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Launch of St Michael’s Coventry: The Rise and Fall of the Old Cathedral JUNE 2015

A new book featuring groundbreaking scholarship

A new book featuring groundbreaking scholarship on St Michael’s Cathedral, Coventry, devastated in a German air raid in 1940, was launched on 19 May at Coventry Cathedral in an event that also marked the completion of a major restoration project. 

The evening began with a blessing of the ruins and continued with speeches by The Very Reverend John Witcombe, Dean of Coventry; by Jonathan Foyle, former Chief Executive of the World Monuments Fund, which commissioned the research project which forms the basis of St Michael’s Coventry: The Rise and Fall of the Old Cathedral; and by Jessica Hodge, who edited the book for Scala.

The WMF recently completed work to stabilise and safeguard the deteriorating ruins of St Michael's, after alarming crack appeared in the tower masonry in 2011, and also enabled the conservation of Britain's largest collection of loose medieval stained glass. WMF commissioned the book to re-present and, to borrow the words of Jonathan Foyle in his insightful Introduction, elevate the cathedral’s hidden story. While Coventry Cathedral has huge symbolic value, embodying the horror of war and the power of reconciliation and forgiveness, this publication also sheds light on the history of the ruined cathedral and what was lost in the bombings of 1940. 

Drawing on groundbreaking research, the author George Demidowicz first traces the history of the building from its medieval beginnings and explains the key role the cathedral played in the city, which was a centre of power and wealth in medieval England. Much of the medieval stained glass survive as fragments, having been removed prior to the cathedral’s destruction in 1940, and Heather Gilderdale Scott provides thoughtful analysis of these beautiful artworks. 

This insightful scholarship, together with historical material, some of which is unpublished, and specially commissioned photography, create an informative and handsome tribute. 

Images (from top): 
The polygonal apse today
Commissioned photography courtesy of Andy Marshall

Edward Rudge, Exterior view of St Michael’s from the north-east by Edward Rudge, 1823–25
Herbert Art Gallery and Museum

Head of a virgin saint. 
Commissioned photography courtesy of Andy Marshall