Coventry Cathedral

In Coventry for the first time, I decided to sightsee its cathedral, and was overwhelmed.

The shell of the Gothic cathedral stands roofless, windowless. At the East end, steps descend to the new cathedral. It is literally disorienting for me (baptised Anglican) as instead of being aligned West-East, it is aligned South-North, with the lady chapel in the north end. At the south west there is a round chapel, with a central round table, and chairs in a circle round it; there a German-speaking congregation worship regularly, and there are displays which mention Quaker work. As is traditional, huge pillars support a high roof, soaring into the sky, but here have a steel core, so at their base are a few inches across.

It is about Christ’s presence with humanity in our blackest moments. The monochrome Christ in majesty in the Lady chapel, visible behind the sanctuary from the whole church, is the bleakest I have seen, with the Living Creatures of Revelation who parallel the Gospel writers around him, also in black. In a chapel East of that there is a small chapel with a gorgeous angel covering the north wall: you enter this through a vast crown of thorns- through suffering into Heaven? Going down into the crypt, you pass the high cross from the original cathedral, a burnt shard.

In the East wall, the south end, there is a great stained glass display, the height of the cathedral, yards wide, abstract. Its centre is gold, and it darkens as the eye moves outwards: for me it was the beauty of God in the darkness.

As I walked round, an organist practised a bright rejoicing voluntary, suitable for the end of the worship service. It tinkled away for a few bars, and then he stopped, broke it down, started again, working towards the full beauty of it.

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