What is 800 years old in 2015, wrinkled and still looking good?! Answer: the Magna Carta and we are all invited to the celebrations. The Magna Carta which translates to the ‘great charter’ is the most celebrated document in English history and is regarded as the cornerstone of English liberty, law and democracy. It is written in Latin, the language of all official documents of the period. The original charter was sealed by King John, on 15th June 1215. The King was urged to accept the demands of the barons of the land and agreed to sign the Magna Carta, a document that would last and some of it is still relevant today.
The new Magna Carta Exhibition is situated in Salisbury Cathedral where the document is given pride of place; the displays, media and artefacts together with interactive stations and film enable the visitor to interact and understand how the document was drawn up and why. Salisbury’s copy of the Magna Carta is in excellent condition and the importance of the charter is that it imposed for the first time detailed written constraints on royal authority in the areas of taxation, feudal rights and justice and limited unjust and arbitrary behaviour by the King.
Magna Carta has become an icon for freedom and democracy throughout the world. The other surviving copies are held by the British Library and Lincoln Cathedral; the text does have some very interesting reading and consists of 63 clauses written on 76 tightly packed lines, written with the standard medieval time and space-saving abbreviations. For 800 years the Magna Carta has played a vital role towards constitutional thinking of English liberty, this iconic document has influenced the Rule of Law and Human Rights which determines societies in over 100 countries worldwide today.
Salisbury Cathedral is ‘bringing out the bunting’ for the anniversary – well not quite – just lots of interesting happenings throughout 2015, starting in February with a programme of themed lectures given by leading experts in their fields. Art Installations start in June, a lighting projection in the Cathedral’s North Porch, an interactive word and light based projection in the Morning Chapel, produced by Squid Soup – yes, I have typed that correctly!! A trail of statues placed throughout the streets of Salisbury sponsored by local businesses and created and painted by local artist and the community – the community are going to make this anniversary very special and by working together on these events will strengthen the community spirit through the city. The ‘Magna Flora’ Flower Festival from 15-20th September forms the climax of the celebrations with arrangements inspired by the Magna Carta and its legacy.
Many coach tour operators feature short breaks to the Wiltshire area and www.magnacartatrails.com has just been launched. Also visitwiltshire.co.uk for travel and hotel information so check out the web site for ideas and information for your visit. It will be quite a year for Salisbury Cathedral and the Magna Carta is anything but old, wrinkled or boring it is something we should treasure and like all good wines it has matured with ‘age’!
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• The Wonders of Wiltshire