Coventry: The City of Peace


Peace and reconciliation. Some people might argue that it’s a boring topic, and it sort of is. Or rather, it is if you don’t know the whole story. But I’m about to tell you.

Believe it or not, Coventry has been right in the forefront of peace and reconciliation around the world for a long time. It didn’t just get its ‘City of Peace and Reconciliation’ title for nothing, you know. It had to work for it.

The story starts way back in World War II and the Blitz, when Coventry was borderline annihilated by the German bombers. And I mean annihilated. People died, fires raged, and buildings collapsed.

Unfortunately, the Coventry Cathedral was one of them.

A huge fire gutted the cathedral, and one brave man charged in to see what he could save. That was where he found a cross, made of burning wood. He tied the wood together and what do you know? We had our first symbol of peace in Coventry: Father Forgive.

Father ForgiveMost people would have been fuming if their city had been destroyed, but not the people of Coventry. They forgave the Germans and, when the war was over, they sent them the gift of a man to help them rebuild the city of Kiel near Denmark, which was also destroyed, whilst another load of them started learning German.

A second cross was made from three medieval nails and was very imaginatively named the ‘Cross of Nails’. Replicas were sent to Berlin and Volgograd (although when the cross was sent to Volgograd, it was still called Stalingrad, and still knee deep in the Soviet Union… but that’s a whole different story…)

So that’s where all the peace stuff comes in. Coventry was the first city ever to have a twin. Coventry and Volgograd (Stalingrad?) were joined together as the first twin cities. This happened in 1944, a full year before the war ended. How did this great friendship begin? you may ask. Well, the women of Coventry sent an embroidered tablecloth with messages of peace to the women trapped in Volgograd/Stalingrad. N’aww. Kindness doesn’t cost a dime.

Tablecloth 1943

In the efforts of peace, Coventry was twinned with other cities that had suffered during WWII, such as Dresden in Germany, Arnhem in the Netherlands and Caen in France. Volgograd gave Berlin and Coventry a copy of the Stalingrad Madonna as a sign of friendship, and Coventry kept moving for peace.

The Community of the Cross of Nails has joined cities around the world together in a quest for peace and forgiveness, and where did the Community start? Right here in Cov.

Nowadays, the city is still making its campaign. A replica of the Cross of Nails travels with every ship named HMS Coventry in the Royal Navy, and CU has its very own Centre for the Study of Forgiveness and Reconciliation, where students can receive a qualification in – yes, you guessed it – peace.

So, is peace and reconciliation a boring topic? Nah. How could an international story of bombs, bullets, gifts, tablecloths, battleships and fire be a boring topic, when it all ended so nicely?

And with Coventry right at the heart of it all, it’s definitely one of the best topics around. Something to brag about, I’d say.

– Lewis Kimberley