The Community of the Cross of Nails
We are a worldwide network of over 240 churches, charities, peace-building centres, and educational and training organisations, including ICONS, International Cross of Nails Schools, all inspired by the Coventry story of destruction, rebuilding and renewal, and active in reconciliation in our own ways.
All partners adhere to the three guiding principles of the Community of the Cross of Nails: Healing the wounds of history, Learning to live with difference and celebrate diversity, and Building a culture of peace. We are guided by the words ‘Father Forgive’, and we pray the Litany of Reconciliation on a regular basis.
Today, our greatest numbers of partners are in Germany, the UK & Ireland and the USA, but we also have sizeable numbers in South Africa, Canada, the Netherlands and Central and Eastern Europe; overall, we have partners in 45 countries across five continents. Different partners may focus on political, racial, religious, social or economic reconciliation; they may address war and violent conflict, post conflict restoration or healing; their work can have broad and far-reaching, national or regional consequences, or it can make a significant difference to local communities and individual people’s lives. Partners support one another, pray for one another and share with one another.
Interested in joining us? Find out how here.
Read our CCN Governance Document.
Watch the Dean of Coventry Cathedral, the Very Revd John Witcombe tell the Coventry story and explain the ministry of reconciliation that we have all been tasked with, and which we in Coventry seek to promote and facilitate through our story and our buildings. Several other short films help tell the story on our resources page.
On the night of 14th November, 1940, Coventry and its Cathedral endured a one-off, but relentless, bombing campaign. Overnight, the ‘Moonlight Sonata’ offensive destroyed much of central Coventry, hundreds of its people and left its Cathedral in ruins. Only the outer shell of the walls and the tower remained standing.
In the days that followed, two enduring symbols emerged from the rubble: two charred roof-beams which had fallen in the shape of a cross were bound and placed at the site of the ruined altar, and three medieval roof nails were also formed into a cross, which became the original Cross of Nails (now located at the High Altar in the new Cathedral). Shortly after, the words ‘Father Forgive’ – deliberately neutral in content – were inscribed on the wall of the ruined chancel, and Provost Dick Howard made a commitment not to seek revenge, but to strive for forgiveness and reconciliation with those responsible. During the BBC radio broadcast from the Cathedral ruins on Christmas Day 1940 he declared that when the war was over we should work with those who had been enemies ‘to build a kinder, more Christ-like world.’
The Cross of Nails quickly became a potent sign of friendship and hope in the post war years, especially in new relationships with Germany and the developing links between Coventry and the cities of Kiel, Dresden and Berlin. Many were gifted, in thanks and in friendship, to contacts all over the world. By 1974 such informal friendships were numerous, and they were all drawn into a brand new Community of the Cross of Nails, which has continued to grow globally to this day. By this time, the new Cathedral, a landmark in post-war architecture, had been opened in 1962.
Coventry Cathedral is thus one of the world’s oldest religious-based centres for reconciliation, and its work in preceding decades has involved it in some of the world’s most difficult and long-standing areas of conflict. Today the medieval ruins of Coventry Cathedral, freely open to all, continue to remind us of our human capacity both to destroy and to reach out to our enemies in friendship and reconciliation. They stand today as a memorial to all civilians killed, injured or traumatised by war and violent conflict world-wide. The global centre of the Community of the Cross of Nails is in St Michael’s House, the former Dean’s House.