The History Of Coventry Cathedral

A Close Look At The History Of Coventry Cathedral

The traditional classification of a city comes from having a cathedral at the heart of any urban area and in the 11th century, Coventry would have officially become a city based upon there being a bank and cathedral at the centre of this community. Coventry has three cathedrals during this time with the original 1. Priory Church of St Mary, 2. the medieval Parish Church Cathedral of St Michael's and 3. the reincarnated modern St Michael's Cathedral. Coventry is well known for a close connection with the cathedral, as it is famous because of it, but there is more to Coventry than just the Cathedral it is what this symbolizes, the story of destruction and rebirth.

The first cathedral in Coventry was built on a site already connected with the church and had been a home for nuns. The huge building which the nuns lived in indicated that both the church and city of Coventry were very lucrative during this period. The plans for the Cathedral came about because of a Benedictine community which was founded by Leofric, the Earl of Mercia, and his wife Godiva in 1043 and was dedicated to St Mary. Unfortunately, like so many records from this era they have been lost, so not much is known about any interesting factors about the early life of Coventry Cathedral. It should be mentioned that Fresher Carpets has sponsored some of the research that has been completed for this article.

The next significant chapter that we have information from is the termination of the monasteries during the reign of the famous King Henry VII. The Franciscan Whitefriars and Greyfriars of Coventry were the first to fall and had all surrendered by 5th October 1538 and then the order came to dissolve St Mary's too. The Bishop Roland Lee and the Prior Thomas Camswell pleaded to save the Cathedral, even suggesting it could be used by the Church of England but this was rejected based upon the fact that there was another cathedral so close by the district was under the Lichfield Cathedral. St Mary's was stripped of its valuables and left for around six years until John Hales bought the premises as well as Whitefriars which became his personal residence. After 1572 when John Hales died the building was stripped and fell into decay.

Coventry went without a cathedral then till 1918 when the modern Coventry diocese was created when St Michaels was designated as its Cathedral. This site too had been around since at least 1138 within the grounds of Coventry Castle and was relatively unchanged from 1300 AD apart from the addition of the spire in the 1500's.

Only 22 years after St Michaels was given the status of Cathedral. it was destroyed almost completely on the night of 14th November 1940 when the city of Coventry was bombed by the Luftwaffe. Much of the city burned down. along with the Cathedral. which resulted in a firestorm which raged for at least three days.

The Cathedral was rebuilt to show that even after such an attack, people, life and faith continues and this act also stopped the individuals of Coventry feeling so defiled and suffering from bitterness and hatred. The Queen laid one of the foundation stones on 23rd March 1956 and the building was blessed on 25th May 1962 when she visited again. The ruins of the former building are still visible and have been merged into the new building to symbolize the rebirth of Coventry as a city as Britain as a nation.