Today we had the day off from Festival of Quilts, so we decided to be tourists. We drove the short drive in to Coventry to visit the cathedral there.
When I sang with Eileen McGann and David K in our show “Two Thousand Years of Christmas”, we used to sing the Coventry carol. It is from the 16th century, and it comes from Coventry’s Christmas Mystery plays, enacted by the guilds. The Shearermen and Tailors’ guild got the job of enacting the Massacre of the Innocents. It’s a very beautiful song about a very horrible story, and it’s one of the oldest surviving Christmas carols around.
The cathedral in Coventry is the third church on the site. It’s situated on the top of a hill, and features the third tallest church spire in England. The old cathedral was destroyed in November 1940, when the Luftwaffe dropped thousands of bombs on the city, killing over 500 people. Amazingly, the walls and spire survived. The next morning, the Provost wrote on one of the walls “Father Forgive”. It was quite contentious, but provided the reason for the church to rise from the ashes – to follow the path to reconciliation. (Note, he didn’t say “Father Forgive Them”.)
We learned a lot about the old cathedral today, and the resilience of the people of Coventry after their town was destroyed. Our tour guide was about 12 years old during this time, and her personal anecdotes illustrated the story in a very effective way.
They decided the next day that they would rebuild the cathedral; it took decades. The new cathedral was built in a much more modern style, which disturbed many people at the time, but they built an amazingly beautiful church, which was consecrated in 1962. This is their 50th anniversary.
Behind the altar is one of the largest tapestries in the world. It stretches across the entire back wall of the church, and dominates the view. I know how painstaking tapestry-making can be (we watched the tapestry artists at Sterling Castle a few years ago making a reproduction of one of the Unicorn Tapestries, and they were going to take 3 years for each one, working full time). This tapestry took 10 years to make. It took my breath away.
There are lots of other beautiful pieces in the cathedral, as well.
John noticed pennies embedded in the floor of the church. They are to mark the procession from the offices, down through the centre aisle.
Canada contributed the ceiling of sitka spruce, as well as a brass maple leaf for the floor.
We walked back towards our car through Broadgate and found a statue to Lady Godiva there.
She made her famous ride through the streets of Coventry in the 11th Century to protest high taxes that her husband, Leofric, had levied on the people. Her protest worked – the taxes were reduced! This is also where “Peeping Tom” came from. Everyone was told to avert their eyes when Madame rode her horse déshabillé through town, but Tom did not. He was thereafter known as “Peeping Tom”, and is remembered every hour, on the hour on the town clock in the main square. Lady Godiva rides every hour, and Tom is always there!
Here’s what it looks like in between.
It was a great day. We return to the world of quilts tomorrow, with one more class at Festival of Quilts, and then we’ll head on to further adventures.