The ruins of an ancient Gothic monument and the grandeur of a modern architectural landmark combine at this fascinating site.
Three cathedrals have stood in Coventry’s city center since the 11th century and two of them stand next to each other on the one site that’s known as Coventry Cathedral. Wander the open-air vestiges of the old Coventry Cathedral, enjoy views from its bell tower and then admire the artwork inside the new building.
Also known as St Michael’s Church, the old cathedral was established in the 1300s on the grounds of a priory church. It remained intact until 1940, when the German Air Force flattened the city with the Coventry Blitz. This event left behind a roofless structure, which has become a sacred site and garden of remembrance. Note the misaligned pillar bases, the sweeping arches, an altar built from stone fragments and a cross of two charred wooden beams.
Curiously, the tower and 295-feet (90-meter) spire survived the bombings and the spire is among the tallest in England. Carved figures decorate the walls of the tower from top to bottom. Climb the steep 181-step stairway to the top of the tower for unbeatable views over the city center. Look down on the ruins and spot other notable city landmarks such as the Holy Trinity Church and Ricoh Arena.
The foundation stone of the modernist-style new cathedral was placed by Queen Elizabeth II in 1956. It is the work of Basil Spence, a Scottish architect who won a competition that received over 200 submissions. Notable features are Sir Jacob Epstein’s St. Michael and the Devil sculpture and Graham Sutherland’s Christ in Glory tapestry. A window at the entrance vividly reflects the ruins outside and coins embedded in floor guide the clergy in a straight-lined procession.
Coventry Cathedral is open daily and there’s a fee to enter the new building. There’s an additional charge to climb the tower. The cathedral is a 15-minute walk from Coventry Train Station. Drivers can park for a fee on nearby St. Mary’s Street and Salt Lane.