Friday, March 23, 2007

Coventry Cathedral

On Sunday afternoon, while Clara rehearsed with the St. Michael's Singers for a service of Lenten meditation in the new cathedral, I wandered through the ruins of the old Coventry Cathedral, destroyed by German bombs on the night of November 14, 1940. The ruins of the cathedral are still consecrated ground, and are an important part of the symbolism of resurrection, reconciliation, and peace that are central to the new cathedral's ministry.

The ruins of Coventry Cathedral in November 1940

The interior of old Coventry Cathedral: once a superb example of fourteenth-century ecclesiastical architecture, now lost forever

I have to admit that I find genuine medieval cathedrals, like Winchester and Lichfield, more inspiring than the dated, early-Sixties modernism of the new Coventry Cathedral. But there is something very moving in the spirit behind it. The St. Michael's Singers performed Morten Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna, which in that space was particularly beautiful and apt.

Outside the cathedral, there was a crowd of youths, all dressed in black, swarming around the ruins and milling around on the cathedral steps. There were about two dozen all together. As I wandered through the ruins, I was momentarily harassed by a small group of them, who of course were making unpleasant comments about my "ginger" hair. After the concert, I came out to find that the glass had been broken out of one of the message boards in from of the cathedral. In this photograph, which takes in both the new cathedral and the ruins of the old, you may be able to see some of the trash the crowd left behind, strewn under Epstein's sculpture of St. Michael and the devil.

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