Phoenix from the Ashes: New Life for Coventry Cathedral

  • 16 Apr 2012
  • 5:30 PM - 6:30 PM
  • Meyerson Hall, B1 210 South 34 Street University of Pennsylvania School Design Philadelphia 19104

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"Phoenix from the Ashes: New Life for Coventry Cathedral"

Coventry- famous as the home of Lady Godiva- is the only English city to have had thee separate cathedrals.The first was the only one to have been pulled down at Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries; the second was also unique in Britain in that it was destroyed by a savage bombing raid in World War II. The third cathedral- a modern masterpiece- was completed in 1962 and celebrates its Golden Jubilee in 2012. The record of destruction is such that most people have overlooked the astonishing survivals of art from what - six hundred and fifty years ago- was England's fourth-greatest city. The conclusion explains World Monuments Fund's plans to use those arts to more fully realize the historic value of this city of surprises.

The historic centre of Coventry is often overlooked, but it is the only city in Britain to feature three separate cathedrals. The first, a priory apparently founded by Lady Godiva and Earl Leofric, was the only English cathedral to be destroyed by Henry VIII. Nearby St Michael’s, once the largest parish church of medieval England with the tallest spire, then became the second cathedral from 1918, just 22 years before it was gutted by a devastating raid on the city by the Luftwaffe in November 1940.

Remarkably, the glass from St Michael’s was salvaged a year prior to its bombing: thousands of loose pieces survive to represent the early work of John Thornton of Coventry, the quality of which explains why he was the glazier who was chosen to create York Minster’s East Window, the greatest single medieval window in existence. 

After cleaning and analysis, currently in progress, there is scope to present the glass within a series of empty crypts beneath St Michael’s: one- full of carved stones and human bones- is to be excavated later this year as funding allows.

All visitors to the third Cathedral, a masterpiece of reversioned medieval arts celebrating its Golden Jubilee in 2012, will be the beneficiaries of this enhancement of Coventry's hidden medieval past.


Speaker: Dr. Jonathan Foyle, Chief Executive, World Monuments Fund Britain. the UK arm of a global preservation organization based in New York. His portfolio currently includes Stowe House, Coventry Cathedral and early medieval sites in the North-East of England. 

After a full architectural training, and an MA in History of Art at the Courtauld Institute, Jonathan worked on Canterbury Cathedral and then became Curator of Historic Buildings at Historic Royal Palaces for eight years with responsibility for Hampton Court and Kew Palace: the early history of Hampton Court was the subject of his Ph.D thesis in Archaeology. A frequent broadcaster on historic architecture (including the Broadcast Award-winning Climbing Great Buildings [BBC2]; People’s Palaces: Civic Architecture of the North [BBC4]; Henry VIII: Patron or Plunderer? [BBC4] and many other series in the UK and US), he also writes about buildings for journals such as the FT Weekend. On the basis of this promotion of architecture, Jonathan was awarded an honorary Doctorate in History of Art from the University of Lincoln in 2011. He has recently written and illustrated the first book on the architectural history of Canterbury Cathedral for 30 years, to be published in June 2012. 

The English-Speaking Union of the United States has sponsored Dr Foyle's visit to the United States, he is this years E-S U Evelyn Wrench Speaker 2012. APT DVC wish to thank the E-S U for their generous support of this speaker.