Monday, 10 March 2014

Coventry Cathedral

Having met through our blogs and after a correspondence of almost two years, fellow blogger Mick of Down by the Dougie and I finally met face to face. We spent last Monday together and one of the things we did was visit Coventry Cathedral. It was great meeting him after all this time, and we had a very good day together.
Coventry Cathedral.

Bombed almost to destruction on 14 November 1940 by the German Luftwaffe, St Michael's Cathedral now stands ruined. The current Cathedral was built next to the remains of the old, the two buildings effectively forming one church.

The new, modernist Cathedral was designed by Basil Spence and Arup and built by John Laing. Hollington sandstone was used.

 The arresting bronze statue of St Michael and the devil was sculpted by Jacob Epstein

 a closer look at that stunning sculpture

 The spire, known as a fleche, rises to 90 m and is the tallest structure in the city

 A view of the building from the South side

The tower, spire, the outer wall are all that remains of the old Cathedral 

the old superimposed by the new

Reconciliation by Josefina de Vasconcellos
Ecce Homo by Jacob Epstein
carved from a block of  Subiaco marble in 1934-35, representing Christ before Pilate with his hands bound and crown of thorns on his head

The entrance to the new Cathedral

 we entered the Cathedral, the large tapestry of Christ, designed by Graham Sutherland, facing us

 one more photograph with a better view of the magnificent ceiling

 To our right John Piper's Baptistry stained glass window - absolutely awesome

 and a closer look





We walked around the Cathedral starting from the right hand side.  The stained glass windows in the Nave, by Lawrence Lee, Keith New and Geoffrey Clarke, face away from the congregation.  Spence's concept for these Nave windows was that the opposite pairs would represent a pattern of growth from birth to old age, culminating in heavenly glory nearest the altar - one side representing Human, the other side, the Divine.


I photographed and have included all of the stained glass windows as I think they are wonderful and for me, the best feature of the Cathedral.

I particularly like this one as I always find blue glass particularly appealing

looking closer

This is my favourite - very abstract and the pale lilac is very attractive in my view

looking closer

The Plumb-line and the City, by Clarke Fitzgerald

Now we have reached Graham Sutherland's tapestry of Christ

 looking closer

Three of the six candleholders made by Hans Coper which stand on the huge concrete altar.

 Also on the concrete altar the Cross incorporating the Cross of Nails

The Mater Dolorosa by John Bridgeman

The Chapel of Christ in Gethsemane. The mural by Steven Sykes depicts Christ holding the cup of suffering. The screen that encloses the chapel represents the crown of thorns, designed by Basil Spence and made by the Royal Engineers.

The chapel of Christ the Servant, the suspended crown of thorns designed by Geoffrey Clarke.

I love the contrast of the stained glass at the bottom with the clear glass above - very striking

The Charred Cross made from two medieval roof beams found in the rubble in the shape of the cross after the bombing of the Cathedral.  

Akton Zuhnezeihen Friedensdienste, the work of German artist Fritz Kuhn. ASF was founded in Germany after the war to enable young Germans to make amends for the suffering caused in other countries by their parents' generation.

The drained glass windows on the left hand side of the cathedral

looking closer

a gorgeous blue, again

detail of the red down the bottom

Next to each stained glass window are stone panels inset into the walls, called the Tablets of the Word 


looking closer again

jewel-like gorgeous colours

blue and green, a favourite combination

looking closer

The Chapel of Unity 

the floor of the chapel designed by Einar Forseth, a gift from the Swedish people

one more photograph of the mosaic floor

I particularly liked the very narrow, tall windows of this chapel, shafts of coloured light streaming through

rather than being framed by lead these particular 'windows' are set in concrete that resembles granite

designed by Margaret Trahearne

looking closer

these were my favourites

I love the way the coloured light reflects on the concrete of the sides and the floor

I really couldn't get enough of them

so I had to include all of them

so many colours and different combinations 

all absolutely stunning
We then retraced our steps and behind the altar and down the steps we came upon the Millenium Chapel of the Stalingrad Madonna

a closer look once we were inside 

On our way out we had a closer look at the Great West Window, known as the Screen of Saints and Angels, engraved directly onto the screen in expressionist style by John Hutton

a closer look 

A final look at the stunning stained glass by John Piper

and I can't help but include some more close-ups of this marvellous work


The Cathedral leaflet


  1. I had forgotten how powerful a place it is. Shame about the entrance fee. I do hate paying to go into a church, though I can see why it is necessary.

    1. Avril, I agree with you and last year when Ken and I were at the Herbert we thought we would visit the Cathedral, but having to pay put us off. So, unfortunately, now, because of the fee, spontaneous visits won't happen as much. But it was wonderful being there - such an amazing place.

  2. I too had forgotten all the specific beauties of the different occurrences of stained glass. My general memory dates from more than 40 years ago! But as Avril says, the place immediately communicates its power as soon as one sees the photos - thank you.

    1. I hadn't been for a long time Olga, so was very glad of the opportunity to visit again. That stained glass is so beautiful it takes your breath away. But, the whole place inspires awe with its beauty.

  3. It's funny - thirty years ago I was fairly ambivolent about this building. But I can see now how beautiful and impressive much of it is. The stained glass especially, though I think I'll always struggle with the Sutherland tapestry.
    But an entrance fee for a place of worship? That's pretty shameful.

    1. Yeap! An entrance fee - I was so shocked when I found out. However, if you say you want to pray, you can go in without paying. The fee to get in the Cathedral was higher than what we paid to get in the Whitechapel Gallery yesterday.

      It is an impressive building however, and like you, I like it a lot more than I did the first time I went inside. But, like we discussed last time we met, we have both moved towards the modern and I love it now, even though like you, I am ambivalent about the tapestry, but then, I am not a big fan of Sutherland's work. The stained glass is something else though, and no photographs will do it justice.