So, just a little over 3 weeks ago now, during half term (how time flies!), I decided to take some time out of revision for my exams (which are all over now, as of yesterday, woo-hoo!), and have a girls’ day out to Coventry – with my mum!
It was quite an interesting journey on the train, going from Nottingham to Coventry, as we got 3 trains each way in total, so changed twice in each direction. The first was the train I get quite a lot, as it’s the one which goes to St. Pancras International in London – it felt so strange only going on that train as far as Leicester, as I usually do the whole journey! We then changed at Leicester and got the next train to Nuneaton, where, because our first train was late and we missed our connection by 5 minutes, we were stranded for almost an hour until the next train which would finally take us the last leg of the journey to Coventry!
As there wasn’t a great deal of stuff to do at Nuneaton Station, we thought we’d take the opportunity to go into the town centre and explore for a bit. We had a coffee in the Caffè Nero there and we also wandered around for a bit. Whilst doing this we noticed a statue of George Eliot, who was an extremely successful Victorian realist writer whose hometown was Nuneaton. George Eliot was actually a woman, born Mary Anne Evans, but wanted to avoid prejudice against her works and any stereotypes that may come with those (e.g. only writing light-hearted romances) on the grounds of gender. Feminism has obviously come on by leaps and bounds since then, at least in the Western World. However, in Victorian times male supremacy was still very much the societal norm in England, so a more gender-neutral pen name was adopted by Eliot so that her writing would be more likely to be taken seriously. George Eliot’s famous works include her contribution to Westminster Review, a leading journal at the time for philosophical radicals, for which she then became editor, and the novels Middlemarch and Adam Bede.
It was then time for us to catch that final train to Coventry, after which we took a brisk walk to the main centre of the city, in search of food! We passed by this lovely Italian restaurant, Etna Ristorante, located in the pedestrianised shopping area, took a glance at the menu and decided to give it a go – we did not regret this decision! We both had a gorgeous, handmade margherita pizza, which I must say was delicious, but I definitely struggled to finish it! 😛
We then decided it was time to go out and explore this beautiful city! In the main square, located in the shopping centre area, there was quite a prominent Lady Godiva statue – I had never heard of her before (I’m not that cultured!), but I later learnt that she lived in the eleventh century and was the wife of an earl. Many variations of the same legend are based on her, but it was originally such that if she rode naked on horseback through the centre of Coventry, her husband would agree to reduce unpopular taxes. Intriguing, huh?!
Coventry, as I came to learn during the trip, is a city which, in its long existence as a settlement, has experienced a great deal of pain and hardship over the years, but has nonetheless turned into a place that has found itself a real sense of identity since. The first example of a place where this was evident was the site of Ford’s Hospital, which was a target of WWII air raids, but has since been restored. It has that classic English Tudor style about it (as you can see in the photo below!) and the fact that it looked genuinely Tudor, as opposed to mock-Tudor, was what really drew me to further investigate it! It also has a beautiful neighbouring garden, which we didn’t have time to go into on this occasion, but is undoubtedly somewhere I’d like to explore in more depth another time!
The little cobbled streets in-between the main shopping centre and the Cathedral were so quaint, and such a joy to walk through – you could just tell that people had been calling this city home for over a thousand years! I always love seeing old sections of cities, which have remained virtually untouched – it provides a glimpse of what life could have been like before technology and mass consumerism took over our society in such a way that it has done today!
We reached the old cathedral of Coventry first, dating back from Medieval times. Fun fact: it has the third-largest spire in England! The Cathedral had been tragically damaged beyond repair, again in an air raid, but the shell of it remains to this day, and is home to many symbolic sculptures. My favourite such sculpture was Reconciliation, which depicts two sorrowful people kneeling down and offering each other comfort in the form of a hug. This was gifted to the city as a token of reconciliation after WWII, as a sign of acknowledgement of all the city had been through, and an identical statue can also be found in Hiroshima, Japan, which was the target of the US’s first Atomic Bomb, resulting in the unnecessary deaths and prolonged sufferings of over 300,000 people. At the site of the altar of the old cathedral stands a sign, simply saying “Father, forgive”. The simplicity of this message is clear: for me, it symbolises the nature of Christianity, that, despite the mass destruction of the city, it is still important that we forgive our enemies for what they have done to us. This, of course, is a fundamental Christian value, practised by Jesus himself as He was being crucified on the cross, as He prayed to God, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they have done”.
The new cathedral is located right next to the old one, and is absolutely stunning – I was blown away by the astonishing interior design as soon as I walked in: it was just so beautiful! 😍😱 None of the pictures I took of the interior really do it justice, but I thought I’d show you them anyway, just to give you a little taste of the magnificence of this building!
I really loved how there was so much to see inside the cathedral, but at the same time it was in no way overwhelming, and it’s a place where Christians and non-Christians could go to for an overall calming and reflective experience. There was an exhibition on The Troubles conflict in Northern Ireland, with a particular focus on Bogside, Derry, there were various optional prayer stations and there was a room on the edge of the cathedral entirely dedicated to prayer. My favourite part of this room was the lovely display of paper peace cranes, replicas of ones made by compassionate children who were victims of the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb, who forgave the people who had inflicted such unnecessary suffering, in the form of cancer, upon them.
Coventry Cathedral is also home to the world’s largest tapestry, which forms the background of the Cathedral’s altar. This for me truly does emphasise God’s abundant presence and majesty, as it is just so massive! It is amazingly complimented within the overall view of the cathedral’s interior from the back, as it’s surrounded by beautiful peripheral stained-glass windows, either side of it.
We then had a little time before it was time to head back home to visit Coventry’s museum of local life, the Herbert Museum. I’d thoroughly recommend it to any fans of history or art, as the displays I saw of it were so insightful and informative – it’s definitely a place I’d come back to, as there was so much to do, and there were some displays which we unfortunately didn’t have time to see before heading home. What’s more, it was FREE to visit – that’s always a plus! 😊
I hope you enjoyed this rather long post on our visit to Coventry – as you can probably tell, we highly enjoyed it!