Coventry, Warwickshire

St. Mary's Abbey, Coventry, Warwickshire

Benedictine Monks

One of the oldest structures in the West Midlands, the first Nunnery here was sacked by Danes in 1011. Between 1020 and 1043 Earl Leofric and his infamous wife, Lady Godiva, founded a Benedictine Abbey on the site and it grew to be the most important church in the Midlands.

In 1102 the Abbey Church was converted into Coventry’s first Cathedral and the Abbey buildings became Priory buildings. It was a very large foundation and thrived for the next four hundred years or so bringing wealth and fame to the City.

Henry VIII arrived in 1540 and the original Cathedral and the majority of the Priory buildings were demolished. A new Cathedral was built in its place and this stood in Coventry’s heart for another four hundred years until the Luftwaffe flattened it one fateful night in November 1940. By the time the new new Cathedral was built there as no sign of the Saxon monastery.

Fortunately, the Time Team came to Coventry with the objective of finding its first Cathedral and they uncovered a surprising amount of the structure of the original Priory including the cloister and some of the attendant buildings. After the TV cameras departed a vast amount more work was done and the Priory Visitors Centre was put in place over the cloister ruins to present the history of this fascinating area to the general public.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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