Coventry’s latest cathedral

Warwick (England), 15/11/12: Today we were touristing to Coventry.

Over the years, Coventry’s gone through its fair share of holy buildings. Early on they had a nunnery, but that got sacked by the post-Viking Danish King Canute. Next, Leofric, Earl of Mercia and his nude, equestrian wife Godiva planted a monastary, later converted to a priory and cathedral. This lasted a few hundred years before King Henry VIII got into his famous disagreement with the Pope over his desire to re-marry and had it taken apart brick by brick.

Some decades later they gave the cathedral idea another go on the same site, this time with the new Church of England branding. They got about 500 good years out of it before World War II broke out and, as a result of being next door to Coventry’s weapon factories, it became an unfortunate victim to German fire bombing. Its ruins remain and provided direction and form to the current cathedral, designed in the 60’s by Basil Spence.

Some of the ruins of the cathedral destroyed during WWII. The bell tower miraculously survived and has managed to avoid demolition on at least one occasion since.

We took in a tour of the new cathedral. I was underwhelmed at first but to hear it all explained added a great deal to the experience. It initially appeared to me a bit of a hodge-podge of ideas and designs. I still think it is, but it all hangs together in a funny sort of way. In retrospect, I guess most grand old cathedrals and chapels I’ve seen are just as stylistically discombobulated but you just don’t always notice from so far away on the time axis.

A striking arts by Jacob Epstein that greets visitors approaching the cathedral. The head of the devil here is apparently based on Epstein’s own head when he gets mad and his eyes bug out a bit.

We ran out of time to go to Stratford – next time, as they say. For good measure, the public contributions to the arts at the park-and-ride bus shelter (which I present here as Exhibit A) were mildly inspirational but short of divine.

Exhibit A

2 responses

  1. What ever you do, don’t blink.

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