I pray you, let us satisfy our eyes
With the memorials and the things of fame
That do renown this city.
—William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night
On the night of November 14, 1940, the ancient city of Coventry was firebombed and one of the finest assemblages of medieval buildings in Europe vanished. The following morning, the Provost of the Cathedral, the Very Reverend Richard Howard, traced the words “Father forgive” on the charred surface of the ruined walls of the fifteenth-century cathedral, and vowed that there would be no revenge or retaliation. He counted neither on Bomber Harris nor on post-war British architects.
The latter, in particular, have now fully revenged themselves upon a past that they cannot emulate, approach, or equal, much less surpass, an incapacity more ...