SEP 00] HERITAGE OPEN DAYS FACTFILE
20 Things You
Should Know About...
COVENTRY AND WARWICKSHIRE PROMOTIONS
with every weekend, Coventry Cathedral will be open during
Heritage Open Days, and members of the public will be able to get
a look at some extra areas.
Bishop Haigh Memorial Chapel will be open to visitors, and the tower
in the ruins of the old cathedral will be free.
cathedrals lying side by side form a centrepiece for the events in the
city centre. Here’s 20 facts about them.
has three cathedrals - the ruins of St Mary's, destroyed by Henry
VIII, St Michael's, blitzed in November 1940, and Sir Basil
Spence's new cathedral, consecrated in 1962.
spire of St Michael's, at 295 feet, is the third tallest in
England, after Salisbury and Norwich.
carved into the stonework of what is now the sanctuary are said to
represent the ancient woodlands which still surrounded Coventry in
the Middle Ages.
it became a cathedral, in 1918, St Michael's was the country's
largest parish church. It was the only English cathedral lost to
aerial bombardment during the Second World War.
day after the Blitz demolition crews had to be prevented from
pulling down the surviving tower. They didn't realise it had been
leaning for at least a hundred years.
same day, November 15, 1940, the decision was taken to rebuild the
cathedral as a testament to peace and reconciliation.
that day too, the cathedral's chief stonemason fashioned two burnt
roof timbers he found in the rubble into the rough shape of a
cross. The Charred Cross and the Cross of Nails, three mediaeval
roof nails bound together, remain potent symbols of the
cathedral's world-wide ministry of reconciliation.
than 200 architects submitted designs to an international
competition launched in 1947 for the new cathedral. The winner,
Basil Spence, was designing exhibitions for the Festival of
Britain but had wanted to build a cathedral since childhood and
the idea for the building's zig-zag windows came to him in a dream
after he'd passed out in a dentist's chair while being treated for
a tooth abscess.
ground clearance works for the new building began, the site agent
reported sightings of a ghostly monk.
Jacob Epstein's great bronze statue of St Michael overcoming the
Devil was the sculptor's last major work, before his death in
October 1961, 16 young Germans arrived in Coventry to help build
the cathedral's International Centre. Money to furnish it was
given by a Berlin merchant who had lost his entire family in an
Allied bombing raid.
cathedral was consecrated, in the presence of Her Majesty the
Queen, on 25 May, 1962. Benjamin Britten's War Requiem was given
its premiere during the celebrations.
cathedral's font, a three-ton boulder from a hillside near
Bethlehem, was brought from the Holy Land without charge to
Coventry in what was at the time an extraordinary example of
co-operation between Jew, Moslem and Christian.
Sutherland's extraordinary tapestry, seven years in the making,
was the biggest in the world when it was made. There are more than
900 colours in it and it is guaranteed for 500 years.
of 1962 pennies, worn but still visible in the floor, mark the
processional routes for choir and clergy.
ashes of John Hutton, creator of the cathedral's great West
Screen, lie buried beneath his great work. It is said that the
chemicals he used in etching the screen may have hastened his
old cathedral bells, silent for more than a century, were re-hung
in 1987 to mark the new cathedral's 25th anniversary. They first
rang out to celebrate Coventry City's FA Cup final win in that
November 1990, the President of Germany joined the Queen Mother in
a service of remembrance to mark the 50th anniversary of the
destruction of the old cathedral.
years later a bronze sculpture titled 'Reconciliation' was placed
in the ruins to commemorate the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. It
was donated by Richard Branson and an identical casting is in
Robinson, former president of Ireland, is patron of the Centre for
the Study of Forgiveness and Reconciliation, set up by Coventry
University in partnership with the cathedral.