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A Grain of FaithReligion in Mid-Century British Literature$
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Allan Hepburn

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198828570

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198828570.001.0001

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Bombed Churches

Bombed Churches

(p.29) 2 Bombed Churches
A Grain of Faith

Allan Hepburn

Oxford University Press

More often than not, the blitz was represented by bombed churches. Images of St Paul’s Cathedral soaring above smoke and, in a more tragic key, the ruins of St Michael’s Cathedral in Coventry encapsulate the values that Britons thought they were fighting for in the Second World War. John Piper, Cecil Beaton, Hanslip Fletcher, and other visual artists, many of them employed by the War Artists’ Advisory Committee (WAAC), expressed their ideas about British heritage through paintings, drawings, and photographs of church architecture. At the same time, writers such as Virginia Woolf, John Strachey, John Betjeman, and Louis MacNeice modulated their patriotism—with quibbles and caveats—into ‘a faith to fight for’. Drawing on poetry, novels, tracts, newspaper articles, and visual culture, this chapter demonstrates the propagandistic value of bombed churches during the Second World War, then flashes forward to the consecration of the rebuilt cathedral in Coventry, which opened with great fanfare and an arts festival in May 1962.

Keywords:   John Piper, Coventry Cathedral, Louis MacNeice, blitz, heritage, arts, radio

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