Coventry CathedralCoventry
The Cathedral Church of St Michael
Priory Street
Warwickshire CV1 5AB

 

Most visitors come to Coventry to see the magnificent modern cathedral. This Cathedral is a work of art in its own right and incorporates beautifully, the bombed out ruins of the old medieval cathedral. It has been described as a ‘Phoenix rising from the Ashes’.

This incredible place is much loved by the locals and a sight not to be missed by the visitor. Everything about this building is unusual and surprising.

Once inside, the visitor will notice that Coventry Cathedral resembles no other cathedral in England. It is uncluttered and draws the visitor towards the dramatic East end. The highly polished black marble floor reflects strips of jewelled light from the floor to ceiling stained glass windows and the modern furnishings are full of symbolism.

Ruins of Old St Michael’s
During the Second World War disaster struck the old cathedral - on the night of 14th November 1940, incendiary bombs rained down destroying it. The stark outer walls, tower and spire are all that is left of that large church. Built in 1403, it stands on the site of a Benedictine Abbey founded by the Anglo-Saxon Earl of Mercia, Leofric and his famous wife, Lady Godiva.
 
Following that dreadful night, the cathedral stonemason noticed some of the charred roof timbers had fallen in the shape of a cross. He collected them and set them up in the ruins. Visitors can see a replica of this cross, set on a rubble altar, in the Sanctuary at the eastern end of the Cathedral ruins. Behind the charred cross, engraved on the Sanctuary walls are the words ‘Father Forgive’.
 
Location
The new Coventry Cathedral abuts the old ruins at an almost 90 degree angle and is linked to them by St Michael’s Porch which incorporates the joining stairway. Both the ruins and the new building together effectively form one church.
 
Now, let’s go into the church.
 
Jacob Epstein’s Sculpture
Entry is up the Cathedral steps from Priory Street past Epstein’s dramatic sculpture of St Michael defeating the Devil.
 
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The Great West Screen
Facing the ruins of the old St Michael’s is the Great West Screen created by John Hutton and known as the Screen of Saints and Angels. It reflects the old ruins in a timely reminder of the devastation caused by war.
 
Prior to proceeding into the Cathedral, spare a moment to appreciate this great West Window. This amazing etched glass screen occupies almost the entire end of the Cathedral. John Hutton engraved the figures directly on to the glass whilst the window was in situ.
 
Turn right through the well signposted entry doors to the admissions desk. There is free entry for those intending to attend a service to worship, but visitors are charged a reasonable fee to explore this beautiful place.
 
Inside, modern wooden chairs replace the usual pews and there is no rood screen. The eye is taken straight up the nave to the huge tapestry by Graham Sutherland behind the High Altar. On either side of the Quire over the clergy stalls are clusters of what look like flocks of abstract birds. These triads are the first of 3 representations of the Crown of Thorns, a recurring theme in the Cathedral.
 
Before the Visitor starts to feel that East has become West and North has become South, it should be explained that the Great West Screen is physically at the south end of the Cathedral. Cathedral literature describes the West Window as being at the ‘liturgical west’ i.e. opposite the altar which is traditionally at the east end of a cathedral. In Coventry Cathedral, the altar is actually at the north end.
 
Magnificent Baptistry Window
Immediately upon entering the Cathedral and just past the admissions counter, on the right is the Baptistry with its font hollowed out of a boulder from the Holy Land. John Piper’s magnificent Baptistry window comprises 195 dazzling panes which converge from deep greens, reds and blues to a central blaze of gold and white.
 
The eagle lectern, the mitre over the bishop’s throne and the flame representing the Holy Spirit over the Provost’s Stall are all sculpted by Elizabeth Frink, well known for her lovely bronze sculpture 'Shepherd and Sheep' in Paternoster Square, London
 
Graham Sutherland Tapestry
Instead of the traditional east window behind the High Altar, Coventry has Graham Sutherland’s powerful ‘Christ in Glory’ tapestry hanging on the Lady Chapel wall. At 79 by 38 feet (24 x 11.5 metres), it is one of the largest of its kind in the world. Sutherland based the design on the passage from Revelations where Christ is sitting on a throne surrounded by the four beasts.
 
Here, in the Lady Chapel, is the Cathedral’s only statue – that of Mary.
 
High Altar
The Altar Cross, located directly behind the High Altar, is made from silver and is plated with gold. It incorporates the ‘Cross of Nails’ which is made from three medieval nails rescued from the ruined Cathedral’s roof. The High Altar is a simple slab of concrete, 21 feet (7.3 metres) long.
 
The Chapels
While in the vicinity of the High Altar, visit the clear glass enclosed Chapel of Christ the Servant and also the Chapel of Christ in Gethsemane. Its Crown of Thorns screen was designed by Basil Spence and made by the Royal Engineers. These small chapels are quite breathtaking.
 
History of the new Coventry Cathedral
In 1950, Provost Dick Howard announced a competition to design a new Cathedral. From over two hundred entries, the design by Basil Spence was chosen and Queen Elizabeth II laid the foundation stone on 23rd March 1956. The building was completed and consecration took place on 25th May 1962. Benjamin Britten composed his War Requiem especially for the consecration.
 
Sir Basil Spence wrote in his book ‘Phoenix at Coventry’ “I saw the old cathedral as standing clearly for the sacrifice, one side of the Christian Faith and I knew my task was to design a new one which should stand for the Triumph of the Resurrection”.
 
After touring this Cathedral the visitor will surely agree that he achieved his vision.
 
Plan Your Visit
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Disabled Access
- Mobility Impaired:
The Cathedral is not completely accessible for disabled people. The Chapel of Christ the Servant is currently only accessible via a number of long, low steps. The ramp access to the Chapel of Unity has been renewed and the external entrance access is being improved.
 
The lower ground floor café is accessible by exiting the Cathedral and via Hill Top or Priory Street using the access at undercroft level at the East End of the building. Please ask at the Visitor Desk for directions and assistance.
 
There is a lift from the Nave to the undercroft which can be used on request and under the supervision of Cathedral staff Disabled parking bays are available in Bayley Lane and Cuckoo Lane.
 
- Other Disabilities:
Service sheets for main acts of worship are available in large print by asking a steward. The Cathedral has a hearing loop for people with hearing disabilities.  
 
Opening Times
CATHEDRAL RUINS
Open daily – 09:00 – 17:00 hours. No admission charge. Please check the times of services on the cathedral website’s Worship pages. All visitors are welcome to attend any services which take place during their visit. 
 
NEW CATHEDRAL
Open daily to the visiting public, all year round.
Monday to Saturday – 10:00 – 17:00 hours.
Tickets for visitors are sold until 16:00 hours.
Sundays – 12 noon to 16:00 hours.
Tickets for visitors are sold until 15:00 hours. 
 
Worship
Everyone is welcome to come to the 17:15 (16:00 on Saturday) service of Evening Prayer or Choral Evensong, for which no charge is made.
 
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OTHER CATHEDRAL ATTRACTIONS
St Michael’s Tower
For the best view of Coventry City climb St Michael’s Tower at the western end of the bomb ravaged ruins of the old Cathedral. Miraculously, the Tower was not damaged by the Blitz.

Open 7 days a week except during bell ringing sessions. Cost: £2.50 each per adult (free for children under 18 and concessions available).

Blitz Experience Museum
Located in the Ruins, the Blitz Experience Museum contains five 1940s’ room reconstructions.

Open April to September, 10:00 – 15:30 - hours Mondays to Saturdays. Closed on Sundays. Cost: £2.50 each per adult (free for children under 18 and concessions available).

St Michael's Hall
The cathedral’s Treasury is situated in St Michael’s Hall. Here visitors can see the original charred cross from the ruins along with the treasures from the old and the new cathedrals. The Treasury is open Monday to Friday 11:00 to 15:00. It is not always open on Saturdays.
 
Sometimes access can be restricted to the New Cathedral and/or the Ruins. To avoid disappointment, please check the day you wish to visit on the calendar page of the cathedral website, or telephone +44 (0)24 7652 1210.
 
Admission Costs
The cathedral receives no funding from the state and maintaining this historic site costs hundreds of thousands of pounds each year. In order to keep the Cathedral open to visitors there is an admission fee. Charges apply during the above opening hours. See the cathedral website for up to date prices and other concessions -
Standard Adult: £6
Concessions:    £5
Children under 18 in family groups: free
 
Facilities
The cathedral has a refreshments outlet, toilets, baby change facilities, disabled toilets, a gift shop and a downloadable Coventry Cathedral app. 
 
Rising Cafe
Refreshments are available from the new Rising Cafe located at the north-west corner of the Cathedral. Enjoy quality home-baked goods, deliciously innovative classic dishes and excellent beverages.
Tel     +44 (0) 2476 521 235
Mail   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
Toilets
There are toilets near the café, in St Michael’s Hall, and under the steps up to the Ruins. Disabled and baby changing facilities are also available – please ask at the Admissions Desk. 
 
Cathedral Visitor Centre Gift Shop
Books, souvenirs, cards and gifts as well as guidebooks, CDs and a range of other items can be purchased. Tickets for concerts and events may also be purchased here. 
Tel   +44 (0)24 7652 1210  
 
- Open:
10:00 – 16:30 hours Monday to Saturday
12 noon to 15:30 hours Sunday 
 
Contact & Further Information
Telephone  +44 (0)24 7652 1210
 
Getting There
The main entrance to the Cathedral can be found off Priory Street opposite Coventry University or via St Michael’s Avenue from the City Centre.
 
- By Car
From the ring road (Ringway Swanswell – take exit 2) or from Ringway Whitefriars – take exit 3).
There is a large ‘Pay & Display’ car park called Pool Meadow, postcode CV1 5RY. It is between Cox Street, Fairfax Street and the Ringway. The car park lies about 220 yards (200 metres) from the Cathedral. From the car park, just walk under Priory Hall and up Priory Street.

This car park is very popular, however it is worth a try. For other car parks visit  Web: Coventry City Council/ Car Parking

- By Rail
The Cathedral is a 10-15 minute walk or 5 minute taxi ride from the railway station. 
 
- By Bus
The Cathedral is about 110 yards (100 metres) from the main Bus Station.  
 
Google Maps - Coventry Cathedral