September 09, 2016


Hello and welcome again to Five on Friday, which is the brainchild of Amy at Love Made My Home. Don't forget to visit her blog to see other Friday Fives when you're done here.

Let me start with an apology. I shall be away from my computer for quite a lot of this week, so I might not get back to comment on your blogs as quickly as I'd like. But I'll do my best. I'm also short on time now, so I've dredged my Flickr stream to find something you might enjoy seeing.

West window by John Hutton
Many years ago I visited Coventry, and my Dad and I went to see the cathedral. (Some years later, but still a long while ago, I ended up living in the city, but that's another story.)

Coventry was devastated during WWII by a German bombardment on the night of 14 November 1940, and its medieval cathedral was almost totally destroyed by incendiary devices. The Allies knew the bombers were coming, but nothing could be done to prevent the attack because the information had been gathered from a message sent in the Enigma code. The British had only just broken the code (Yes, my American friends, in spite of what you've seen at the movies, it was a team of Brits who broke Enigma.) but we couldn't afford to let the Germans know. It was felt that much more useful information might be gleaned from future messages, so Coventry was sacrificed.

Out of the wreckage, many years later, a phoenix was born, in the shape of the new Coventry Cathedral. The new building stands to the side of the remains of the old, forming a symbol of resurrection. (Note - I'm not a christian, but you can also spell that with a capital R, if you're that way inclined.) It incorporates some significant examples of architecture and art.

Graham Sutherland tapestry

This is the extremely famous altar tapestry designed by Graham Sutherland. To give you an idea of its impact, the figure between Christ's feet is human sized. I remember my Dad's comment, that within the work there were some decent pictures trying to get out.I'm not sure I felt quite so unimpressed as he was, but I know what he meant.

Angels detail

At the opposite end of the building is the magnificent window you can see in the top photo, designed by John Hutton. It forms the link between the old and new buildings. You can just make out the old ruins in that photo. You can't see the angels properly though, so I've put a detail in here as well.

This is a rather unusual view of the Jacob Epstein sculpture "St Michael's Victory over the Devil".  The 1958 bronze has come under fire in the past. Epstein sculpted the Devil with distinctly negroid features and the work has been accused of  racism. However, Epstein was Jewish and was the target of a fair amount of racism during his lifetime. I'm not convinced that any slur was intended, but I admit I don't know enough about it to be sure. He was known for challenging accepted ideas and frequently depicted different forms of sexuality in his works. His private life wasn't exactly conventional either. It's possible that his negro Devil was just another way to challenge ingrained thoughts. Whatever, there's no arguing that he was a talented sculptor.

This is the magnificent baptistry window designed by John Piper. This photo doesn't do it justice. It's huge - on a similar scale to everything else in the building - and it really comes into its own when the sun shines. Coventry's an odd cathedral. When you walk into it there's very little light and colour except for the tapestry at the far end. It was designed (by Sir Basil Spence) with curious zig-zag walls so what you see in front of you is a series of concrete folds. However, when you get to the altar and then turn back you find that each of the folds hid a full height stained glass window in similar style to this one. It's stunning.

And finally, this is a sculpture called The Plumb Line and the City. It's by Clark Fitz-Gerald and symbolises god's way of testing the city to see if it's 'straight and true'. I was delighted after posting this photo to Flickr to receive a message from the artist's son asking for a copy of the picture. Praise indeed!


  1. I enjoyed your post about Coventry. I did visit Coventry Cathedral when I was a child and remember preferring the old ruined Cathedral more than the rebuilt Cathedral. I would probably have a different viewpoint if I revisited it now as an adult. x

  2. Another one here who visited the new Cathedral as a child, well young teenager I'd have been 13, we were taken around by an Uncle who lived in the city. We were in Coventry for a day a couple of weeks ago but didn't go inside the new part, we just had a wander around the ruins and streets around the cathedral before going into the Museum nearby. I love the last photo, no wonder you were asked for a copy:)

  3. I enjoyed about the history of this cathedral and the art pieces, too. That tapestry is amazing! Pat x

  4. I had many an opportunity of visiting Coventry Cathedral, my favourite cathedral, when our son was a student there. His degree ceremony was in the Cathedral. The stained glass windows are stunning. I like the ethos and work to bring about reconciliation between individuals and nations that takes place there.

  5. Thanks for sharing this interesting and impressive post. It's so sad, that wars always destroy so much wonderful irretrievable things :-(
    I would like to visit Coventry.
    Have a nice weekend

  6. I've never been but your photos have whetted my appetite. I didn't realise that the Allies knew that the attack was on its way, fascinating and thank you for a lovely post. x

  7. although not religious at all myself I love going to cathedrals, some of the finest architecture and craftsmanship is preserved within them so we always make a point of exploring them when we are in the vicinity

  8. Apparently the Polish did most of the work de-coding the Enigma, and smuggled that out to the Brits. Americans apparently captured the U-505 and captured the code books for the device, after this. It was a joint effort...all this according to my hubby who is a huge history buff. The Cathedral is exquisite! So sad so many amazing, overwhelmingly beautiful cathedrals and other buildings were destroyed during that war. It always just killed me that Dresden was so devastated...but there are so many other places as well! Beautiful photos!

    1. Different agencies used different keys; it was not a matter of one code for all.

  9. sorry I didn't get to comment before, rather fraught here, I just wanted to say how lovely your post is, at Basildon Park we have some of the preparatory sketches for the tapestry - some of which are enormous - and they are wonderful, I imagine the tapestry is even better in person. xx

  10. Great post. Love the photos and the explanations to go with them. Coventry has been on my 'to visit' list for sometime, but I've not made it yet. There are differing views about whether and what Churchill (or anyone else) knew about that particularly devastating raid on Coventry. The conspiracy theorists love the idea that the city was sacrificed 'for the greater good'. I'm not so sure and, frankly, even if a specific target had been identified, question what additional measures could have been taken to protect it given the technical abilities of the day (and night) - especially at relatively short notice.


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