George Demidowicz on the Old Cathedral

OldCathedralAt the November Coventry Society meeting on the evening of 11th November, George Demidowicz the former City Council Conservation Officer gave a talk about the archaeological discoveries in the Ruins of the old Coventry Cathedral which he was involved with.

In a nutshell – under the floor of the ruins are two medieval chapels that have been suffering from water ingress over the previous ten years. The Cathedral wanted to make repairs to them, dry them out and then open them to the public. To do that they needed to lift the floor that was above them – remove the damaged membrane, insert a drainage system, lay down a new membrane and then put the flag stones back.

Whilst doing all that – they found the exterior wall of the 1250 chapel, then the exterior wall of the 1350 church. This was followed by flagstones from the 18th century which would have made up the floor, the charred remains of the choir stalls destroyed in the  fire of November 1940 (which bizarrely still smelled of burning). Of special interest was the finding of a window which in 1250 would have been facing down towards the cemetery. When the church was extended between 1400-1450 it was no longer a outside window.

While they were doing the work and digging they were able to work out how the church grew over time, being extended in length and width with different chapels being added until it grow to be one of the largest parish churches in the country.

St. Michael’s Church became a Cathedral in 1918 and was burned by incendiary bombing on 14th /15th November 1940, but still stands as an emblem of peace and reconciliation. The new Cathedral designed by Basil Spence was opened in 1962 adjoining the old and the two buildings together act as one Cathedral.

The two medieval chapels are still drying out slowly and hopefully the Cathedral will be able to open them up to the public again in the near future.

The plan above sets out the latest thinking on the development of the building over the years.  For further information you can buy the book from the Cathedral with the full details and photographs.

Fig 56 WAR_HERB_52

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