|A view of the Cathedral showing the back of the building with
the zig-zag walls. . .
Well, the rain has stopped (although more is forecast), and the floods have drained away, but by yesterday it was bitterly cold, the water-logged land had turned to ice, and there was a thick frost covering rooftops, cars, trees and grass. So, to cheer ourselves up, a friend and I headed off to Coventry, which has quite a good shopping centre – not as big and varied as Birmingham, but not nearly as crowded, which is a huge bonus at this time of year!
|. . . And part of the front.|
It ended up being the sort of day which provides food for body and soul, because we enjoyed a spot of retail therapy, treated ourselves to coffee and cake, and wandered around Coventry’s fantastic modern Cathedral, which celebrates its golden anniversary this year. It stands alongside the bombed-out ruins of its predecessor, and is one of the most moving places I’ve been to. So, since Christmas is on the way, with its message of peace and hope, and since the main theme of the cathedral is peace and reconciliation, I took some photos there for today’s Saturday Snapshot.
|Sections of the outer wall of the old Cathedral
still stand, and when the sun shines through
the empty window there’s a certain beauty.
Coventry, famed for its engineering industries, suffered terrible damage during WW2. The old Cathedral was gutted in an air raid on 14 November 1940: only the Gothic tower, the outer wall, and some broken pillars and arcades survived. But it wasn’t the only casualty. That night two thirds of the city centre buildings were destroyed, along with 4,000 homes. Around 600 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured. Rescue work was hampered by the scale of the devastation. Water, gas and electricity supplies were knocked out early in the evening; police and fire HQs were hit; roads were impassable, and the hospital damaged.
|This is the original Charred Cross,
with the Cross of Nails in its centre.
However, in the immediate aftermath of the raid, two charred oak beams which once held up the roof of St Michael’s were bound together to form a cross. Another was created with three twisted nails salvaged from the wreckage, and a stone altar was made out of rubble. Services were held amidst the ruins, and it was agreed that the Cathedral would rise again, as a symbol of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, and as a sign of hope and forgiveness in a time of war.
|The Jacob Epstein statue shows
St Michael poised in victory
above the defeated Devil.
Perched on the wall, looking at the empty windows and shattered stonework of the old Cathedral, is Jacob Epstein’s wonderful sculpture of St Michael defeating the Devil. Somehow the bronze looks as if it is floating in the air, and I always think that at any moment St Michael might step lightly down to earth to see what is happening in the world today.
|The Baptistery Window, designed by John Piper,
symbolises the glory of God flooding into the world.
|The great West Screen. The darker areas of
glass are the ruined walls of the old Cathedral.
|In this close-up you can see some of the engraved figures,
and the turreted edge of part of an old wall.
Light from the screen and windows is directed towards the High Altar and the tapestry behind it. Christ in Majesty was designed by artist Graham Sutherland and is (according to the Cathedral’s information booklet), the size of a tennis court. It was woven in France, took 10 years to complete, and you could write a book on its symbolism. But the same could be said for almost every object inside the Cathedral. Everything seems to be a work of art, and everything seems to have a meaning.
|The Graham Sutherland tapestry is an
incredible piece of work.
Even if you are not religious, you should visit Coventry Cathedral. It is unlike any other cathedral I’ve seen, but it is beautiful and awe-inspiring, and the juxtaposition of the modern building against the Medieval ruins is very, very moving, as is the fact that this grew out of the devastation of WW2, and that the church community and the people of Coventry found it in their hearts to forgive, and to move on. Not only that, but a Community of the Cross of the Nails has been established in a bid to establish peace between nations through communication and understanding.
For more Saturday Snapshots see Alice’s blog at For more Saturday Snapshots see Alice’s blog at http://athomewithbooks.net/