Coventry Cathedral: Art and Architecture in Post-War Britain

By Louise Campbell | Go to book overview

12
The Cathedral Completed, 1960-1962

THE summer of 1960 marked a watershed in the construction of the cathedral. The roofing of the nave--a shell concrete structure stiffened with ribs and ties--had begun. Only after completion could the nave columns, each consisting of three precast sections, be hoisted into place and the network of beams supporting the slatted timber canopy be cast in situ. Meanwhile, in line with the tradition of honouring an architect as his cathedral neared completion, Spence was awarded a KBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours in June 1960.1 Epstein's figure of St Michael, brought to Coventry in May, was ceremonially unveiled on 24 June. With this in place, Spence was now in a position to make adjustments to the design of the porch and the chapels.

The side canopies of the porch, redesigned in 1958 as robust shapes whose profiles cast crisp shadows and helped to define the character of the porch and steps as the main approach to the cathedral, were now considered in more detail.2 A vivid little sketch made in April 1960 shows the deeply shadowed porch standing out strongly against the sheer stone flank of the cathedral, acting as a powerful magnet to draw visitors in (Plate 155). Given that the City Council planned to demolish the row of dilapidated houses opposite the cathedral to make way for a complex of educational buildings set back from the street, the creation of a grand approach to the cathedral on this axis could now be considered. Revisions to the porch vaults suggest a new concern to confer dignity on this area, and to underline its function as a place for ceremony and celebration; they may also have been influenced by Provost Williams's interest in staging dramatic productions in and around the cathedral.

____________________
1
In 1924, after the consecration of the choir of Liverpool Cathedral, Scott was knighted, and in 1954, as work on the nave of Guildford was about to start, so was Maufe.
2
Drawing dated 22 June 1958. See Ch. 9, n. 48.

-216-

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Coventry Cathedral: Art and Architecture in Post-War Britain
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS v
  • Contents vii
  • List of Color Plates ix
  • LIST OF BLACK AND WHITE PLATES xi
  • Abbreviations xix
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I. Architecture and Politics 5
  • 1 The Cathedral and the City: The Blitz, Civic Ideology And Reconstruction 7
  • 2 The Cathedral Project 1940-1947 22
  • 3 'towards a New Cathedral'? 37
  • Part II. The Creative Process 69
  • 4 Modernism and Tradition: The Genesis of Spence's Competition Design 71
  • 5 The Competition Design Refined, 1951-1954 81
  • 6 The Architect and the Artist 102
  • Part III. Design into Building 131
  • 7 The Licence to Build, 1954 133
  • 8 The Turning-Point, 1954-1956 141
  • 9 The Design Recast, 1956-1958 148
  • Pa IV. For and Function 193
  • 10 The Modern Church 195
  • 11 Provost and Architect 206
  • 12 The Cathedral Completed, 1960-1962 216
  • 13 The Cathedral and the Post-War World: Austerity and Triumphalism 243
  • Conclusion 254
  • APPENDIX: DONATIONS 276
  • Bibliography 278
  • Index 283
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