Coventry Cathedral is recognised today as one of Britain‘s greatest post-war buildings. Using a wealth of rarely-seen archive film, together with voices from yesterday and today, Coventry Cathedral: Building For A New Britain tells the story of the rebuilding of the cathedral following its destruction in 1940.
Presented as part of the BBC’s programming around the Coventry UK City of Culture 2021 and narrated by Pauline Black, the lead singer of the Coventry band The Selecter.
In November 1940, German bombers destroyed much of the city centre of Coventry and reduced the city’s medieval cathedral to rubble. Immediately after the air raid, Reverend Richard Howard, Provost of Coventry Cathedral, made a commitment to rebuild the cathedral. In 1951 the architect Basil Spence won the competition to design the new cathedral, built in a bold, modern style, incorporating the ruins of the old cathedral and adorned with a wealth of modern artworks. Despite the opposition of the local council, shortage of funds, and major architectural challenges, the new building was consecrated in the presence of Queen Elizabeth just a decade later in May 1962.
The cathedral contains works of art commissioned from some of the major artists of the 1950s. Graham Sutherland designed the vast tapestry of Christ In Glory, John Piper and Patrick Reyntiens created a glorious multicoloured window for the Baptistery, and John Hutton carved angels and saints into a huge glass screen for the main entrance.
The cathedral was a key element of the post-war reconstruction of Coventry, which also saw the city create an innovative pedestrian precinct, build many new homes, schools and hospitals, as well as open the Belgrade Theatre and the Herbert Art Gallery.
Airs 9 June 2021 at 9.00pm on BBC Four.