Today I attended the service of one of the oldest and newest churches in Coventry. Christchurch is Victorian but its spire is medieval and is one of the three spires, along with St. Michael’s and Holy Trinity, that loom above Coventry. This spot will also be the victim of the two worse attacks to hit Coventry.
|Three Spires of Coventry|
The Greyfriars of Coventry were most famous for their mystery play held at the feat of Corpus Christi. The monks did The Bible in 42 acts, the first seven from the Old Testament, the rest from the New Testament. The various scenes were mounted on wheels and the stages drawn about the town for the better advantage of the spectators. Needless to say tourists and pilgrims (one and the same back then) flocked to Coventry to witness this spectacle. More than once the visitors included the reigning King.
|Greyfriars Gate (long gone) and Steeple (still here)|
Catholics were outlawed and the monasteries and nunneries disbanded. The Church’s property became his. Coventry at that time was not only home to the Franciscan Greyfriars and Whitefriars, but the even more powerful Benedictine priory and their Cathedral of St. Mary. Henry decided Coventry didn’t need a Cathedral since its population was now too small so St. Mary’s and Greyfriars church were torn down.
The reason why Coventry’s population had plummeted from 7,000 to 3,000 was because of Henry VIII. The kicked out monks not only made up a sizable chunk of the city’s body count, they also brought business to local merchants and craftsmen, as well as tourist money from pilgrims. In some ways, Henry’s destruction was more devastating to Coventry than Hitler’s Blitz!
A few churches were bought by locals and turned into Anglican churches, but not all of them could be saved. Those like Greyfriars were demolished, stone and wood salvaged for other building projects. But when they got to the tower and steeple, they stopped. No one could bring themselves to tear that down.
Then in April of 1941, a bomb dropped by the Luftwaffe destroyed Christchurch. This tragedy was overshadowed by the destruction of the larger St. Michael’s Cathedral in the first air raid five months before. Ten years later Christchurch's shell was demolished and a new church built elsewhere.
|Christchurch after Blitz|
Spire 100 years from now