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Churches take part in Heritage Open Days

On the weekends of the 6th to the 9th and the 13th to the 16th of 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.

This year Heritage Open Days will celebrate ‘Extraordinary Women.’ St Mary the Virgin Church in Astley will be presenting beautiful flower displays celebrating women connected with the community of Astley and the contribution they made to village life. As well as the flower displays, there is a wealth of history to be discovered at Astley Church. The Church was built in 1343 and holds many of its original features. The Grey family (Lady Jane Grey) owned Astley Castle for many centuries and inside the church you can find alabaster figures representing members of the family. From the 7th to the 9th September there will be guides inside the church ready to tell visitors about Astley’s rich history.

St Mary the Virgin Church, Astley

St Mary Magdalen Church in Coventry will also be taking part in the festival. St Mary Magdalen Church is famous for its bright blue roof, giving it the nickname ‘the church with the blue roof.’ The church was designed in the early 1930s by Herbert Jackson. He designed a modern church in a Romanesque style with Byzantine details - something that recalled the great churches of Rome and Constantinpole, like a stately basilica. St Mary Magdalen Church will be open to visitors on the first weekend of the festival. The church archives and history will be on display all weekend and there will also be three special events taking place - at 10am on Saturday 8th there will be a lectures about Christians Against Poverty; at 2pm on Saturday afternoon Tim Campaign will be giving an organ recital and at 2pm on Sunday 9th Coventry artist, Andrea Mbarushimana will be running a Collective Art Project.

Another church taking part in the festival is St Edith’s in Monks Kirby. St Edith’s is one of the oldest churches in the diocese - in 2017 it celebrated its 940th anniversary. The church has many historical features, with one its oldest parts being the porch which dates back to the rebuilding of the church in 1380. As well as being open for visitors to explore every day of the festival, the church will have a family heritage trail and a church visitor guide to help people navigate around the building. Also there will be bell-ringing demonstrations between 2.00 and 4.00pm on Sunday 16th September.

St John the Baptist in Coventry will be heading the cluster of attractions in the Spon End side of city. The church will be open all eight days of the festival, with the hall open at certain times for refreshments. St John the Baptist was founded by Queen Isabella in 1344. The building is famed for its stained glass, stone cravings, altar pieces, Italian styled reredos and spectacular east window. The church will be holding guided tours, mystery trails and a family walk. On Saturday 8th September, one of the visitor team will be operating a radio ham, organised by WACRAL (World Association of Christian Radio Amateurs and Listeners), to connect to other churches in the UK and Europe. Other events taking place for the festival include, a local artist; poetry readings; lunchtime concerts; a photographic exhibition; and several displays of historic collections.

There are many other events happening over the festival weekend at churches across the diocese. To find out more about the festival, including which churches are taking part and their opening times, please visit the Heritage Open Days festival website-

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