As if there weren’t already enough reasons to come and visit Coventry Cathedral, here’s another one…
Earlier this year, Coventry Cathedral was selected as one of the top ten places which tell the history of England’s art, architecture and sculpture. Explaining why he chose Coventry Cathedral, judge Will Gompertz said: “Coventry Cathedral is a magnificent, optimistic and bold response to the horrors of war. To create a modern and ambitious building dedicated to spiritual enrichment from the literal ashes of destruction was – and is – a sublime answer to brutality. It is a building born out of love and hope made from the rubble of hate and despair.”
Coventry suffered severe bomb damage during the Second World War. There was a massive Luftwaffe air raid on 14 November 1940 during which firebombing damaged large areas of the city centre and Coventry’s historic cathedral, leaving only a shell and the spire. More than 4,000 houses were damaged or destroyed, along with around three quarters of the city’s industrial plants. More than 800 people were killed, with thousands injured and homeless.
The decision was taken the very next day to rebuild the cathedral, not as an act of defiance but as an expression of faith, trust and hope for the future of the world. The ruins of the old Cathedral were preserved as a reminder of the folly and waste of war but beside them rose a new, ground breaking Cathedral designed by Basil Spence to inspire the city and the world. In 1962 Spence’s new Cathedral was consecrated and its prefabricated steel spire was lowered into place by helicopter.
The city of Coventry was largely rebuilt and the buildings of the city centre reflect the spirit of a re-born city. The generation that fought the Second World War lost a great many of their buildings and special places. They had to rebuild and reshape their England.