The wooden cross and the cross of nails were created after the cathedral was bombed during the Coventry Blitz of World War II. My father was there that night as a fireman and his stories of the experience lived on as sad legends in our family. My mother could see the fire glowing on the horizon from 30 miles away! The cathedral stonemason, Jock Forbes, saw two wooden beams lying in the shape of a cross in the ruins and tied them together. A replica of the wooden cross built in 1964, has replaced the original in the ruins of the old cathedral on an altar of rubble. The original is now kept in St. Michael’s Hall below the new cathedral.
Another cross was made of three nails from the roof truss of the old cathedral by Provost Richard Howard of Coventry Cathedral. It was later transferred to the new cathedral, where it rests on its altar. The cross of nails has become a symbol of peace and reconciliation across the world. There are over 160 Cross of Nails Centres all over the world, all of them bearing a cross made of three nails from the ruins, similar to the original one.
One of the crosses made of nails from the old cathedral was donated to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin, which was destroyed by Allied bomb attacks and is also kept as a ruin alongside a newer building. A copy of the Stalingrad Madonna by Kurt Reuber that was drawn in 1942 in Stalingrad (now Volgograd) is shown in the cathedrals of all three cities (Berlin, Coventry and Volgograd) as a sign of the reconciliation of the three countries that were once enemies.
A medieval cross of nails has also been carried on board all British warships to subsequently bear the name HMS Coventry. The cross of nails was on board HMS Coventry when she was sunk by enemy action in the Falklands War. The cross was salvaged by Royal Navy divers, and presented to Coventry Cathedral by the ship’s Captain and colleagues. (One Hundred Days, Admiral Sandy Woodward.)
The cathedral is dedicated to St Michael. as you might guess, and he stands guard on the wall of the cathedral! You can find out more at the Coventry Cathedral Website