The original St Michael’s Cathedral in Coventry was built between the late 14th century and early 15th century. It now stands ruined, bombed almost to destruction during the massive attack on the city by German bombers on the night of November 14th, 1940.
The tower, spire, and outer wall of the church survived the bombing, but the rest of this historic building was destroyed. After the war, the cathedral was not rebuilt on site but left in ruins as a testament to the futility of war. The surviving spire of St Michael’s is 245 feet high and is the tallest structure in the city. It is also the third-tallest cathedral spire in England (next to the cathedrals in Salisbury and Norwich).
The modern building that was built next to the remains of the old church is an icon of 20th-century church architecture. It was designed by architect Basil Spence, and it was his idea to keep the ruins symbolically intact next to the the new building.
Both old and new buildings are constructed from the same type of sandstone. The new cathedral’s design caused much controversy, but on opening to the public it rapidly became popular and is now a widely recognized symbol of reconciliation.
The foundation stone of the new cathedral was laid by Queen Elizabeth II in 1956. The interior is notable for its giant tapestry of Christ and the multicolored, abstract design of the Baptistry window that floods the interior with color. However, arguably the most impressive feature is the widow directly opposite the altar, known as the Screen of Saints and Angels, engraved onto the glass wall.
Sadly, St Michael’s is actually the second of Coventry’s cathedrals to be destroyed. About a hundred yards away lie the excavated ruins of St Mary’s Priory, the only English cathedral destroyed during the Reformation.
Know Before You Go
Parking is not permitted in Priory Street. Nearest parking is near the bus station at Pool Meadow (Fairfax Street). If travelling by train, the cathedral is about a 20 minute walk away, but buses to Pool Meadow stop at the station.