‘Father, forgive’ is cope’s message

13 April 2017

Roderic Dunnett on a new Coventry symbol

Together at the cross: the cope by Terry Duffy brings together a photomontage in which the sufferings of Coventry and Dresden are united with the cross

Together at the cross: the cope by Terry Duffy brings together a photomontage in which the sufferings of Coventry and Dresden are united with the cros...

THE Coventry Dresden Cope, designed by internationally known artist, Terry Duffy, was blessed and worn for the first time this Lent, by the Bishop of Coventry, Dr Christopher Cocksworth.

The new cope is a very special artwork. Using a novel method, it brings together images depicting the destruction of both cities, in such a way as to promote hope and unity, where there was formerly bitter division, between two communities that suffered terribly on opposing sides during the Second World War.

Special significance lies in its proclaiming, in English and German, the words that were inscribed by Provost Howard amid the ash of the bombed St Michael’s Cathedral: “Father forgive”: “Vater vergib”. Those words provided the inspiration for the spirit of reconciliation which the new Coventry Cathedral, itself a work of art, came to epitomise.

What is new is that photographic images of actual events of the war, directly reproduced on the garment by complex digital means rather than embroidered, are at the heart of Terry Duffy’s artwork.

Central to the artistic design, or photomontage, is a reproduction of the massive 14ft cross originally created by Duffy in 1981-83, proclaiming “Victim, no resurrection”, which was seen in England and as far away as Cape Town, where it symbolised the anniversary of the end of apartheid, and New York.

This new cope memorably depicts the brutal destruction of both Coventry and Dresden. On the left, it shows the visit by Winston Churchill to Coventry’s bombed-out cathedral, and, above that, the statue by Jacob Epstein of St Michael overcoming the devil, which is now sited close to the cathedral’s north-west door. On the right, Duffy depicts the ruins of Dresden, with a British bomber glowering overhead, and the doomed Frauenkirche or cathedral — then soon to collapse, but now wondrously restored — looming over the city.

One poignant detail below the cross shows a young German soldier assisting an old lady, father, and child. A commanding mother with child also features at top left, and at bottom right, the statue of Truth and Justice from Dresden Town Hall, which survived the bombing.

A large painting by Duffy, its predominant image evoking a blue cope, went on display in the Kreuzkirche in Dresden in 2015, the 70th anniversary of the bombing. This generated the idea that imagery of the Dresden and Coventry bombings might be projected on to an actual cope, to betoken the unifying of the two cities in past suffering, fresh hope, and phoenix-like resurgence.

The fabric used is silk and poplin, while the bold and striking background, as in the painting, is Coventry blue — amazingly, the artist says, it turned out there is such a colour.

”To me,” Duffy says, “it’s an important step forward in the democratisation of the Church. The Bishop wears the reality: the imagery of war is not merely implied but actually displayed. It pays homage to a centuries-old tradition, but by employing entirely new means.”

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