Coventry is a cool city. And I am ashamed to admit that because of its reputation as a tough city (and because the first time we entered it last year we drove straight through the bad part of town), we had been avoiding it all this time. We live just a couple miles from Coventry, but we had never properly ventured into the city itself, shameful as that is, since Coventry's most famous resident is my ancestor! But yesterday we righted this wrong, and I was so surprised and delighted and how fantastic it was! Day trips to Coventry for everyone! Let's go!
So proud of my famously naked ancestor!
If you've heard of Lady Godiva then you know a little bit about Coventry's thrilling history. In 1080, she was the Queen of the region, and she had a soft spot for poor people. She begged her husband the King to lower taxes, and he said, "I'll lower taxes the day you ride naked through the marketplace!" So she did! According to the legend, every single person in town averted their eyes as she rode through (to save her honor and chastity), except for Peeping Tom, who was struck blind as divine punishment. Let me just throw out Lady Godiva as a costume idea for this Halloween.
Then she rode back clothed on with chastity
She took the tax away and built herself an everlasting name.
Aside from Lady Godiva, Coventry is famous for a few other things, including being the glory of England in the Middle Ages, and being bicycle capital of the world in the 1800s, but my next story is about Coventry Cathedral. It was known as one of the greatest Cathedrals in England, but in 1941 German planes hovered over Coventry for 9 hours, decimating the city. Almost all the Medieval parts of the city were completely destroyed, and the Cathedral itself was bombed so that only an outer shell was left.
--this picture is just days after the bombing. Now the ruins are a kind of memorial to the unprecedented destruction
--the high altar remains are charred (including the cross). Just days after the bombing happened, the people of Coventry still attended services amid the rubble!
--the Cathdral shell
At the end of the war, it was obvious that Coventry had born the brunt of the devastation of war (there is actually a German verb "to Coventrate", which means "totally and completely destroy"). Young Germans who wanted to "right the wrongs" of their parents' generation started an international reconciliation project based symbolically in Coventry. And England focused on Coventry as the nation's phoenix, hoping the Cathedral would rise from the ashes. But instead of essentially erasing the bombed ruins (to rebuild), they decided to build a modern Cathedral attached the ruins of the old one. A modern Cathedral?! Take church and modern art and combine em, and that's pretty much what you get with the new Coventry Cathedral, equally as famous as the old one.
the old cathedral (left) and the new one attached (right)
It's funny how surprising it is to see a Cathedral in modern style. We talked about how it shouldn't seem so strange, us with Mormon upbringings, to see modern religious buildings. But a massive Cathedral! It had all the features of its predecessors...but with a modern twist. Rather than having marble sculptures scattered about, there were pieces of modern art. Rather than a freso painting at the altar, there was a modern one. It's exactly what people were doing in the Renaissance when they built churches: making a magnificent new building with all the latest greatest art -- and it's surprising how little of that is happening in religion today! The effect was equally as humbling and beautiful as Cathedrals centuries old. It probably helped the the choir was singing.
--modern stained glass (note the guy sitting down so you can get a sense of scale)
Then we went on to a museum I thought was going to be lame but it was jaw-droppingly cool! But this post is already getting too long to manage the pictures right so we'll just have to make another post another day. Thanks for visiting Coventry and (I say this in utter defiance of the English, who mock Americans for it), "have a nice day!"