Coventry Cathedral, also called St. Michael’s Cathedral, is one of England’s most inspirational World War II monuments. Situated in central England, Coventry’s location 25 miles west of Birmingham and 92 miles northwest of London makes the cathedral an easy and fascinating day trip from the larger cities.
The original St. Michael’s Cathedral was built between the 14th and 15th centuries, presiding over Coventry in regal Gothic style architecture. However, that grand building was destroyed during the Coventry Blitz of World War II in November of 1940. When the smoke from the German attack cleared, only the tower, spire and outer wall remained standing. Richard Howard, the provost of St. Michael’s at the time of the bombing, used this act of horror to foster forgiveness and hope in the city of Coventry. The decision was made not to tear down the old cathedral ruins, but to keep them up as a reminder of hope. He had the words, “Father Forgive” inscribed behind the altar. Finally, in March of 1956, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, laid the foundation stone for the new cathedral, built next to the ruins of the old one. Since then, Coventry Cathedral has established a Ministry of Peace and Reconciliation to provide support in areas of conflict throughout the entire world.
Today’s Coventry Cathedral is very modern. Designed by architect Basil Spence, the new cathedral space is punctuated by abstract design. Highlights include a lead-covered timber spire, a large tapestry of Christ, a Great West Window in expressionist style, and a baptistery window made up of cubes of colored glass. While these elements contrast with the adjacent ruins of old Gothic cathedral, the two together represent one living church, a figure of forgiveness and healing.
Coventry Cathedral isn’t the only attraction in this historic English town. Just outside the city, visitors can explore the archeological site of Lunt Roman Fort, excavated and reconstructed to its original structure. Many of Coventry’s attractions celebrate its most memorable citizen, Lady Godiva. These include the annual Godiva Festival of music, followed by the Godiva Procession, a parade reenacting her story of riding naked through the town’s streets against taxation. Coventry also commemorates this eleventh-century legend with the Lady Godiva Statue and Peeping Tom.