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Bishop wears the Coventry-Dresden Cope

On 1st March 2017, Ash Wednesday, the Bishop of Coventry dedicated ‘The Coventry-Dresden Cope’, a new vestment to be worn for commemorative occasions by those involved in the work of reconciliation and the Community of the Cross of Nails in Coventry and in Dresden.

The cope was designed and made by international artist Terry Duffy. Duffy first conceived the idea in 2013 by creating a large abstract oil painting in the shape of a cope, split in two halves. One half was dedicated to each of the two cities, creating a symbolic motif of their differing histories and joint journey of post-war reconciliation. Duffy described it as “a symbol of unity within a world shaken by conflict”.

The painting was offered by Duffy to the Anglican Church in Great Britain and the Lutheran Church in Germany in 2014. At the invitation of the Bishop of Saxony and the Bishop of Coventry, it was displayed as a whole piece in the Kreuzkirche, Dresden, for the 70th anniversary of the bombing of the city in February 2015, and moved to Coventry Cathedral for the 75th anniversary of the bombing in November 2016. 

At the invitation of the Bishop of Coventry, in 2015 Duffy began work to develop the concept of the painting into a wearable cope.  Over two years, he created the Coventry-Dresden Cope as a vestment to be worn by ministers. The cope’s striking artistic quality is in its unique photo-montage combining the original painting, an image of the artist’s vast 'Victim, no resurrection' crucifix and archive photographs of the two cities. The cope is the first of its kind and a liturgical landmark: it is the first church vestment to be made using photographic images and the first to be dedicated specifically for use in two cities. Duffy has a long interest in the history of Coventry and Dresden, and has given the vestment to the Bishop of Coventry for shared use here and in churches in Dresden.

The themes of reconciliation and rebirth are central to the cope’s design. Images of the rebuilt Frauenkirche, Jacob Epstein’s sculpture of St. Michael triumphing over the devil in Coventry, and of victims being helped to recovery after the bombing in Dresden are al super-imposed onto the original painting. The design also includes the symbols of the Community of the Cross of Nails, whose ministry of reconciliation unites Coventry Cathedral and the Frauenkirche with many other churches and centres around the world. The words ‘Father Forgive’ in English and German, from the Coventry Litany of Reconciliation, underpin the imagery. 

Duffy presented the Coventry-Dresden Cope to Coventry Cathedral on Ash Wednesday, and the Bishop of Coventry dedicated it to begin the season of Lent at a celebration of the Eucharist with imposition of ashes. The Bishop recalled the priestly vestments worn by Aaron under the Old Covenant: an ephod which bore the names of the sons of Israel on two onyx stones. His prayer of dedication reflected on the way in which those who will wear the Coventry-Dresden Cope will carry and bear the story and suffering of both cities and the message of hope and reconciliation brought by the cross of Jesus Christ. The Bishop’s sermon reflected on the Christian hope of new life out of death, and mentioned Ash Wednesday in 1945, when the city of Dresden lay in rubble and millions of its inhabitants had been turned to ash in the heat of the bombing. Duffy commented that, when creating the original painting he wrote on the studio wall beside it: Whoever wears this has the power to change minds. He explained that these words represented his hope for spreading an understanding, and ownership, of reconciliation.  “The wearers will carry on their backs the truth and reality of what happened.” 


by Victoria Price

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