October 24 – Coventry Cathedral, the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum and Lady Godiva

On to a New Housesit in Rayleigh, Essex

Hello from 1066 -A Medieval Mosaic

Today we left Lichfield and headed to our new housesit in Rayleigh in Essex. But first, we wanted to go to Coventry to visit the old and the new cathedral, the Harvey Museum as well as the statue of Lady Godiva which stands in the centre of Coventry.

We had an easy drive down to Coventry using the M6 Toll road. As you drive through the tolls gates you just touch your credit card to the screen and £6.40 comes out of your account. Nice and easy and a lovely piece of motorway follows with four lanes in each direction and brand new roading. Also, there is not much traffic, maybe they are avoiding the toll but it certainly makes driving comfortable. Getting into Coventry was a bit more harrowing with multiple roundabouts, traffic lights and traffic. Usually, we go into cities using the park and ride but as we were only going to be here a few hours before we moved on we parked right in the centre and walked the short distance to the cathedrals.

The city has had three cathedrals. The first was St Mary’s, a monastic building, of which only a few ruins remain. The second was St Michael’s, a 14th-century Gothic church later designated the cathedral, that remains a ruined shell after its bombing during the Second World War. The third is the new St Michael’s Cathedral, built after the destruction of the former.

Prior to 1095, it had been a small Benedictine monastery endowed by Leofric Earl of Mercia and Lady Godiva in 1043. Leofric was probably buried within this Saxon church. The first cathedral in Coventry was St Marys Priory and Cathedral which was built between 1095 and 1102 and stood until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539. St Michael’s was built during the late 14th and early 15th centuries and was elevated to cathedral status in 1918. It now stands in ruins when it was bombed to near destruction during the Coventry Blitz of 14 November 1940. The outer wall, the 90-metre spire and tower are still intact and the bronze effigy and chest tomb of the first Bishop of Coventry Huyshe Yeatman-Biggs also remains. The new St Michael Cathedral was built alongside the remains of the previous cathedral and the foundation stone was laid by Elizabeth II on 23 March 1956. It was designed by Basil Spence and Arup and built by John Laing and is a grade I listed building. The new cathedral was consecrated on 25 May 1962.

The most memorable part of the cathedral for me were the stained glass windows which go from floor to ceiling and faces away from the congregation so to get the best view you need to stand near the altar. The nave windows were designed by Lawrence Lee, Keith New and Geoffrey Clarke and the Baptistry window was designed by John Piper. The colours in these are rather wonderful. All along the nave wall are ten huge stone panels carved with “the Tablets of the Word” and they, the foundation stone and the baptismal font were carved by German letter carver Ralph Beyer. There is also a massive fabric panel behind the altar designed and painted by Graham Sutherland. On the outside of the new cathedral is a wonderful sculpture by Jacob Epstein names “St Michael’s Victory over the Devil”.

In the old cathedral, there is the Charred Cross and the Cross of Nails which were created after WW2 by stonemason Jock Forbes who saw two wooden beams lying in the shape of a cross and tied them together. There are over 330 Cross of Nails centres all over the world and it has become a sign of reconciliation between countries that were once enemies.

Opposite the cathedral is the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. Mike particularly wanted to visit here as they have a Godiva Room with paintings and sculptures dedicated to Lady Godiva. Lady Godiva, Countess of Mercia died between 1066 and 1086. According to legend, she rode naked through the streets of Coventry on a white horse covered only by her long hair. She did this to protest against the oppressive taxes imposed on the people by her husband Leofric, Earl of Mercia. Leofric was a loyal supporter of Edward the Confessor and during an uprising at Gloucester by Earl Godwin in1051, Leofric counselled Edward that battle would be a folly as important men on both sides would be lost leaving England open to its enemies.

Also in the museum were exhibitions on first world war art, T.S. Elliot’s poem – The Waste Land, and one featuring Anselm Kiefer, one of Germany’s most significant post-war artists. There are many exhibitions and displays around the country at the moment with the 100 year anniversary of the end of WW1 coming up on 11 November.  One large drawing in pencil called “The Big Secret 1” by Barbara Walker in 2015 had a blank character in the foreground which depicted the fact that the value of the coloured soldiers during the world wars had been forgotten about. I found this particularly poignant.

After leaving the art gallery we walked to the city square where there was a statue of Lady Godiva which must have been in copper as it was all a greeny blue colour.

We had a few problems getting out of the city as “the lady in the phone” was not giving very helpful directions so we ended up going a little way in the wrong direction until we could find a roundabout and return to the right direction again. It was still a two hour trip to Rayleigh which was uneventful but the motorways were very busy even at 2 pm on a Wednesday. We thought we would stop at the services at South Minns for some lunch and for a while we were in the queue but it was barely moving and miles long as it was also the exit to the A1M so we gave up in the end or we might still be there. LOL.

We arrived at our housesit in Raleigh and Lynn met us. We also met Billy the cat who is 19 years old. He is completely deaf and sleeps most of the time but still a good eater. We will have to make sure we don’t sneak up on him and give him a fright since he cannot hear us coming. After having a good look around the house and having a nice chat we walked into Rayleigh with Lynn to acquaint ourselves with the area. The train runs right along the back of the house and we could be in London in an hour. Our room is downstairs and has a desk and a couch as well so we will be very comfortable. We also talked to Lynn about geocaching and on our walk, we found a church micro which was her very first geocache. I think she would enjoy our hobby as she likes to travel.

We had an early night as Lynn had to get up at 4.30 for her flight and I was exhausted as I didn’t sleep much last night.