on the alter contains the twisted roof beams from the old cathedral. Many of the works of art are dedicated to the concept of reconciliation and peace, forgiveness for war and the attempts to build peace.
Despite the fact that the church is very much a tourist attraction, there is a real feeling of peace in the building (only slightly ruined by the fact I was accidentally wearing my loudest shoes). It’s also unusual to see architecture from immediately after the war that is built with beauty and grandeur in mind, rather than just rebuilding as fast and cheaply as people could. I would really recommend braving the horrific traffic system and visiting Coventry Cathedral if you’re in the midlands.
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