Shirley in the UK 2012 travel blog

Original Charred Cross

Etched back window looking out to ruins of old cathedral

Baptistery window with stone font

Nave of new cathedral. Note hidden stained glass windows & huge tapestry

Stained glass windows

Outside new cathedral - St Michael killing the dragon

Altar of Reconciliation

Reconciliation Statue

Ruins of old cathedral sheltered by porch of new cathedral

The weather didn’t improve overnight in fact I think it got worse because now it’s very windy as well as wet. I came south through Sherwood Forest but it was still raining so no point in stopping anywhere. The forest looked marvellous though.

My first stop was Coventry & I just had to ignore the rain because I really wanted to see both the new & old cathedrals. The town of Coventry was bombed heavily in November 1940 when most of the city centre, including the gothic cathedral was almost totally destroyed. The people of Coventry decided to build a new cathedral adjacent to the old one but keep the devastated shell of the old cathedral as a monument.

The new cathedral was opened in 1962 so is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary. It’s very modern in style & takes a bit of getting used to. For example the stained glass windows down each side of the nave are set at an angle so they’re hidden from view unless you’re standing by the altar looking towards the back of the church. There are some wonderful elements too. The huge, curved Baptistery window is magnificent & had a wonderful light even on a very dull day like today & the font is a rough rock brought from the hills around Bethlehem with a shallow bowl hollowed out of the top for the holy water.

The entire back of the church which looks out towards the ruins of the old cathedral is glass which has been etched with images of angels & saints by a New Zealand artist & the backdrop to the main altar is the world’s largest tapestry, made in Belgium & somehow they managed to make it in one piece. It must have been a gigantic loom. Last year I learned that the Victorian Tapestry Works in South Melbourne has one of the world’s biggest looms but it’s not even close to this.

I would have liked to spend more time looking around the old cathedral ruins but it was raining too hard. The Altar of Reconciliation is very moving. As the cathedral burned in 1940 two of the charred roof beams fell in the shape of a cross. They were lashed together & placed in the ruins then an altar was built from the rubble & the cross erected. The original cross is in the new cathedral, protected from the weather but there’s a copy in its place. The words “Father Forgive” were written on the wall the day after the fire & were carved in 1948.

Miraculously the original tower & spire survived & you can go up the tower but I passed on that today & moved on to Kenilworth Castle which is only about 6 miles south of Coventry. The weather hadn’t improved at all but I couldn’t go to my new cottage until 2:00 so I thought I’d see what I could as it’s English Heritage so free entry.

I didn’t realize it’s mostly ruins so very little protection from the rain & wind. Leicester’s gatehouse is the only furnished building & even the top floor of that was closed because the roof was leaking. It’s not far from here & also Warwick Castle is in the same direction so I’ll try to get back there if the weather improves as it’s a most interesting place with King John, John of Gaunt & Elizabeth I’s “favourite” Robert Dudley all involved in different phases of its construction.

I found my little cottage without much trouble although I was a bit concerned because the owner e-mailed me to say they would be away today & would leave the key in the door. I didn’t want to walk into the wrong house but it was all pretty obvious & looks very cosy. It’s in a little village called North Newington which is about 3 miles from Banbury & my kitchen window looks out onto the village green with a couple of thatched cottages across the road.

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