December 05, 2004


We took the day off yesterday (Sat.) and walked the three miles from campus into central Coventry, along the Kenilworth and Warwick Roads. Many people think of the city here as a grim place, with wartime damage compounded by postwar planning and the dying out of local industries. It's clear Coventry has known hard times but, as Kerry pointed out in our entry from a few weeks ago, we like it here. Also, Kerry's mom linked us to an outstanding site that told us a lot about historic Coventry that we didn't already know and helped guide us around town.

We first saw the cathedral here a few weeks ago, and we were drawn back yesterday for another visit. It's like no other church we've seen. The old cathedral, St. Michael's, was left in ruins after the Luftwaffe raid in November 1940, and the remains of the building still stand — with a cross of burnt timbers placed up on what used to be the high altar. It's a sad, eloquent, haunting place.

Then, you turn and walk through what's left of the old cathedral transept, and it opens out into the entrance to the new cathedral.

We've read that the new cathedral is said to be one of a very few much-loved 20th-century churches. We can certainly understand this. It's a majestic place, but mostly peaceful and consoling. I took several more pictures of the outside of the building, although I don't think they capture its most special qualities.

We visited several other sites, too. Near the cathedral is a beautiful gothic church, Holy Trinity, which survived the air raids. We borrowed field glasses from the shop counter and looked up at the wall above the ceiling arch, over the sanctuary. There we saw a newly restored early 14th century mural, known as the Doom painting, which is extraordinarily vivid and disturbing.

There are quite a few other things worth seeing in the center of the city. The site of the medieval priory cathedral, which predated St. Michael's, has been excavated and turned into a kind of open-air memorial, with its own museum. We spent some time there, and also over on Spon Street, along which various 15th-century houses, pubs, and other buildings have been rebuilt after being disassembled, or deposited after being towed.

Just behind Spon Street is something called the Coventry Skydome, which includes a sports arena, a giant new Odeon cineplex and a number of freakish-looking theme restaurants (including one called "Old Orleans"). We were really hungry, but we thought better of it and ended up at the Tudor Rose, one of the local pubs. Later we joined the crowds milling under the Christmas lights in the glass-covered Lower Precinct shopping area, and made a couple of stops: Lush, Ottaker's bookstore, Marks & Spencer. Then, with darkness falling quickly, we set out on the march back home.

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