COVENTRY CATHEDRAL WAS filled to capacity for all three evenings of January's Ghosts in the Ruins.
The performance began in the new Cathedral where amongst other participants the Cathedral Choir excelled at the world premiere of the music composed by Nitin Sawhney. The nave walls were brilliantly lit with Mark Murphy’s image collages of Coventry people and local events that complemented the music. It was an evening of reflection on themes of healing, resilience, and reconciliation.
As the evening progressed the Cathedral Choir moved into the Cathedral Ruins and joined the community voices of Spires Choir and the Choir With No Name for the piece’s dramatically lit climax. Ghosts In The Ruins was commissioned by Coventry Cathedral and the Coventry City of Culture Trust as part of Coventry UK City of Culture 2021. It was supported by funding from the Arts Council and by a funding grant from the FRIENDS.
RICHARD SADLER WAS the Cathedral’s first official photographer. In 1961 he was appointed by Provost Williams to record the final stages of construction and the completed Cathedral architecture.
Richard died in 2020. He left a tremendous photo archive and for the last year the FRIENDS have been working with Coventry Photo Miners and Richard’s family to make his Cathedral photos available in time for the Cathedral Diamond Jubilee.
Pioneering Coventry: the post-war photography of Richard Sadler
is the overall title of three exhibitions of the Richard Sadler collection of Coventry photographs now made possible with assistance from the City of Culture Trust. The exhibitions are in the Old Grammar School, Hales Street and are
Pioneering People: Sadler and the City (8th February)
Pioneering Industry: Sadler and Courtaulds (15th March)
Pioneering Arts: Sadler and the Cathedral (24th April to 31st May)
The Cathedral photos catch moments in Cathedral life that will never be repeated. They are an exciting record. You will not want to miss them.
Sadler Cathedral photos show the nave windows reflected in marble floors that shine like mirrors. At Baginton Airport the pictures catch the arrival of the Tapestry from France and workmen carrying it into the building. High overhead the helicopter is seen delivering the fleche and the Flying Angel. As you can see in the photo above, Richard Sadler watched the Tapestry face of Christ peering over the dust sheet when it was lowered for the first time after Cathedral building work finished. Amongst many individuals his camera captured Basil Spence, Bishop Bardsley, Yehudi Menuhin, David Lepine, Einar Forseth, Susan Hill. The exhibition includes these and many other subjects.
The exhibition of Cathedral photos has been arranged by the FRIENDS in celebration of the Cathedral's Diamond Jubilee. It will open from Tuesday to Sunday between 24th April and 31st May. Each day has two 3 hour sessions - 10am to 4pm.
The Cathedral Photo Exhibition is an opportunity for members of the FRIENDS to assist.
A number of Coventry City Hosts will be present each day for security purposes. It would be ideal if at each session we could find an additional steward familiar with the Cathedral’s story to answer any visitor questions.
Please let me know if you can spare one or more 3 hour sessions during the five weeks of the Cathedral Exhibition.
FRIENDS Organ Appeal
GRAND TOTAL - £20,000
The response by members to the FRIENDS’ Double Your Money offer towards the Cathedral Organ Fund was tremendous. Thank you!
By the time the FRIENDS’ offer closed a grand total of £20,000 was raised. This figure takes into account Gift Aid (and a little rounding up!).
Members should not feel left out if they missed the FRIENDS’ special offer, as the Cathedral Organ Fund Appeal continues and your help is still needed to reach the £1m target. Donations can be sent to Coventry Cathedral either direct or through the FRIENDS address.
For members who have not yet registered on the website.
When you log on to friendsofcoventrycathedral.org.uk
you subscribe by entering your email address. (You are already a member so you do not need to join again.) You can set your own password. This gives you exclusive access to members’ material in the Members Memorabilia section.
A treat awaits you!
A Consecration Day Puzzle
What is missing?
In 2022 we celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of the Cathedral Consecration so here is a Consecration puzzle.
This 1962 postcard was sold on Consecration Day, but the photo was taken before the building was completed. Can you identify the unfinished items that are missing from this picture?
There are six major omissions. The answers are at the end of the newsletter.
Would you like to leave a legacy or bequest to the Friends of Coventry Cathedral?
This newsletter tells a little of the valuable work of the FRIENDS in supporting Coventry Cathedral. Your legacy or bequest can further this work.
Bequests to churches and charities are exempt from inheritance tax. The Friends Council hopes that you will consider the Friends of Coventry Cathedral when making or revising your will. It is a registered UK charity.
Your solicitor or professional adviser will ensure that your wishes are followed, and they can advise on the effects of gifts of shares and property.
If you would like to support the historic fabric and ministry of Coventry Cathedral through the FRIENDS, together we can ensure that Coventry Cathedral continues to be available to future generations. You may like to use the following form of words –
I give the sum of £………. to … OR I devise and bequeath all of my estate absolutely to … OR I devise and bequeath a ……… share of the residue of my estate to … The Friends of Coventry Cathedral (reg. charity no. 1061176), 1 Hill Top, Coventry CV1 5AB for its general purposes. The receipt of the Treasurer or other Officer of the Friends of Coventry Cathedral will discharge my executors.
Anyone making or amending a will is advised to seek appropriate professional advice.
AT EPIPHANY MEMBERS of the congregation presented the three gifts of the Magi to be added to the Christmas Crib during the service.
THE CONGREGATION GATHERED at the Bethlehem font at the end of the Candlemas service marking the Presentation of Christ in the Temple.
Epstein: Stories in Stone
19th March – 31st May
THIS JACOB EPSTEIN exhibition in the Cathedral sponsored by the Coventry City of Culture Trust will bring together examples of the artist's work from many collections. It will include the famously controversial sculpture Jacob and the Angel from Tate Britain. The FRIENDS have made a supporting grant towards the exhibition.
In the 1950s Epstein's appointment as a sculptor for Coventry Cathedral was widely described in the press as controversial. Whenever I read that expression I was puzzled as for a long time my only experience of the sculptor was the statuesque figure of St Michael overlooking the Cathedral entrance steps. It was only later when I read his biography that I understood just how controversial a figure he was.
We are soon to see his sculpture “Jacob and the Angel” in Coventry Cathedral. That piece was central to one of the most heated public controversies that dogged Epstein’s career, so it is important to look at Epstein’s controversial past in a little more detail.
Epstein was born on 10 November 1880 in New York, of Polish-Jewish parentage. He settled in London in 1905 where he lived and worked until his death in 1959.
Before Covid-19 hit us all I spent a day in London viewing examples of Epstein’s public work. In The Strand I saw the remnants of the greatest controversy that at the start of Epstein’s public work set the tone to be adopted by the media whenever any new Epstein sculpture was later unveiled. In 1907 he received the commission for 18 larger than life sculptured figures to decorate a new BMA building in the Strand. (Today that building is the Zimbabwe Embassy.) The theme was The Ages Of Man.
Passers-by just stood and stared at the naked bodies
The sight of the first four naked figures that he sculpted produced furiously explosive criticism from the Evening Standard. “…they are a form of statuary which no careful father would wish his daughter, or no discriminating man wish his fiancée, to see….The question arises how they were permitted to be erected…” This started a fierce storm of criticism across the popular press. A similar outbreak was to greet every new Epstein sculpture for the next 30 years. It blighted his career.
When the storm of criticism began the Metropolitan police were asked to prepare a report. Sightseers stood up on open top buses to get a better view of the figures sited 50 feet above street level. The Bishop of Stepney declared the figures to be decent, while correspondents from across the country expressed opposite views in the press. Leading art critics voiced their support. Some religious groups and many tabloid press editorials expressed opposition. Young Epstein was called to explain himself to the BMA. In spite of all this, the sculpted figures survived - and the debate continued.
a.The figure of "Nature". b.Workmen hacking off extremities. c.Today
In 1935 the government of Southern Rhodesia bought the BMA building. The High Commissioner announced that the Epstein sculptures were to be removed, and the controversy re-ignited. With loud voices in support of both sides of the argument, the building’s owners backed off and took no action. Two years later during the removal of decorations attached to the statues in celebration of King George VI’s coronation, a statue head was dislodged. Now, in the interests of public safety, the “extremities” of all the statues were removed (ie hacked off).
As the building originally belonged to the BMA, Epstein could not argue that amputation is inappropriate (Birmingham Daily Gazette, 3 August 1937).
Epstein wrote, “Anyone passing along the Strand can now see, as on some antique building, the mutilated fragments of my decoration.”
Epstein’s “Jacob and the Angel” is a work from 1941. This sculpture dealing with a Biblical subject was once viewed as shocking on account of its sensual and sexual undertones. The popular press weighed in from all directions. ‘Epstein Turns Out New Six-Tonner’, read the Daily Sketch headline while the Daily Mail asked: ‘Is this a miracle or a monstrosity?’
After its first exhibition this statue spent more years as an exhibit in sensational shows and in a Blackpool waxworks than in any art galleries or museums. The public’s disapproving curiosity proved to be really good for business. People queued to see ‘Epstein’s Latest Sensation’ that was labelled ‘Adults Only’. In just ten days on show in Oxford Street, London with three other Epstein sculptures the carving earned the promoter £500 in admission fees and was seen by more than 50,000 people.
As the years went by the work of Jacob Epstein was reassessed and his past sculptures ceased to be considered so controversial – even if some elements of the past controversies and prejudices still survive.
“St Michael and the Devil” was one of Epstein's final works. It was unveiled at the Cathedral in 1960, one year after Epstein’s death. In 1961 the Edinburgh Festival Society mounted a comprehensive Epstein Memorial Exhibition with over 230 exhibits. There was another slightly smaller Memorial Exhibition at the Tate Gallery, London the same year. By 1962 and the date of the Cathedral Consecration there had been a general re-assessment of Epstein assisted by these retrospective collections of his work.
St Michael and the Devil In Edinburgh 1961
The 1961 Edinburgh Exhibition featured several of Epstein’s works with links to Coventry Cathedral. A plaster cast of “St Michael and the Devil” was suspended in welcome high above the Exhibition entrance, the original having already been installed on the Cathedral wall.
Amongst the Edinburgh exhibits was “Ecce Homo” that was to be given to Coventry Cathedral in 1969 and today stands in the Cathedral Ruins.
“Christ in Majesty” (plaster cast) was also on display. Today the original of this sculpture adorns the organ loft of Llandaff Cathedral, but during the 1962 Consecration Festival of the Arts that cast was part of the exhibition “Our Daily Bread” arranged by the Coventry Council of Churches. This exhibition, on the site of the old static water tank opposite the Golden Cross, demonstrated the response of the church to the needy.
Four of the Coventry Cathedral door handles are adorned with Epstein’s child portraits. The Memorial Exhibition included three of the heads ('Peter laughing', 'Ian' and 'Annabel') on which they are based.
None of these works seems controversial to me.
As for Jacob And The Angel?
At the Epstein Exhibition we will all be able to judge that for ourselves.
PRINCE ALBERTLOOKS down from his Memorial at the Cathedral Choristers as they take a break before returning to the Royal Albert Hall to sing in Mahler's 8th in 1984 (above). On a more light hearted note the 1985 service pictured on the right featured the Holy Fools (see the clown in the background?).
All former choristers of Coventry Cathedral Choir are invited to the Grand Reunion taking place in May this year. To find out more about this event choristers are invited to get in touch with Mike Smith, who is the event coordinator. The date is drawing close!
Mike Smith’s contact email address is -
The Friends membership application form is available online –
BROKEN ANGEL - Part 2.
The second artist in the Broken Angel Project is Barbara Walker. Her work will be seen at the Cathedral from 3rd March to 12th June 2022. More details next month. The FRIENDS has made a grant towards the Broken Angel Project. This Project invites artists to respond to the space left by the vandalised John Hutton angel in the west screen.
Bishop Vivienne Faull
In July 2021 the Archbishops appointed two bishops to the brief of championing cathedrals and church buildings. Our former Canon, Vivienne Faull, who is now Bishop of Bristol will focus on cathedrals and on representing the opportunities and needs of church buildings in parliament via her work in the House of Lords, whilst Andrew Rumsey, Bishop of Ramsbury, will focus on parish churches and on the public profile.
What is missing ?
1 High altar cross
2 High altar candles
4 Great lectern
5 Sanctuary candles
6 Choir stalls
Other gaps. At the date of the photo the sound system was awaited, and the altar rail was not quite complete. The Lady Chapel screen was not erected until 1965.