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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Coventry and Warwickshire

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Coventry and Warwickshire
Old and new cathedrals
© Courtesy of Coventry Cathedral.
From medieval monastery to modern monument

Unlike so many other English towns and cities, Coventry did not rebuild or redevelop between the 16th and early 18th Century. Consequently, most of medieval Coventry was still standing adjacent to the vast industrial areas of the city in the first half of the 20th Century. This was not to last, however, as the face of Coventry was to change forever after the events of the Second World War.

Old cathedral ruins
On the 14th November 1940, the city was subjected to a torrid frenzy of bombing by the Luftwaffe. In a single night 500 German bombers dropped 500 tons of explosives and nearly 900 incendiary bombs. Much of the city was destroyed. The city's medieval cathedral was not spared.

Leofric, Earl of Mercia, and his wife, Godgifu, had founded the cathedral in the mid 11th Century as a Benedictine community. The modern diocese of Coventry was created in 1918, with St. Michael's designated as its cathedral.

The destruction of the cathedral is extraordinary; it came about through an act of violence in the 20th Century and not as a result of the violence of the Dissolution of the Monestries in 1539, when many other churches and cathedrals were destroyed.

The decision to rebuild was taken on the morning following the attack. It was to be a demonstration of "faith, trust and hope for the future of the world", not simply an act of defiance, according to the official website of Coventry Cathedral.

The ruins of old cathedral
© Peter Barton.
Dick Howard, Provost at the time, strongly promoted this vision. He did not want the people of Coventry to be embittered by the incident. Thus the decision was made to rebuild, and the city set about the planning of such a project. A competition was launched in 1951 to design the new cathedral.

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