The exterior of the ruins of the old cathedral
The exterior of the modern cathedral
The original St. Michael's Cathedral was constructed between the late 14th century and early 15th century but now stands in ruins, bombed to destruction on November 14, 1940 by the German Luftwaffe during the Second World War. Until [ it was simply the church of St. Michael but after that date was elevated to cathedral status after a revision of the diocese. The new St. Michael's cathedral, built next to the remains of the old, was designed by Basil Spence. The ruin of the older cathedral remains hallowed ground.
Basil Spence (later knighted for this work) insisted that instead of re-building the old cathedral, it should be kept in ruins as a "garden of rememberance" and that the new cathedral should be built alongside, the two buildings together effectively forming one church. The selection of Spence for the work was a result of a competition held in 1950 to find an architect for the new Coventry cathedral of which his design was chosen from over two hundred submitted.
The foundation stone of the new cathedral was laid by the Queen on March 23, 1956, and it was consecrated on May 25, 1962. Its modern design caused some controversy. The unconventional spire (known as a "fleche") was lowered onto the flat roof by helicopter. The interior is notable for a large tapestry of Christ, designed by Graham Sutherland and for the Baptistery window designed by John Piper. This is a stained glass window of abstract design, compounded from many elemental panes, which occupies the full height of one wall.
These were Coventry's second and third cathedrals in it's history. The first cathedral in Coventry was St. Mary's priory and cathedral, which held such status from 1095 when the Bishop's see was moved from Lichfield to Coventry, until 1539 when it fell victim to King Henry VIII's Dissolution of the monasteries. Prior to 1095, it had been a Benedictine monastery, endowed by Earl Leofric and Lady Godiva.