Cross of Nails – Southwark

22nd December 2022

A Chapel of Reconciliation for victims of violent crime and terrorism has been dedicated in Southwark Cathedral – five years after the London Bridge Terror Attack.

On the altar stands a large Cross of Nails specially commissioned for the new Chapel.

Cross of Nails at Southwark Cathedral

Southwark Cathedral joined the Community of the Cross of Nails following the London Bridge attack which took place in 2017 in remembrance of all those who have been victims of violent crime and terrorism.

Cross of Nails Southwark Cathedral

The Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, dedicated the Chapel of St Francis and St Elizabeth earlier this month “as a pledge of our common commitment to work and pray for peace, justice and reconciliation,”. 

He continued:

“This we do through seeking to heal the wounds of violent crime, through learning to live with difference and to celebrate diversity, seeking to build a culture of peace.” 

The Community of the Cross of Nails is now a worldwide network of some 250 churches, charities, chaplaincies, peace-building and retreat centres, schools and other educational and training organisations, all inspired by the Coventry story of destruction, rebuilding and renewal, and reconciliation.

On the night of 14th November 1940, the English city of Coventry was hit by German bombs.

Much of the city was destroyed. The medieval cathedral was left in ruins.

In the days that followed, two powerful symbols emerged from the ruined cathedral. Two burnt roof beams – which had fallen in the shape of a cross in the rubble – were bound together and placed where the altar had been. Three medieval roof nails were formed into a cross, which became the original Cross of Nails.

The Cross is featured as one of our 50 Treasures campaign. Click the photo below.

Cathedral Treasures - Cross of Nails

The words ‘Father Forgive’ were written on the wall of the ruined chancel. The then Provost Dick Howard made a commitment not to seek revenge, but to strive for forgiveness and reconciliation with those responsible.

During the BBC radio broadcast from the cathedral ruins on Christmas Day 1940, Howard declared that when the war was over, we should work with those who had been enemies “to build a kinder, more Christ-like world.”

The Cross of Nails quickly became a potent sign of friendship and hope in the post-war years.

This was especially true in relationships with Germany, and the developing links between Coventry and the cities of Kiel, Dresden and Berlin and this vision is the basis of Coventry Cathedral’s ministry of reconciliation today which is based on three guiding principles: healing the wounds of history, learning to live with difference and celebrate diversity, and building a culture of peace.