13 July 2023

Public sculpture is
part of the living
townscape in Coventry

Sir Jacob Epstein’s Saint Michael and the Devil on the façade of Coventry cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

Coventry’s best-known works of public art are part of Coventry Cathedral. They include Sir Jacob Epstein’s Saint Michael and the Devil on the façade of Basil Spence’s new cathedral, his Ecce Homo in the old cathedral.

Other well-known works in the old cathedral include ‘Reconciliation’ by Josefina de Vasconcellos, the ‘Statue of Christ’ by Alain John and the ‘Choir of Survivors’ by Helmut Heinze.

But Coventry has over 50 pieces of public art, including painted murals, statues, wall art such as the Gordon Cullen mural I was discussing earlier this week, and sculptures.

‘Self Sacrifice’ or ‘Lady Godiva’ by Sir William Reid Dick on Broadgate, Coventry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Outside the cathedrals and churches, one of the best-known statues in Coventry is ‘Self Sacrifice’ or ‘Lady Godiva’ by Sir William Reid Dick.

Lady Godiva and her horse stand on Broadgate, facing the Precinct, and the work was unveiled in 1949. Lady Godiva was known as a generous benefactor to abbeys and churches. With her husband Leofric, Earl of Mercia, she paid for churches and religious houses in Leominster, Much Wenlock, Worcester, Evesham, Burton-on-Trent, Hereford, Stowe and Chester.

Although Leofric was regarded as a wise and religious figure, he was involved in the brutal pillage and destruction of Worcester in 1041 after the town defied a royal tax collector. It is said that Godiva made her famous naked horse ride as a bargain with her husband to free the people of Coventry from the heavy taxes he had forced on them.

Leofric and Godiva founded and endowed a Benedictine monastery at Coventry in 1043 on the site of a nunnery destroyed by the Danes in 1016. She had her jewellery turned into religious images and crosses, and it is said that on her deathbed she left her necklaces to the church.

The story of her naked ride through Coventry was first told in the 12th century, 150 years after her death. Peeping Tom is a later addition to the story, first appearing in the tale in the 17th century.

The statue of Lady Godiva in Broadgate is one of the few statues of horses outside London to be listed (Grade II).

‘Bucephalus’ by Simon Evans depicts the horse of Alexander the Great, but is known affectionately to most people in Coventry as ‘Trigger’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

There is a second public sculpture of a horse in Coventry on Greyfriar’s Green, near Coventry Railway Station.

‘Bucephalus’ takes his name from the horse of Alexander the Great, but is known affectionately to most people in Coventry as ‘Trigger.’ This sculpture of a black painted metal horse sculpture was created by Simon Evans who was a student at the Coventry Art College (now part of Coventry University) in 1985-1986.

Bucephalus a beautiful, legendary black horse who stood taller than normal steeds but was considered too wild and unmanageable, rearing up against anyone who came near him. Alexander the Great was the only one able to ride him.

The sculpture by Simon Evans was made from bits of steel plate, off cuts and scrap pieces. Using their unusual shapes, he welded them together to create a rearing horse that has been compared to the prancing horse in the Ferrari prancing horse. It stands at 4 metres high and 4 metres wide and is painted black.

While Simon Evans was working on the sculpture, his tutor, Dr Tim Threelfall, heard the City Council was organising a competition for students to make a work of art to mark ‘Industry Year 1986.’

‘Bucephalus’ was displayed on a brick plinth on the roundabout on the Ring Road opposite the railway station. Within two years it needed restoration as people had been climbing on it. It was then painted in anti-vandal paint and had a ‘Do Not Climb’ plaque attached.

Coventry’s citizens have always affectionately call the horse ‘Trigger’ after the horse in the Roy Rogers films and television shows. Simon Evans died in 2010. Bucephalus continues to symbolises strength and hope.

Our Lady of Coventry by Sister Concordia Scott in the ruins of Saint Mary’s Priory, Coventry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Our Lady of Coventry was installed in the ruins of Saint Mary’s Priory in 2001. It is the work of Sister Concordia Scott (1924-2014), born Caroline Scott, a Scottish sculptor and Benedictine nun of the Minster Abbey community in Minster-in-Thanet, Kent. Her works include statues in Westminster Abbey, Canterbury Cathedral and Coventry Cathedral.

Caroline Scott was born in Glasgow and gained a scholarship to the Edinburgh College of Art at the age of 17. Her studies were interrupted by World War II, when she joined the 93rd Searchlight Regiment, the only regiment in the world entirely staffed by women. At the end of the war, she completed returned to study in Edinburgh and became a commercial artist.

She entered the Benedictine community in Minster Abbey in 1953 and was professed as Sister Concordia in 1955. She continued to sculpt, and her entry in the Manchester Vocations Exhibition in 1959 led to numerous commissions in the 40 years that followed. She was Prioress of the Minster Abbey community in 1984-1999, and died in 2014.

‘Minstrels’ by Michael Disley in Saint Mary’s Guildhall, Coventry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

‘Minstrels’ by Michael Disley in Saint Mary’s Guildhall looks like a mediaeval work, but is a modern work commissioned as part of a public art project.

This sandstone group is inspired by the mediaeval history of Saint Mary’s Guildhall. It depicts two entwined minstrels, drawn into a trancelike state by their music.

‘The Phoenix’ (1962) by George Wagstaffe is now located at the entry to Hertford Street. It symbolises the post-war rebuilding of the city like the mythical Phoenix rising out of the ashes of a fire.

‘The Phoenix’ was first displayed in the City Centre Precinct in Market Way, between the then British Home Stores and the Woolworth shop. Originally it was going to be a relief sculpture mounted on a building, but this was changed during the planning stage in the early 1960s to a free-standing sculpture.

George Wagstaffe, a local artist, changed the Phoenix from a bird to a young person to symbolise the new city and its people rising from the flames of the bombed and burnt city. It was first made in resin and metal and unveiled in 1962 by Princess Margaret. It was displayed on a brick wall attached to a small information display building that also symbolised the rebuilding of the city.

The statue was removed when the precinct area was being redesigned in 1987. By then, it had started to show damage by weather. A bronze cast was made and it is this new bronze sculpture that stands on a brick plinth see at the bottom of Hertford Street.

‘The Phoenix’ by George Wagstaffe, now located at the entry to Hertford Street, Coventry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (46) 13 July 2023

Holy Trinity Church, or the Father Mathew Memorial Church, the Capuchin church on Father Mathew Quay, Cork (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

We are in Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, and this week began with the Fifth Sunday after Trinity (9 July 2023).

Before this day begins, I am taking some time this morning for prayer, reading and reflection.

Over these weeks after Trinity Sunday, I have been reflecting each morning in these ways:

1, Looking at relevant images or stained glass window in a church, chapel or cathedral I know;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Building work on the church began in 1832, but it was not completed until 1890 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Holy Trinity Church (Father Mathew Memorial Church), Cork:

Holy Trinity Church, also known as the Father Mathew Memorial Church, is a Gothic Revival church and friary on Father Mathew Quay, on the banks of the River Lee in Cork.

The church belongs to the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin and is the only church dedicated to Father Theobald Mathew (1790-1856), the Temperance campaigner.

The Capuchins arrived in Cork in 1637, 12 years after the first Capuchin community in Ireland was established in Dublin.

The church was built by the Capuchins, under the guidance of Father Theobald Mathew, on what was once known as Charlotte Quay. It replaced an earlier, smaller church that stand in a lane nearby, behind Sullivan’s Quay.

The name of Charlotte Quay was later changed in honour of Father Mathew.

The church was designed by the architect George Richard Pain (1793-1838). It is aligned on a north/south axis, rather than the traditional, liturgical east/west axis.

The foundation stone was laid on 10 October 1832, Father Mathew’s birthday. Pain died in 1838, and supervision was taken over by Thomas Coakley. The Great Famine interrupted the building project, and Thomas Deane was chosen to complete the church without its portico and spire, while William Atkins was responsible for the interior.

The church finally opened on 10 October 1850. However, the church was not completed until 1890, in time for the centenary of Father Mathew’s birth. The friary to the west of the church was completed in 1884.

Inside the church are some magnificent examples of stained-glass windows. The sanctuary window is dedicated to Daniel O’Connell, and a number of windows on the south aisle are the work of Harry Clarke and the Harry Clarke studios.

One window was commissioned by the Cork and District Trades and Labour Council and dedicated to the Cork Capuchin Brother Thomas Dowling, who had mediated during a strike. It was produced by Joshua Clarke to a design by his son Harry Clarke and under his supervision. It depicts Christ as Prince of Peace and Saint Francis holding a dove, with the city’s skyline at the bottom of the window.

Two other windows were commissioned from Harry Clarke and his brother, Walter Clarke, depicting the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Conception being venerated by Munster saints.

The Father Mathew Memorial Church was designed by the architect George Richard Pain (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Mark 10: 7-15 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 7 ‘As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” 8 Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. 9 Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for labourers deserve their food. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. 12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgement than for that town.’

Inside the church, facing the liturgical east (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayer:

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘Fighting Climate Change Appeal – Hermani’s story’. This theme was introduced on Sunday.

Find out more HERE.

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (13 July 2023) invites us to pray:

We bring before you our world leaders and governments as they make decisions around the environment and climate. May they work together with the understanding that all must be involved to create change.


Almighty and everlasting God,
by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church
is governed and sanctified:
hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people,
that in their vocation and ministry
they may serve you in holiness and truth
to the glory of your name;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:

Grant, O Lord, we beseech you,
that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered
by your governance,
that your Church may joyfully serve you in all godly quietness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Sacred Heart depicted with angels and saints in a Harry Clarke window in the Father Mathew Memorial Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Saints in one of the Harry Clarke Windows in the Father Mathew Memorial Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org