On this day in history….25th May 1962

On this day in history : 25th May 1962 – Coventry’s Cathedral Church of St. Michael is consecrated…. The new Cathedral replaces the original St. Michael’s which was destroyed in World War II….

Coventry Cathedral 1962 | The Service of Consecration – Herry Lawford via flickr

The Coventry Blitz began during the evening of November the 14th, 1940; it was the most severe bombing raid to hit Coventry during WW2, involving 515 German bombers and was given the name Operation Mondscheinsonate (Moonlight Sonata)…. The intention of the Germans had been to destroy Coventry’s factories and industrial infrastructure….

At around 8pm Coventry’s Cathedral was set on fire by incendiaries; volunteer firefighters managed to put the flames out…. However, more hits followed and new fires started….soon the blaze was out of control….

Coventry Cathedral in 1891 – public domain

The Cathedral could not be saved; all that remained was the spire, tower and outer wall…. It had been constructed in the late 14th and early 15th centuries and was one of the largest Parish churches in England…. In 1918 it had been given the status of Cathedral…. It now stood a ruin….

Photo credit: Andrew Walker CC BY-SA 2.5

In 1950 a competition was launched to find an architect to design a replacement…. Out of over 200 entries submitted the design of Scottish architect Basil Spence was chosen…. Spence insisted that the old Cathedral, which stood on hallowed ground and with a Grade 1 listing, remain – as a garden of remembrance….img_3236

The foundation stone for the new Cathedral was laid by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the 23rd of March 1956…. It was built by John Laing and Hollington sandstone was used…. The modern design raised a few eyebrows – but upon opening the Cathedral won the hearts of the people…. For its consecration on the 25th of May 1962 Benjamin Britten composed his ‘War Requiem’….which was premiered in the Cathedral on the 30th of May….img_3235

Like its predecessor the modern Cathedral is Grade 1 listed…. The two stand side by side….the ruins a reminder to the pointless waste of war…. Behind the altar of the ruined Cathedral can be seen the words ‘Father Forgive’ – which Provost Richard Howard had inscribed upon the wall after the bombing….

Provost Richard Howard (left) with Winston Churchill in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral – Photograph: Horton (Capt) – War Office official photographer – Public domain
Image credit: DeFacto CC BY-SA 4.0