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 to not 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 Child-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. Learn more here
Coventry Cathedral is thus one of the world’s oldest religious-based centres for reconciliation, and its work in recent decades has involved it in some of the world’s most difficult and long-standing areas of conflict. Today the medieval ruins continue to remind us of our human capacity both to destroy and to reach out to our enemies in friendship and reconciliation.