Battlefield History Tours

Battlefield History Tours
Incorporating History and Heritage tours


 
Cathedrals and Abbeys of England on 12 September 2019

  

Our visits today did take us to 2 incredible Cathedrals, one nearly destroyed by the battles in and around it during the Civil War and the other a new Cathedral to replace that destroyed in November 1940 by German Bombers, those Cathedrals are Lichfield Cathedral and Coventry Cathedral. Origins of Lichfield Cathedral lie in the building of a Church in 700 at a shrine for St Chad. Prior to Bishop Chad arriving there was a War Lord King of the Mercians that took control of all the midlands and south to the sea and they held the area for 300 years until 605AD. Bishop Chad arrived in 669 and settled the area from those previously turbulent years. He actually became the Patron Saint of Lichfield and a book in 671 by Bede detailed how Chad was liked by all. Chad only lasted 2.75 years before he succumbed to the plague.

When Chad died, being classified as a Saint but was not given Sainthood by the Pope, it was said that miracles were seen to happen around his grave. Pilgrims heard of these miracles and they started to flock to Lichfield. Chads bones were kept in a box and the Pilgrims wanted to pray nearby. There were so many visiting that a special area was set up so that more could pray in the vicinity of the bones. At the Reformation Henry’s Commissioners came to steal all the riches of the Cathedral and to close it down. To save the bones in the shrine, they were hidden in a local home where 2 sisters lived. From then the bones disappeared but in 2003 when a hole was being excavated as part of an addition to the cathedral, a building was uncovered which had a box with bones within. Following carbon dating it was ascertained that the bones were from 700AD and therefore may be the relics of Chad?

From 1085 until the twin spires were finished in 1327 there were many changes and additions, and most are preserved to this day. In 1643 till 1646 the Cathedral and the fort surrounding it were fought over by the opposing forces in the Civil War and much damage was done to the exterior and interior of then Cathedral. Following Charles the 2nd resuming the Crown he, with the help of Christopher Wren refurbished the Cathedra l. It is said that he did this as his father was a great supporter of the Cathedral. The Cathedral still fell upon bad times until 1850 to 1911 when the Victorians engaged Gilbert Scott to again refurbish the Cathedral and much we see there today reflects the work done then.

Following our time at Lichfield we moved back to Coventry Cathedral and the building of the Cathedral caught the imagination of people throughout the world, seen as a phoenix rising from the ashes following the destruction of the old Cathedral. Visiting is likened to a pilgrimage both unique and symbolic. Stand in the ruins and gaze upon the cross of charred timbers and the cross of nails with two words, "Father Forgive".

The Christian roots of Coventry lie in the foundation of a nunnery by St Osburga. In 1043 Earl Leofric of Mercia and his countess, Lady Godiva, founded the Benedictine priory of St Mary, which became the Cathedral of the diocese of Coventry and Lichfield. In 1918, the 14th Century Church of St Michael became the Cathedral, but was lost in the destruction of WW2. It was decided to leave the destroyed Cathedral as a monument to the destruction and to build a new Cathedral adjacent to it. The new Cathedral is quite contemporary, and the stained-glass windows are exquisite and tell the story of the original early days of the old Cathedral. At the end of the Nave there is a huge tapestry, which is the same size of a tennis court, hanging there behind the altar. It depicts Christ sitting at the right hand of God. The tapestry was woven by women over many months.

We did have an incident. Frank climbed the Bell Tower of the destroyed Cathedral, 200 plus steps, his hat, which had fallen off his head many times during our travels and each time had been rescued by members of the group, however, this time when it blew off and away it was lost and will now reside in Coventry for evermore. Tomorrow Lincoln.














Graham Fleeton

  

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