A message from the Chairman of
The Friends of Coventry Cathedral
The Bishop and clergy pay homage at the Christmas Crib during the Christmas Eve service "Form Of A Servant".
For Unto Us A Child Is Born
A Chapel of Reconciliation
THE COVENTRY CROSS of nails stands on the altar of the newly-dedicated Chapel of Reconciliation in Southwark Cathedral.
Just before Christmas the Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, assisted by the Bishop of Croydon, the Rt Revd Dr Rosemarie Mallett, dedicated the Chapel of St Francis and St Elizabeth in Southwark Cathedral as the Chapel of Reconciliation.
Borough Market stands almost alongside Southwark Cathedral. You may recall that in June 2017 three Islamic terrorists drove a van into pedestrians on London Bridge before stabbing people in Borough Market. That day eight people died and 48 were injured.
In his homily, Bishop Christopher paid tribute to the victims of the London Bridge terror attack. "We do so with great sadness and heavy hearts because not only do we bear the scars of the London Bridge terror attack more than five years ago, remembering those who perished, those who endured life changing injuries, those who were traumatised along with their families, colleagues and friends," he said. "But we do so with renewed sorrow because only last week two more young people from South London, Kearne Solanke and Charlie Bartolo, became themselves tragic victims of knife crime - and we pray for them and their families in their devastating loss and grief".
In 2020, a month before the Covid-19 lockdown, Southwark Cathedral joined the Community of the Cross of Nails, in remembrance of all those who have been victims of violent crime and terrorism “and” Bishop Christopher said, “as a pledge of our common commitment to work and pray for peace, justice and reconciliation. This we do through seeking to heal the wounds of violent crime, through learning to live with difference and to celebrate diversity, seeking to build a culture of peace.”
I called at Southwark Cathedral a few days after the service of dedication and was shown the Chapel of Reconciliation by Paul Timms, the head verger, on the right in the photograph. Paul was formerly the head verger at Coventry, and asked to be remembered to his many Cathedral friends still in Coventry.
Heritage record rescued
ARTHUR COOPER was a Coventry-based freelance photographer. I first met him in the 1960s when he was a regular visitor to Coventry Cathedral to take photos of staff, dramatic productions, VIP visitors, and significant events of all sorts. We became friends, and he even appeared with his camera at my wedding!
Arthur’s photos were published in a number of Midlands local newspapers and occasionally in Cathedral publications too. He died about 30+ years ago, though I am uncertain of the date.
Some ten years ago a bundle of his glass negatives was discovered and then rescued from a skip in Coventry and the negatives eventually ended up with MirrorPix, the organisation that holds the largest press photographic collection in the UK. There were over 8,000 Arthur Cooper glass negatives , the bulk of which were taken in Coventry between the mid-1950s and the mid-1960s. A number of the negatives are water damaged. MirrorPix digitised them all.
For help in identifying and captioning the digital images MirrorPix turned to Coventry Photo Miners, the local organisation that aims to preserve Coventry’s photo heritage. Photo Miners in turn sought the help of members of the Coventry Society, the Friends of Coventry Cathedral and of other local citizens keen on our heritage.
Members of the Friends of Coventry Cathedral went through the huge collection and identified some 700 photographs that relate to the Cathedral and its Bishops. Those photographs are now available for you to view on the website Coventry Digital.
You can find all 700 pictures on the Coventry Digital website menu if you look for Collections – Arthur Cooper/Coventry Cathedral. Your help to add to the photo captions, or to correct any errors in them would be greatly appreciated. It would also be helpful to hear from anyone who can provide more information about Arthur Cooper himself. Comments can be sent by email to Coventry Photo Miners at - [email protected]
STOP PRESS - I am told that this story will be featured on both BBC CWR and BBC Midlands TV on the 3rd January 2023.
Once the winter weather is behind us the Friends Council has arranged a Friendly Monday to give us all the opportunity to meet with and get to know Canon Mary Gregory, the newest of the Cathedral Residentiary Canons. Mary is the Canon for Arts and Reconciliation.
LAST MONTH I wrote about the new leaflet that is being prepared for non-English speaking visitors to Coventry Cathedral. There was a good response to the appeal for volunteers to translate it, but more help is needed.
If you know of someone able to translate a simple leaflet into German, French, Spanish, Mandarin, Korean, Hindi, and maybe Ukrainian or Russian or another similar Eastern European language please get in touch with Carla, who looks after the Cathedral's facilities for visitors.
Carla can be contacted by email at [email protected]
Come and join anew
THIS YEAR EACH UK cathedral is having to change its constitution and register its details with the Charity Commission. If you would like to take part in the new Coventry Cathedral constitution, simply join the Cathedral electoral roll and let your voice be heard.
In Coventry Cathedral a formal 28 day consultation period starts on 3rd January 2023, when notices will be posted throughout the Cathedral and details will appear on the Cathedral website. As part of the changes the old Cathedral Chapter will be disbanded and a new Cathedral Chapter set up in its place. Just join the electoral roll and you will be able to choose your preferred candidate. More information will be given to the Cathedral Community on 22nd January after the Sunday morning service.
A simple process. The application form for the electoral roll is online. Paper copies are also available from the Cathedral Offices. For an online copy just Google “Electoral Roll Application Form”. Complete the form and send it to Coventry Cathedral, 1 Hill Top, Coventry CV1 5AB. That is all there is to it.
AT THE LAST Coventry University graduation ceremony of 2022 in the Cathedral, nurse May Parsons was given an Endeavour Award to go with her Msc in Global Health Management.
May hit the news headlines as the first person in the world to deliver the Covid-19 vaccine (Pfizer/BioNTech) to a patient after clinical trials had concluded satisfactorily. On 8th December 2020 the vaccine was given to 90 year old Margaret Keenan at the university Hospital, Coventry.
The Endeavour Award was given for May’s extensive contribution to nursing.
6:00pm-8:30pm Tickets £22/£15
To take advantage of FRIENDS SPECIAL PRICES for Coventry Cathedral Chorus concerts please order them from Jill Pacey who is the singer responsible for direct ticket sales. Her email address is [email protected]
Cathedral Christmas Gifts
AT CHRISTMAS THE Cathedral Archives received two historical documents that relate back to the Cathedral’s Consecration in 1962.
The Coventry Cathedral Consecration was celebrated over many weeks with a Diocese-wide Festival of the Arts, Sports and other local events. As part of the celebrations the Cathedral Festival Committee commissioned new music from Michael Tippett (the opera King Priam), Benjamin Britten (the War Requiem) and Sir Arthur Bliss (The Beatitudes).
The premiere of this latter work took place in the Coventry Theatre on the actual day of the Consecration, 25th May 1962.
Sir Arthur Bliss was pre-eminent amongst the composers of the day. He had been Master of the Queen’s Musick since 1953. It is said that he was disappointed that The Beatitudes cantata was never performed in Coventry Cathedral during his lifetime. In 1962 the building could not be readied in time for rehearsals and for a concert on Consecration Day itself.
In a later interview he said, “My task was to measure the breath-taking scope of the new building, so I wrote it on a very large scale.” The cantata was finally performed in Coventry Cathedral in the Cathedral’s Golden Jubilee Year, 2012.
(left) Original scores of Britten's "War Requiem" used at the 1962 premiere.
(centre) A signed copy of the first printed score of "The Beatitudes"
Now the Cathedral Archives has been gifted a copy of the first published score of this work that is made special by the addition of the composer’s signature that he dated November 1962.
The second Archives’ acquisition that relates to 1962 is a copy in four parts of the score from which the premiere performances of Britten’s War Requiem were sung.
In his book “The Idea Was Good” it was revealed by Michael Foster that Britten lacked confidence in the musical ability of the Festival Chorus to tackle his new composition, mainly because of the stipulation laid down by the Cathedral Festival Committee that the Chorus be drawn from local amateur choirs.
To allow the amateur singers more time to rehearse, very unusually, the War Requiem score was released to the singers piecemeal as Britten completed each section. (Even then when it came to the premiere performances Britten insisted on boosting the Chorus with 16 professional singers in whom he had total confidence – an acknowledgment that his music is not easy to sing without full rehearsal.)
Boosey & Hawkes were Britten’s publishers, and they supplied four separate part-score books to the local choirs on loan. The final part of War Requiem was completed too late for the publication of a full score in time for the premiere, so the premiere was sung in Coventry Cathedral from the four part-score books. The singers came up with many ingenious ways to hold all four books together and to make them one.
The publishers supplied the various choirs with four books on loan and required the singers to return them after the two Coventry performances. Clearly, not all of the part scores were returned, because a member of the Friends of Coventry Cathedral spotted a set of the original four scores in one of Charles Hanson’s recent public auctions. He was successful in the purchase and presented them to the Cathedral Archives as a Christmas gift.
Let there be light!
COVENTRY CITY COUNCILLORS are currently considering a £1.8m scheme to enhance safety in the city centre by improving building facades and lighting in ways that also promote its visual appeal. The programme includes improvements in the lighting around the Cathedral.
It is a twelve month project, and a decision is expected by the end of this month.
St Michael’s – a Royal Church
ST MICHAEL’S CHURCH in Coventry was once the Monarch’s favourite church.
That was back in the 16th century when King Henry VI was the Monarch. After Henry's death petitions were submitted to the Pope requesting that Saint Henry be canonised. Today in Coventry, near the Cathedral, there exists the last great relic of that Cult of Saint Henry.
It all started in the early years of the Wars of the Roses when the Royal Court moved to Coventry, and St Michael’s Church became its favoured place of worship. King Henry VI and his wife, Margaret of Anjou, stayed in the Midlands for almost three years, because within the city walls of Coventry they felt safe and protected from London’s civil disturbances.
Coventry as drawn in 1576 by William Smyth.
In the sixteenth century there were no news reporters and paparazzi on hand to record the Royal visits to St Michael’s, but, rather exceptionally, in the city records we can read a detailed account of King Henry’s visit to attend service at St Michael’s in 1541.
On 21st September 1541 the King travelled to Coventry from Leicester. Both cities were strong supporters of the Lancastrian cause, and they had each raised armies of citizens to defend their cities in case of attack by the Yorkists.
Interestingly, on the occasion of this Royal Visit the Mayor of Coventry Mayor took the opportunity to write a civic handbook of the welcome etiquette to be adopted for visiting royalty. Mayor Richard Boys wore scarlet and the fellow members of the city council wore green gowns with red hoods. They knelt three times before the King saying, “Most highest and gracious king, welcome from your true liege men with all our hearts.”
In 1541 the King stayed at St Mary’s Priory. On the King’s arrival the Recorder of Coventry presented him with gifts of a barrel of wine and twenty fat oxen. The King stayed at the Priory for nine days.
On the 28th September the King sent one of the courtiers (the “clerk of his closet”) to St Michael’s Church to prepare a room for the King because he intended to attend service the following day. The Mayor had learned in advance of the King’s intention to attend worship, so he had already invited the Bishop of Winchester to attend and officiate.
On Michaelmas Day, the Patronal Festival, the King walked to St Michael’s Church in solemn procession. At the head of the procession through St Michael’s churchyard walked the “clerks of Bablake”. They were followed by lines of colourfully robed civic dignitaries. The Mayor carried the civic mace in front of the Royal party. The King walked slowly with great dignity. He was bare-headed and wore a gown of gold tissue edged with sable fur.
Later that day after the Michaelmas Evensong the King sent to St Michael’s Church two “yeomen of the crown” together with two other servants. They had instructions to hand over to the church the King’s gown lined with fur. It was the King’s gift to God and to St Michael.
The King’s visit was particularly significant in the administrative life of Coventry for, before leaving the Priory, the grateful King granted to the City of Coventry the status of a County. In practice this meant self-government.
Modern historians generally regard the reign of Henry VI as a failure, so it is somewhat surprising that in the years after his death he came to be regarded informally amongst the general population as a saint – a fact of which there is abundant evidence in Coventry.
(left) A print of
King Henry VI
the design of the
St Mary's Hall
But if the historians are correct and Saint Henry was not a great king, what was it that made him so popular with the people of Coventry after his death?
The answer lies in his personal qualities. He had always led a strict and pious life, and people admired his gentleness, compassion and leniency. He was generous to the poor, often pardoned criminals, and he abhorred violence. As far as ordinary citizens were concerned, all these personal qualities made him accessible.
Henry died in 1471, and after his death people began to petition him in prayer when they faced adversity. Miraculous things happened in response. Over the following eighty years the word of the miracles spread, causing the numbers visiting his tomb to grow and grow. Before long more pilgrims were visiting King Henry VI’s tomb in Windsor than were visiting the tomb of Thomas a Becket in Canterbury.
Later English Monarchs witnessed his popularity and responded in turn by joining the crowds of pilgrims. Three Popes in succession were petitioned by English monarchs to confer sainthood upon King Henry. That process came to an abrupt end, however, when Henry VIII fell out with the Church of Rome, and in the years that followed that fallout the worship of King Henry VI slowly petered out.
A book containing detailed information about 300 of Saint Henry’s miracles was written and presented in support of the application to the Vatican for sainthood. His miracles were usually in response to critical emergencies, when people sought divinely sympathetic intervention.
Today Coventry houses the greatest surviving relic in all England of the cult of Saint Henry. It is in St Mary’s Hall, near the Cathedral Ruins, where the Coventry tapestry that was created by Flemish weavers is displayed on the wall in the same position where it was placed in 1500. The tapestry shows King Henry and his Queen, Margaret of Anjou, kneeling in prayer. The stained glass window above the Coventry tapestry includes Saint Henry and his ancestors.
So not only was St Michael’s Church favoured by the Royal family, but in St Mary’s Hall next door was Coventry’s own place of devotion to Saint Henry.
IN 2022 THE Friends of Coventry Cathedral sponsored an exhibition of Richard Sadler’s photos of the Cathedral taken in the late 1950s and early 1960s that was mounted in the Old Grammar School, Hales Street.
During January 2023 a further selection of Richard’s photos can be seen on display at CommonGround in Fargo Village, Coventry. The photos were all taken around Coventry.
If you are not familiar with CommonGround, it is a multi-purpose art space where you can drink coffee, enjoy a snack and view curated exhibitions. There is a range of gifts for sale, and regular events are mounted there through the year.
The Richard Sadler photo exhibition of his Cathedral photographs is still available to members of the Friends online in the Memorabilia section of the Friends website.
Dame CLARE MARX
I was saddened to read of the death of Clare Marx on 27th November 2022 at the age of 68 years.
The Marx family were members of the Cathedral congregation from the early 1960s, and will be remembered by many of the older members of the Friends. Brenda, her mother, was a member of the Friends and as a local magistrate she played a full part in the life of both the city and the Cathedral.
Clare qualified as a doctor and moved to London. She was a leading surgeon and became the first woman President of the Royal College of Surgeons before moving on to become the first woman to chair the General Medical Council since its founding in 1858.