A message from the Chairman of
The Friends of Coventry Cathedral
COVENTRY CATHEDRAL WAS one of many public buildings around Coventry City Centre floodlit in blue and yellow in protest when war started in Ukraine.
There are national appeals for funds to ease the distress of the Ukrainian people, but I would like to mention two direct ways in which you may prefer to give your help. Neither of them uses glossy advertising and banks of paid administrators.
NUMBER ONE. Coventry's Ukrainian Church congregation has already sent buses of aid from the city across Europe to be delivered direct to desperate people in Ukraine. Medicines and protective clothing are high on the list of items sent.
To add support to this direct action a Quiz has been set up by Mary Viner, a longstanding member of the Cathedral congregation. For a minimum entry fee of £1 (and I encourage you to be more generous) you know that your contribution will add to the aid sent out by the Coventry Ukrainian Church congregation. There is also the chance to win one of the prizes donated by the Sky Blues or by the Lord Mayor’s office or a Cathedral Diamond Jubilee Prize donated by a member of the Friends of Coventry Cathedral.
The Diamond Jubilee Prize is one of only 36 goblets engraved in 1962 and given at the Cathedral's Consecration to people who had made a particular contribution towards the building of the Cathedral. Quite a rarity!
QUIZ DETAILS are at the end of this newsletter. Some questions are real brainteasers!
NUMBER TWO. The Cross of Nails project in Dacia, Romania has found homes for two Ukrainian refugee families in the village. The project is run by Frank Roth from Dresden and his work to educate the village children has been supported for many years by members of the Cathedral congregation.
Jane Williams raises funds for Dacia through the UK registered charity S.H.A.R.E. and the charity will pass on all donations marked “Dacia” to help those families. They arrive with almost nothing. Funds for Dacia that are sent to S.H.A.R.E. can be gift-aided if you wish and can either be paid direct to the charity's bank –
HSBC Bank. Sort code 40-18-17 A/c no. 04287606
or be sent to Jane Williams at 63 Daventry Road, Coventry CV3 5DH.
I mention these two direct ways of helping people in Ukraine because in both cases the work is undertaken by volunteers of faith.
“…. we all knew that spiritual life had been transferred at last
from the old Cathedral to the new.”
BASIL SPENCE : Phoenix At Coventry
Members of the FRIENDS are invited to view newly discovered archive film of the dedication of the Chapel of the Cross formerly sited in the Cathedral undercroft. This event took place on New Year’s Eve 1958 and was the first worship to take place on the new Cathedral site. The service was broadcast live on BBC TV.
TEA TIME FILM SHOW on Saturday 2nd April 2022
in the Cathedral Pavilion
The entrance is through the Swedish Windows in the Lady Chapel
THE RICHARD SADLER Photo Exhibitions were launched in February in the Old Grammar School, Hales Street. There are 3 free exhibitions, the first of which featured post war Coventry scenes. The current exhibition (number 2) highlights Coventry's industry with action pictures of workers at Courtaulds and at former car factories.
To mark the Diamond Jubilee of the Cathedral Consecration the FRIENDS have sponsored the exhibition of Richard Sadler's Cathedral photos. Richard was the Cathedral's first official photographer.
The Cathedral exhibition starts at the end of April and runs through May. These photos catch moments in the Cathedral's life that will never be repeated. You see the nave windows reflected in marble floors that shine like mirrors - the arrival of the Tapestry from France - the helicopter crowning the Cathedral’s fleche with the Flying Angel - and many others.
In conjunction with the Sadler Exhibition
You are invited to the following event that has been arranged
by the Friends of Coventry Cathedral.
Art Commissions - from Basil
Spence to City of Culture
A conversation between
Prof Louise Campbell and Chenine Bhathena, Artistic Director of Coventry City Of Culture.
26th April 12.30 pm to 2.30 pm
at the Old Grammar School, Hales Street.
Sponsored by the Friends of Coventry Cathedral
TWO ADVANCE NOTICES
1 The final touches are currently being made to a new limited edition book to be published by the FRIENDS in May 2022 marking the Diamond Jubilee of the Cathedral Consecration. It is a collection of Cathedral photos and stories from the last 60 years. They tell of the Bishops and Provosts/Deans, St Michael's Singers, the late David Lepine whose anniversary also falls in May, our Royal visits, the Archbishop of Canterbury and many more topics. Full details of CATHEDRAL REFLECTIONS II will be published later in April.
2 On the 14th May 2022 the FRIENDS are holding a PUDDING CLUB SUPPER in the Cathedral Pavilion starting at 6pm. A Pudding Club Supper consists of a very light first course followed by up to 7 desserts. If you try them all will you be able to vote for the King of Puddings on the night! Only the strongest will survive - but what a way to go! The Pavilion will accommodate 40 guests, which limits our numbers. Tickets will cost £10. Full details of their availability will be circulated later in April.
(left) Coventry 2022. Rev Dr Alex Wimberley preached in the Cathedral.
(right) Corrymeela 2014. Mary Macaleese, President of Ireland, with Bishop John Stroyan
at the opening of the new Coventry House.
REV DR ALEX WIMBERLEY preached in the Cathedral on Corrymeela Sunday last month. He has been the elected leader of the Corrymeela Community since 2019, but was prevented by the Covid crisis from visiting Coventry until this year.
If you are not already familiar with it, Corrymeela is a community on the north coast of Ireland that was founded in 1965 by Ray Davey, a Presbyterian minister. He had been a POW in Dresden during the last war and his wartime experiences convinced him that there are alternatives to violence. The community that he founded promotes reconciliation and peacebuilding to heal the social, religious and political divisions in Northern Ireland.
Corrymeela became a Cross of Nails Centre in September 1971. The first Coventry House— a residential space housing volunteers— was largely funded by the Coventry Cathedral CCN Network under the inspiration of Provost Williams and Canon Horace Dammers, and it was opened in 1976.
More than 11,000 people a year follow courses at the residential centre. Community staff also travel away to work with school and community groups throughout Northern Ireland.
As the work of the Corrymeela Centre expanded the demand for places at the residential centre increased and in 2014 the old Coventry House was replaced with a larger and better equipped Coventry House. The President of Ireland, Mary Macaleese, performed the opening ceremony. The visiting party from Coventry was led by Bishop John Stroyan and included John Irvine, Adrian Daffern, David Porter and the Lord Mayor of Coventry.
In the grounds of the Parliament Buildings at Stormont the Coventry party paused at the statue “Reconciliation”, another casting of the statue by Josefina de Vasconcellos that stands in the Cathedral Ruins. (photo top right)
(below) Provost Williams stood alongside Ray Davey at the official opening in 1976. The new Coventry House is on the right.
THE CURRENT EPSTEIN Exhibition has made me look again at the permanent examples of Epstein’s work at Coventry Cathedral that I tend to take for granted. Familiarity can dull an appreciation of their significance.
On 24th June 1960 the statue of St Michael and the Devil was unveiled with a fanfare of trumpets and it was dedicated by Bishop Cuthbert Bardsley with these prayers:
GOD whom angels and archangels and all the company of heaven adore and obey: Accept at our hands this gift; & grant that all who behold this portrait of St. Michael triumphing over evil may be assured of the victory of thy truth and may see every rebel will at last made captive to thy mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
IN THE FAITH OF JESUS CHRIST WE DEDICATE THIS STATUE OF ST. MICHAEL, FOR THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF THE FAINTHEARTED, AND IN TOKEN OF OUR TRUST THAT TRUTH SHALL PREVAIL, AND EVIL BE UTTERLY VANQUISHED: IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER AND OF THE SON AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. AMEN
The prayers make it clear that this is not simply a statue.
It is a statue with a message for us all.
Jacob and the Angel attracts a lot of attention in the current Epstein exhibition
An unusual story about our St Michael that has remained with me was told by Leslie Thomas in his book “The Hidden Places of Britain”. He visited Abbotsbury where the swan-herd, Fred Lexster, told him: “There was the amazing day when Sir Jacob Epstein came to the swannery. He asked me to hold a swan for him – while he measured its wings. I caught one of the big birds and he measured every feather of its wings. If you look at St Michael and the Devil – which he did for Coventry Cathedral – St Michael’s wings are modelled on the wings of that swan.”
It is known that the head of St Michael was modelled on Epstein’s son-in-law, Wynne Godley, of whom he had already created a bust (photo right). For the head of St Michael the subject's facial features were exaggerated and sharpened to take into account that they would be viewed from a greater distance.
Godley is an interesting person. He was a professional musician turned economist, and later acted as a Government economic adviser. In 2007 he famously published a book about economic models that predicted the economic collapse from which we all suffered when it happened a year later. His pessimistic views were proved right.
Ecce Homo in the Cathedral Ruins is an early work that Epstein carved between 1934 and 1935. I wrote in a previous newsletter of the controversies that surrounded Epstein’s early sculptures. Ecce Homo was no exception. At one time there was a proposal for it to be sited at Selby Abbey, but this was blocked after a vigorous public campaign against it. The campaign was not based just on the merits of the statue, but the campaigners wanted to avoid any association with a sculptor with such a controversial reputation. The statue was presented to Coventry Cathedral in 1969 at the request of Lady Epstein.
Jacob Epstein wrote about Ecce Homo: This Subiaco block of marble, when I carved it, I found the toughest most difficult piece of stone I had ever tackled. All the tools I had broke on it, and it was only after trying out endless “points”, as they are called, with different toolmakers that I finally hit upon a “point” that resisted, and began to make an impression on the stone. I wished to make an ECCE HOMO, a symbol of man, bound, crowned with thorns and facing with a relentless and overmastering gaze of pity and prescience our unhappy world. Because of the hardness of the material I treated the work in a large way, with a juxtaposition of flat planes, always with a view to retaining the impression of the original block.
On learning of our Jacob Epstein exhibition, Paul Oestreicher recently wrote to me about the Cathedral's Epstein works from his New Zealand home. Paul was a Residentiary Canon 1986 to 1997 and was Director of the Cathedral's International Ministry.
Ecce Homo. Its spiritual profundity is, very sadly, little appreciated. Jesus before Pilate is not the splendid face of our imagination, but agony as seen through early native Latin American, Inca art, rejected by the European conquistadors. St Michael and the Devil.Coventry's Archangel also breaks with convention. He is compassionate. His spear points to heaven, not into the devil. There is room for redemption. The devil is chained, but loosely, not irrevocably. Michael is the good in us. The very human devil is the evil in us. It is a spiritual struggle in each of us. More could be made of what Epstein, from the grave, is actually saying.
Paul wrote about his own Life with the Archangel Michael:
I was born on Michaelmas 1931, his Feast Day. On my 19th birthday Louise, my best friend since the age of eleven, took me to the Church of St Michael's in Dunedin, to my first ever Anglican eucharist. It blew me away and set me on the path to priesthood. On Michaelmas 1959 I was made deacon and a year later priest in St Paul's Cathedral, London. My Guardian Angel never left me alone. Barbara and I were married on Michaelmas 2002. For my final employment I was sent in 1985 to St Michael's Cathedral Coventry. My lasting lesson from the Archangel was to join him in fighting evil on earth. He had already cleansed Heaven (Rev.12 7-9). That struggle virtually defines my ministry. On a helpful, down to earth note, Michael taught me, never to drive faster than he can fly. I hope,God willing, to celebrate the eucharist at St Michael's, Dunedin, on my birthday this year, a journey from age 19-91, still - also God willing - with Louise by my side.
The third of Coventry Cathedral’s permanent Epstein works are the Epstein Door Handles.
I visited the Convent in Cavendish Square, London to see Epstein’s sculpture of the Madonna and Child that is mounted on the bridge linking buildings on two sides of the square. I discovered that in 1950 Louis Osman was the architect responsible for work to restore the bomb-damaged convent buildings. Towards the end of the project he asked Epstein to add cherub’s heads to the door handles that he had designed for the convent.
The four door handles take the form of oval knobs, each bearing the face of a different angel child enclosed in wings. They are based on four child portraits that Epstein had already completed - 'Peter laughing', 'Ian', 'Annabel' and 'Isobel Hughes'.
The Coventry door handles are an identical casting that was made later at the request of Basil Spence.
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On 15th April 2022 the Coventry Cathedral Chorus with the Orchestra Pro Anima and Fine Arts Brass will present
Chilcott: St. John Passion
“It is the austerity, the agony and ultimately the grace of this story that has inspired me to write this piece”. BOB CHILCOTT
Finzi: Lo, the Full, Final Sacrifice
Performance time 6:00pm - 8:30pm (Doors open at 5:15 pm)
DISCOUNT for MEMBERS of the FRIENDS
Tickets £22 and £15 (students and U18s half-price) are available to members of the FRIENDS of Coventry Cathedral at a discount. To benefit from the discount please order your tickets from Jill Pacey –
EMAIL -[email protected] TELEPHONE -01676 532436
The Friends membership application form is available online –