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Churches open for Heritage Open Days

From the 7th to the 10th September Coventry Cathedral and many churches from across the diocese will be opening their doors to visitors as part of the Heritage Open Days festival. During the festival, visitors will be able to explore the rich histories, beautiful architecture and hidden treasures found within our churches and cathedral.

Established in 1994, Heritage Open Days has since grown into England’s largest heritage festival. The central principle of the festival is to throw open the doors to historic monuments and buildings, in particular those normally closed to the public or would normally charge an entrance fee. Although most churches in the diocese are available to be visited all year round, many churches will be holding special events in celebration of the festival.

One of the churches taking part is St John the Baptist Church, Coventry. St John the Baptist has a fascinating history dating back to 1344 when Isabella of France gave a parcel of land at ‘babbelak’ (Bablake) to the medieval Guild of St John the Baptist to build a chapel for prayer. The church is renowned for being the origin of the phrase ‘Sent to Coventry’ and it also possesses a rare relic of St Valentine of Rome.

St John the Baptist will be open on all four days of the festival and will provide refreshments and an information desk for all events taking place in the city and beyond. The church will also host a free concert by Bablake School on 7th September at 1pm and on the 9th September there will be ongoing musical performances by Unlock the Music culminating in a concert at 7pm with folk singers, The Thrup’nny Bits and upcoming opera star Harim Oh. Alongside the musical presentations, the open days will also feature a photographic exhibition, two historic exhibitions, tours of the church, activities for children and a graveyard stroll.

St John the Baptist Church, Coventry

St Mary the Virgin Church in Stoneleigh will also be taking part in the festival. The parish of St Mary the Virgin was first mentioned in the Domesday Survey of 1086. The building is essentially Norman, and inside there is a late 11th century/ early 12th century font, an 18th century organ and Georgian box pews. The church will be open from 10am until 4pm on the first three days of the festival and will showcase an exhibition by Stoneleigh History Society in the Leigh Chapel, there will also be a children’s treasure hunt as well as the opportunity to view the church and churchyard.

Another church taking part in the festival is St Andrew’s Church in Rugby. St Andrews is an iconic town centre church designed by Gothic Revival architect, William Butterfield. The church will be open from 9.30am to 2.30pm from the 7th to the 9th September. Visitors are welcome to tour the church or just come in and find a sacred space to sit and pray before enjoying a cup of tea and delicious homemade cakes in the cafe. The church will have a Creation Art Exhibition supplied by the Deo Gloria Trust and children’s activities on offer.

For full details of all the churches taking part see the Heritage Open Days website.

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