Published: January 27th 2008January 27th 2008
The ruin of Coventry Cathedral - one of the windows that still has some stained glass in it.
Yesterday we journeyed back in time first to World War II and then further back to the time of Shakespeare and then to the time of Henry V. Coventry was our first stop. Coventry had been a large center of production during World War II, and on the night of November 14, 1940, Coventry was bombed nearly to the ground by the German air force. One of the buildings that was destroyed was the Coventry Cathedral. The cathedral was destroyed by incendiary bombs so while the whole inside was burned out, the stone structures, like the walls and the bell tower remained standing. Some of the stained glass was even still in the windows. A story says that when the bombing raid was over, the two men who climbed into the bell tower found two charred wooden beams lying in the shape of a cross. Theses beams were tied together and placed at the front of the burned out cathedral and the words Father Forgive were carved behind it. The vicar then preached a message of forgiveness which, along with reconciliation, is the mission of the new cathedral which stands on a North-South, instead of an East-West, axis right next to
The old cathedral spire
the remains of the old cathedral's ruins. The new cathedral reminded me a lot of St. John's cathedral with the way that the stained glass and interior design was done. But the "West", South facing, window was not stained glass but engraved. It depicted the 4 patron saints of Great Britain - St. George, St. Andrew, St. Patrick, and St. David - and figures from the old and new testament. I finally know which gospel writer has which symbol - Matthew the man, Mark the lion, Luke the ox, and John the eagle. Behind the alter, instead of stained glass there is a huge tapestry designed by Sutherland and took 3 years to weave. The church also started the Ministry of the Cross of Nails which works for reconciliation around the world. In the ruin, there was a statue of reconciliation. There are now four of these statues around the world - one in Hiroshima, one in Berlin, and the other in Belfast.
After Coventry Cathedral, we hoped back into the cars and drove onto Stratford. We had about 5 hours before we met for dinner and went to Henry V, so we split up and went to find some
The alter and the burnt cross. The words behind it: Father Forgive.
lunch. Kia and I found a take away place and took our lunch over to Shakespeare's Birthplace where we found a bench to eat on. The house was really cool - to think that Shakespeare lived there! The house was nothing particularly special, but the fact that William Shakespeare lived there made it extremely cool. And there were flowers blooming out in the garden - in January! We then made our way to Trinity Church where Shakespeare was buried along with his wife, Anne Hathaway, son-in-law, daughter, and granddaughter's husband. Of course no church is complete without the tribute to St. George, but this time the window depicted his whole life and not just the slaying of the dragon. After the church, Kia and I went to Hall's croft. Hall was the doctor of the day and married Shakespeare's eldest daughter. My favorite part of Stratford was Anne Hathaway's cottage. The cottage is about mile out of Stratford, but is well worth the walk. The cottage includes not only the thatched roof house that Anne grew up in, but gardens as well. There was a Willow Cabin where we listened to three of Shakespeare's sonnets that were recorded in a
The statue of Reconciliation
bench. Then there is the tree garden where each tree is named and has a quote from one of Shakespeare's plays on a plaque next to it. In the tree garden are also statues from Shakespeare's plays. Mine and Kia's favorite was probably Falstaff, which was just his chest and stomach. Kia and I had fun climbing behind Falstaff and being his head. Back in town we still had almost an hour before dinner and the museums all closed at 4, so we wandered among the shops until dinner time. We ate at the Coconut Lagoon, an Indian restaurant, which was really good. And then came the highlight of the day - Henry V performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). The RSC is currently doing a History Cycle of all Shakespeare's history plays from Richard II to Richard III. Henry V encompasses the battle of Agincourt very near the beginning of Harry's reign. How to describe the performance? I'll start with the costumes and try to move on from there. The English were dressed in black, kind of cowboyish - that rough and ready look, but still dignified. The French, by contrast, were peacocks. Brightly colored, with coat tails
The spire of the old cathedral and Trinity's spire
that were at least 10 feet long. They all wore earrings as well and were unarmed for the entire production. Even their armor was flashy, all gilt and gold. The English wore leather and chain mail to fight and wore swords at their belts throughout. In the scene where the traitors are discovered, Harry came out in boots, pants, a shirt, and suspenders. He didn't wear his crown the whole time either, which made the times that he did more meaningful and powerful. The costuming was really great. The staging was wonderful too. While the English occupied the stage, the French were mostly, except for the Dauphin, Princess, and her lady-in-waiting, suspended in the air on ropes and trapeze. The second dimension was well done and made it more meaningful when, at the end, the defeated French come down to the stage and were made equal with the English. The battle scenes were also really cool. The first time they came exploding out of the trap doors, and they continued to use the trap doors like World War I trenches. The actor who played Harry, Geoffrey Streatfeild, did a marvelous job both with the speeches and facial expression. You got
Out of the Ashes
The "west" window in the new cathedral.
the feeling that this was the kind of king that you would want to fight for - even in the audience I felt like raising my sword and joining in. The play was really long, and we didn't leave Stratford until about 11. Alex, Siri, and I are heading back down to Stratford in a few weeks time to see Henry IV parts one and two. I can't wait!
There are more photos below