Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Coventry

On one of the four days of the conference, Med-Ren took us all to Coventry, where we had the morning to see the city before the paper sessions and a concert in the afternoon. Coventry was deeply moving, and I wished husband had been there to share the experience. Someday we'll go back.

The official reason for our trek to Coventry was to allow all of us scholars of early music to view new-found manuscripts of the anonymous Missa Caput. We not only got to see these up close, but even touch them! (Though I didn't - too nervous of damaging them.) There's a big difference between facsimiles, even really high-quality ones in color, and the real thing.

(Note: I snagged all these photos from the friend I roomed with, with her permission. I'd left my camera with husband, because he planned several adventures in London while I was away. More on those trips of his soon!)


After seeing the manuscript - in carefully-regulated small groups we'd had to sign up for - we had a few hours before the conference resumed after lunch. For me, that meant a cup of tea and a scone with jam and clotted cream at the museum housing the manuscript, and then a visit to three neighboring churches. Coventry isn't very big, but it has so much history packed into a small space.

First we saw Coventry Cathedral, and to be honest, it was by far the most moving experience I've had on this entire trip to England. In this first photo, you can see the old cathedral on the left, and the edge of the new one on the right. Coventry Cathedral was bombed in the Blitz, and almost completely destroyed. But England and its Church are resilient, and a new cathedral was constructed just next to the old one.


The stunning tower survived, with a gift shop now in what was once the narthex:


I don't actually have the words to describe the intense emotions inspired by these empty stained-glass windows.



Here's a closer shot of the altar. Engraved on the wall behind it are the words "Father forgive." Not "Father forgive them" - for England too participated in a war of destruction. Every Friday, this bombed church celebrates a liturgy of peace and reconciliation, and even when it was first destroyed, this cathedral stood as a monument for peace. Iron nails pulled from the wreckage were shaped into crosses and sent to churches all across the globe, including churches in Berlin that had been bombed by England. I was deeply disappointed that despite being there on a Friday, our conference commitments prevented me from attending the liturgy that day.


Practically next door stands Holy Trinity, a church that was left almost unharmed in the Blitz despite its proximity to the cathedral. One of the church staff told us that the vicar had stood on the roof during the bombing in order to knock off any bombs that landed on Holy Trinity, and thus saved the church. I've no idea if this story is true! But I'm glad the church survived. Holy Trinity is really gorgeous.


Holy Trinity is most famous for this "Doom" - a fifteenth-century mural of the Last Judgment. It's well worth seeing in person, especially in conjunction with their leaflet that explains who everyone in the painting is. The church has posted a bit more about their Doom here.


And then next to Holy Trinity is the remains of the twelfth-century priory, which was closed as part of the English Reformation. It was turned into a boy's school in the 1700s, and later the school building was rebuilt in the nineteenth century. That's why part of the wall you can see in this photo has three different layers of stone. The bit we walked through is called the Priory Gardens, the part of the remains open to the public after the archaeological excavations ten and twenty years ago.


After so many beautiful buildings, returning to the conference wasn't a hardship, because the afternoon was held in the beautiful St. Mary's Guildhall, home of the Coventry Tapestry (c. 1500):

Photo credit: found here

4 comments:

  1. I love the new Coventry cathedral as well and the fact that one of my favorite choral works was written for its opening. Britten's War Requiem.

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    1. Thanks ever so for the reminder that I meant to listen to that again! What a stunning dedication for a cathedral rebuilt after a war.

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  2. Coventry Cathedral is incredibly moving, isn't it - I have stood there in tears. I love the new Cathedral, too, a beautiful place.

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    1. Next time I'll be willing to pay to see the new one, or be there for a service. With just a short time to visit the city, we decided just to pop in long enough to see the stained glass and organ from afar, but didn't go past the visitors' desk. Both buildings are so meaningful in their own ways.

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