Old map showing a plan of the Cathedral.


The Bishop of Coventry taking the Eight O'clock Holy Communion service in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral.


A surviving medieval pinnacle stands among the ruins.

© Historic England AA44/13780

The remains of the chapel on the north side of the cathedral.

© Historic England AA44/13747

The remains of Coventry Cathedral after the 1940 Blitz.


Inspecting the damage to the roof the Cathedral, Coventry, following the Luftwaffe's air raid on the 14th October 1940, killing 22 people and injured 96 others.


View over the remains of the medieval cathedral, 11 October 1941

© Historic England AA44-13725/3

King George VI visited Coventry and spent four hours sharing in the city's sorrow as he tramped through bombed streets deep in mud and rubble.


Inside the ruins of Coventry Cathedral in England, destroyed by German air raids in 1940, wounded U.S. soldiers attend a Mother’s Day service on May 13, 1945, a few days after the end of World War II. The men are patients from nearby convalescent hospitals. 

AP Photo / https://flashbak.com/


Provost Howard surveyed the burning rubble the morning after he was on the cathedral's roof attempting to protect it from the incendiary bombs. That morning, a decision was made to reconstruct the cathedral. According to Provost Howard's perspective, rebuilding wouldn't be a symbol of defiance but rather of faith, trust, and optimism in the future of the entire globe.

On Christmas Day 1940, Provost Dick Howard stated that after the war ended, there should be a pledge "to build a kinder, more Christlike world," during a BBC radio broadcast from the ruins.

Provost Howard on Christmas Day, 1940, conducting a service held in the ruins and broadcast nationally, by the BBC.


Jock Forbes, the cathedral stonemason, discovered two of the burned mediaeval ceiling timbers had fallen in the shape of a cross not long after the catastrophe.

The stirring words "Father Forgive" were engraved on the Sanctuary wall when he set them up in the ruins, where they were eventually placed on a pile of debris as an altar.

Another cross was created by the Rev. Arthur Wales, a local priest, using three mediaeval nails.

The Cross of Nails, which was created using three nails from the mediaeval timbers of the collapsed roof, became a compelling representation of that devotion and is now recognised as a symbol of peace and reconciliation by people all over the world.


What do you think of the proposal that we should band together to join a Society of Friends of Coventry? questioned the mayor of Kiel, Germany, in a local newspaper two years after the war ended, following a meeting with a British army officer.

Coventry answered the call. The first official Anglo-German inter-city exchange took place on September 14, 1947, when a delegation from Coventry, including the mayor, a trade union representative, and Provost Howard, carried a Cross of Nails.

Provost Howard presents an original Cross of Nails to a visiting delegation in 1941.


Communities received replica crosses and vowed to work and pray for peace, justice, and reconciliation as new connections with post-war Germany were made and ties between Coventry and the cities of Kiel, Dresden, and Berlin established.

Since the war, Coventry Cathedral has worked locally, nationally, and internationally to spread a message of reconciliation. The Community of the Cross of Nails works and prays for peace and reconciliation in their respective contexts with 190 partner churches, schools, and other organisations spread throughout 30 nations. This ministry is the result of a triple commitment to mending the scars of the past, embracing diversity and learning to live with difference, and fostering a culture of peace.


In 1941, conditions for the construction of a new cathedral in Coventry were published. Surprisingly, they disregarded both the Cathedral Council's suggestion that it blend in with the remaining tower and spire and the recommendation of Lord Harlech's 1947 commission that the new cathedral be built in the gothic style. The door was now open for a more modernist approach.

View of the new cathedral under construction, taken 6 August 1958 from the surviving tower of the original cathedral. The building company, John Laing and Son, profoundly shaped post-war Britain

© Historic England/JLP01/01/026/09.

The Coventry Cathedral design competition's winner was revealed. The Scottish architect Basil Spence, who was at the time best known for creating the Sea & Ships pavilion on London's South Bank, was chosen by the three assessors, all of whom were architects chosen by the Royal Institute of British Architects.

While not all comments were positive, the Bishop of Coventry said, "It is the one I should have chosen myself".

March 23, 1956. The New Cathedral's foundation stone was laid by Queen Elizabeth II. Just a few years later in 1962, the new Cathedral is consecrated in a grand ceremony, once more with the Queen in attendance.

The consecration ceremony in 1962.


The rebuilt Cathedral in the 1960's.

David Duhig


The bombing raids in April 1941 caused significant damage to Coventry. According to sources, 451 people were killed and hundreds more were injured. Numerous structures suffered damage, notably Christ Church, of which only the steeple was left standing. Ten direct hits were made to the Coventry & Warwickshire Hospital, which resulted in the deaths of patients and staff and the building suffering immense damage.

Additional structures such as factories, the main police station, King Henry VIII School, and St. Mary's Hall were also damaged. Four of the city's six George Medals for courage were awarded that week.

Present day Coventry Cathedral.

A service in the cathedral to commemorate the victims of the Blitz.


The preserved ruined chancel with the Altar of Reconciliation built from the cathedral’s bombed remains. The words ‘Father Forgive’ were inscribed in 1948.

© Roger Davies

Further reading