31st March 2022
Writing: Gian Rayat (Year 10)
Photography: Prajesh Adapa (Year 10)
Editing: Luke Corey (Year 12)
Is it even human to forgive people who have committed unspeakable acts? This was, and still is, a question among many others in mind during the Year 10 RS trip to Coventry Cathedral.
Emerging from the hallways, we were met with a vast and still space that was the nave of the cathedral. Already, I could sense that there was something about this cathedral that set it apart from any other one I’ve been to: the interior architecture had a very contemporary touch, with its historical aspects still preserved. One particularly striking element of the cathedral ingrained in my mind has to be the 72 feet-high tapestry depicting Christ in Majesty, designed by Graham Sutherland. Light is a pivotal design element in the architecture of the cathedral and, due to its unique north-south position, the large stained glass window was on the side wall. Luckily for us, the weather showed mercy and the blazing Baptistery Window – designed by John Piper – decorated with abstract images on each panel certainly didn’t fail to mesmerise us with the art of light.
Another place connected to the Cathedral which piqued my interest was the Chapel of Unity. In particular, the floor’s mosaic art had illustrations depicting continents of the world, and also animals with respective saints. Our tour guide also demonstrated that the floor is slightly sloped so that it converges to the middle of the room, adding to the concept of unity. The Chapel is even welcome to people of all faiths, not just Christians, to worship and reflect. Above all, what I found most impactful could be seen in a wall adorned with colourful paper ‘peace cranes’ hung on display in tribute to Sadako Sasaki, a young girl who fell victim to the radioactive fallout from the Hiroshima bombing in 1945. Aside from being brilliant decorations, I think these peace cranes speak volumes about the monumental force humanity holds when they stand together in unity.
As the day went on, we were split into groups to go off into different workshops. We listened to a historical account of Stalingrad Madonna, debated on how the downfall of a society can be manifested through different factors like ‘antilocution’, before our visit concluded in a fascinating discussion with the sub-dean of the cathedral. Everyone asked plenty of profound questions – most of which were of great help to our RS courses!
I’d like to go back to the question from the beginning. Coventry Cathedral is a concrete testament to a powerful and universal concept – forgiveness, or more specifically, reconciliation. Beside the new cathedral stands the ruins of its predecessor, destroyed by German aircraft bombs in November 1940. The site reflects on the hundreds of lives taken by fires consuming the building, and a message on one of the walls left by Provost Richard Howard reads: ‘Father forgive.’ I was taken aback at first by these words. However, a sculpture on display in the ruins named ‘Choir of Survivors’ remembered the lost lives of innocent civilians on both sides of the war. Soon I came to realise that these ruins are indeed reminding us of the futility of war, and how nations can instead come together to reconcile with one other. Not simply erasing their actions from living memory, but actually understanding their neighbour’s side of the story.
So is it human to reconcile with people who have done wrong? Looking in a new light, perhaps it could be the most human thing to do.
Many thanks to the members of the cathedral for telling us these stories, and to the RS Department for giving us this opportunity to explore the wonders of Coventry Cathedral.