Although Coventry Started out simply as a settlement around a Saxon nunnery in AD 700, it would prove to become one of England’s most important industrial centres in the centuries that followed. Records of Coventry’s silk factories date back to the 17th century and the advent of industrialisation allowed for the industry in Coventry to expand and encompass the production of clocks and watches in the 18th and 19th centuries, and perhaps most importantly, cycles, which paved the way for the Daimler Motor Company to produce Britain’s first motor car in the 19th century.
Unfortunately, it was exactly this industrial expansion that led to Coventry’s bombing during the second world war, as German bombers targeted buildings like that of the Rolls Royce factory that were used to produce weaponry and aeroplane parts in the war effort. The blitz lasted three days, and the most devastating of these nights laid waste to over 4,000 homes in Coventry and damaged around two thirds of the city’s buildings, including two police Stations and a hospital. The decimation was so extreme that Joseph Goebbels began to use the word ‘Koventriert’ – ‘Coventried’ to describe similar levels of destruction in other towns.
Amongst the buildings destroyed was St Michael’s cathedral; rather than harbouring hatred towards the Germans, however, its destruction allowed for the new St Michael’s cathedral to become one of Europe’s most notable centres of Christian reconciliation. Amid the wreckage, two wooden beams found in the shape of a crucifix and were tied together and became the focal point of the new cathedral for several years. Similarly, a cross was fashioned out of three iron nails also found in the debris and as well as Still sitting atop the altar of St Michael’s to this day, it became the symbol of the a community of the cross of nails, a partnership between the parish of St Michaels and others in the cathedrals of Kiel, Berlin, Dresden and other cities that suffered waves of allied bombing during WWII.