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Coventry has had three Cathedrals in the past 1000 years: the 12th century Priory Church of St Mary, the Medieval Parish Church Cathedral of St Michael and the modern Coventry Cathedral, also named for St Michael.
The majority of the great ruined churches and cathedrals of England are the outcome of the violence of the dissolution in 1539. The ruins of St Michael's are the consequence of violence in our own time. On the night of 14 November 1940, the city of Coventry was devastated by bombs dropped by the Luftwaffe. The Cathedral burned with the city, having been hit by several incendiary devices.
The decision to rebuild the cathedral was taken the morning after its destruction. Rebuilding would not be an act of defiance, but rather a sign of faith, trust and hope for the future of the world. It was the vision of the Provost at the time, Dick Howard, which led the people of Coventry away from feelings of bitterness and hatred. This has led to the cathedral's Ministry of Peace and Reconciliation, which has provided spiritual and practical support, in areas of conflict throughout the world.
Shortly after the destruction, the cathedral stonemason, Jock Forbes, noticed that two of the charred medieval roof timbers had fallen in the shape of a cross. He set them up in the ruins where they were later placed on an altar of rubble with the moving words 'Father Forgive' inscribed on the Sanctuary wall. Another cross was fashioned from three medieval nails by local priest, the Revd Arthur Wales. The Cross of Nails has become the symbol of Coventry's ministry of reconciliation.
HM The Queen laid the foundation stone on 23 March 1956 and the building was consecrated on 25 May 1962, in her presence. The ruins remain hallowed ground and together the two create one living Cathedral.
Heritage site, Architecture centre, Sacred space
We are open daily to the visiting public, all year round, 9.00-17.00 Mon - Sat and 12.00-15.45 Sun.
Climb the Cathedral Tower for the best view in Coventry!
Open 7 days a week except during bell ringing sessions. Check the Tower Tourist Information Centre for opening times. Adults £2.50, children under 16 £1.
Heritage Open Days 2014: Coventry Cathedral
- 13 — 14 September 2014
Designed by Sir Basil Spence and voted the nation's favourite 20th century building, Coventry Cathedral is a fascinating and moving mix of the old and new with an extraordinary history of three Cathedrals in one setting. An icon of hope the Cathedral is recognised internationally as a World Centre for Peace and Reconciliation. It houses the finest collection of 1950's art in Britian and monumental works of art. These include Graham Sutherlands Great Tapestry 'Christ in Glory' one of the largest in the world,and Britains largest collection of stained glass. St Michael's tower is the third tallest in England. The ruins are Coventry's earliest cathedral, dedicated to St Mary and was founded as a Benedictine community by Leofric, Earl of Mercia and his wife, Godiva, in 1043. It is built on the site of a former religious house for nuns.
Please refer to the Heritage Open Days website for booking details and timings.