Today, Tue 23rd April Open 10:00am–4:00pm
Coventry Cathedral is open as normal today
General visiting times for the New Cathedral & Ruins Mon-Sat 10:00am–4:00pm
Sun 12:00pm–3:30pm
These opening times apply to the New Cathedral & Ruins. Other Cathedral locations' times differ.

You are here: Home / Our Story / Our story of forgiveness

Our story of forgiveness

From destruction towards peace

Coventry has had three Cathedral's spanning nearly 1000 years, you can find out more about our history here.

Coventry Cathedral is most famously known for being bombed during WW2, which left Coventry Cathedral and much of the city centre in ruins.

From this comes the story of Coventry Cathedral's reconciliation, which begins the day after the destruction of the Old Cathedral on the 14th November 1940, Provost Dick Howard (who led the Cathedral during WW2) made a commitment to not seek revenge, but to strive for forgiveness and, ultimately, reconciliation with those responsible, which at the time was seen to be very radical thinking, as we were still at war with Germany.

The days that followed

After the Blitz, two 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).

During the BBC radio broadcast from the Cathedral ruins on Christmas Day 1940, six weeks after the Blitz, Provost Dick Howard declared that when the war was over we should work with those who had been enemies ‘to build a kinder, more Christ Child-like world.’

You can hear the original recording here.

Shortly after the Blitz, the words ‘Father Forgive’ – deliberately neutral in content – were inscribed on the wall of the ruined chancel. We now hold the Litany of Reconciliation at midday daily during the week which pays homage to this inscription, written in 1958 by Canon Joseph Poole. You can find out more about the Litany here.

Post-war peace building

The destruction of Coventry Cathedral touched the hearts of many countries around the world, who contributed and gifted elements of the building of the New Cathedral. The decision to leave the Ruins as they were after the Blitz became a powerful global symbol of peace building and forgiving enemies.

Standing in union with the New Cathedral, the two cathedral's stand as a powerful symbol of peace and peace building across nations, something which still runs deeply in the heart of Coventry Cathedral's mission. You can find out more about our mission and ministry here.

Delve deeper

Below you can delve deeper into some of the reconciliation stories from post-war to the present day.

  • Bombing, to building

    During WWII, Wing Commander John Dowling served as the captain of Lancaster Bomber, playing a direct role in the devastation of German cities. Nevertheless, as a life-long practising Roman Catholic he was on record as being strongly against attacks motivated by the desire for revenge. Indeed, of his many military medals, most were awarded for his…

    Read More

Community of the Cross of Nails

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. Learn more here.

Follow us on social media
Subscribe to our newsletter to hear about upcoming events

© Coventry Cathedral 2024 Coventry Cathedral is the working name of The Cathedral Church of St Michael Coventry (Registered charity no. 1204257)
Website created by Suru Partners