Friday, November 19, 2010

Coventry Cathedral

Coventry Cathedral, also known as St Michael's Cathedral, is the seat of the Bishop of Coventry and the Diocese of Coventry, in Coventry, West Midlands, England.

The city has had three cathedrals. The first was St. Mary's, a monastic building, only a few ruins of which remain. The second was St Michael's, a 14th century Gothic church later designated Cathedral, that remains a ruined shell after its bombing during the Second World War. The third is the new St Michael's Cathedral, built after the destruction of the former and a celebration of 20th century architecture.

St Michael's church was largely constructed between the late 14th century and early 15th century. It was one of the largest parish churches in England when, in 1918, it was elevated to cathedral status on the creation of Coventry Diocese. This St Michael's Cathedral now stands ruined, bombed almost to destruction during the Coventry Blitz on 14 November 1940 by the German Luftwaffe. Only the tower, spire, the outer wall and the bronze effigy and tomb of its first bishop, Huyshe Wolcott Yeatman-Biggs, survived. The ruins of this older cathedral remain hallowed ground and are listed as Grade A. The spire rises to 91.4m (precisely 300 ft). It is England's third tallest spire, after Salisbury and Norwich, and remains the tallest structure in the city.
The new St Michael's Cathedral, built next to the remains of the old, was designed by Basil Spence and Arup, built by John Laing and is a Grade I listed building.

The selection of Basil Spence for the work was a result of a competition held in 1950 to find an architect for the new Coventry Cathedral; his design was chosen from over two hundred submitted.
Spence (later knighted for this work) insisted that instead of re-building the old cathedral it should be kept in ruins as a garden of remembrance and that the new cathedral should be built alongside, the two buildings together effectively forming one church. The use of Hollington sandstone for the new Coventry Cathedral provides an element of unity between the buildings.

The foundation stone of the new cathedral was laid by the Queen on 23 March 1956.  It was consecrated on 25 May 1962, and Benjamin Britten's War Requiem, composed for the occasion, was premiered in the new cathedral on 30 May to mark its consecration.

Like its German counterpart in Berlin, its modernist design caused much discussion, but on opening to the public it rapidly became a hugely popular symbol of reconciliation in post-war Britain. The unconventional spire (known as a fl├Ęche) was lowered onto the flat roof by helicopter.
The interior is notable for a large tapestry of Christ, designed by Graham Sutherland, the emotive sculpture of the Mater Dolorosa by John Bridgeman in the East end, and the Baptistry window by John Piper, of abstract design that occupies the full height of the bowed baptistery, which comprises 195 panes, ranging from white to deep colours.
 
Also worthy of note is the Great West Window known as the Screen of Saints and Angels, engraved directly onto the screen in expressionist style by John Hutton. 
I thought that this chapel was very strange. That is one hell of a crown of thorns...

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