12 September 2022: Coventry Cathedral
My wife and I are on holiday in Birmingham organised by our local National Trust Supporter Group this week. We arrived at pick-up point half-an-hour before the coach was due to depart and were surprised to find it was already there. It turned out that our scheduled driver, Mark, had tested positive for Covid the previous night. Our replacement driver, Mike, was telephoned at 11 pm and asked if he could take over. He was also told we were starting at 8:30 am instead of the actual time of 9:15! As he said, given the short notice he hadn’t been able to do much planning of the route.
There were 24 of us on the trip. We stopped for a while at Cambridge Services en route and I took the opportunity to buy a traditional Cornish pasty to eat for lunch.
As we continued on our journey it started to pour with rain. Somehow just as we drew up in front of Coventry Cathedral the rain stopped. We had some time to wait to start our tour of the cathedral so my wife and I found a seat outside on which to eat our lunches. I was pleased to discover that the Cornish pasty I had bought was indeed traditional - meat at one end and apple at the other.
Our guide round the cathedral was excellent. The efforts the cathedral made to reach out to former enemies after the Second World War means that it has strong links with Germany. The guide had with him two young German women he described as colleagues on their very first day. We had been split into two groups; the other group’s guide was German.
We went first into the ruins of the old cathedral that was bombed in WWII and never rebuilt. At the eastern end is a replica of the two pieces of wood that the then Dean found on the floor of the cathedral on the day after the raid lying in the form of a cross. The original is in the new cathedral opposite.
In the ruins of the old cathedral is a sculpture of Christ bound with chains around Him shortly before His crucifixion. The guide pointed out that this statue of Christ is facing straight down the new cathedral towards the Graham Sutherland tapestry showing Christ in glory.
When we moved into the new cathedral the guide explained some of the symbolism in the tapestry and got us to turn round and look at the glass wall at the entrance, which has etchings of saints and angels looking as though they are walking into the cathedral towards the altar.
He also drew our attention to the floor of the central aisle, which has Queen Elizabeth II pennies embedded into it at intervals. Apparently they were installed for the most prosaic of reasons - to help those in processions keep a straight line.
When we left the cathedral we boarded the coach for our journey to our hotel, Jurys Inn in the centre of Birmingham. Luckily Mike was able to park next to the hotel in a side road.