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Salisbury Cathedral, home to the finest of the four surviving original 1215 Magna Carta, will be taking a leading role in the 2015 celebrations marking the 800th anniversary of the historic and iconic document the legacy of which has been its enduring global influence. Magna Carta’s clauses on social justice form the cornerstone of modern democracy and liberty worldwide and are as pertinent today as they were 800 years ago.
Robert Key, chairman of Salisbury Cathedral’s Magna Carta 800th anniversary committee, said “Salisbury Cathedral is extremely proud to own the finest preserved of the four surviving original 1215 documents. We know how important the Magna Carta is to people from across the globe and what it represents for them. The 1215 Magna Carta is inscribed in the UNESCO ‘Memory of the World’ register, underlining the fact that the documents held by Salisbury Cathedral, Lincoln Cathedral and The British Library are regarded amongst the world’s most significant documentary heritage.”
The Dean of Salisbury, the Very Revd June Osborne, said “Plans are being advanced here at Salisbury Cathedral to commemorate the forthcoming 800th anniversary of Magna Carta by promoting the values and ideals that it represents. Our ambition is to present a wonderful mix of spiritual and secular celebrations, promoting justice and freedom in a practical sense, and running a full programme of learning and outreach events for people of all ages. We aim to inspire further activity in the years that follow by leaving a lasting national and international legacy.”
Salisbury Cathedral intends to re-display and re-present its Magna Carta in the newly-conserved Chapter House, safeguarding the document for the future and using the latest interpretation techniques to communicate Magna Carta’s historic background and modern significance to the many extra visitors it expects to welcome in 2015. It also hopes to conserve and repair the Cathedral’s medieval Cloisters where the Chapter House is located.
Plans for further celebrations are underway, and aim to include a lecture series chaired by the Dean of Salisbury featuring international speakers exploring topics inspired by Magna Carta. The Cathedral also has ambitions to present a Medieval Fair for all the family, a pageant involving hundreds of local people, a special concert, a Celebratory Eucharist and a week-long flower festival, as well as other events. Alongside this activity, the Cathedral’s education department will work closely with schools throughout the year to deliver curriculum-focused programmes supporting citizenship and history.
Salisbury Cathedral is working closely with partners to deliver its ambitious programme, these include: The British Library, Diocese of Salisbury, Lincoln Cathedral, Magna Carta 800th Committee/ Magna Carta Trust, Wiltshire Council, Dorset County Council, Salisbury City Council, Visit Wiltshire, UNESCO, and AGEAS Salisbury International Arts Festival.
Brief background information on Magna Carta 1215
Magna Carta is one of the most celebrated documents in English history, regarded as the cornerstone of English liberty, law and democracy, and its legacy has been its enduring worldwide influence. It was written in Latin, the language of all official documents of the period, on a single skin of vellum (calfskin). It consists of 63 clauses written on 76 tightly packed lines, written with the standard medieval time and space-saving abbreviations. It is one of the most celebrated documents in English history whose importance cannot be exaggerated. It is often claimed to be the cornerstone of English liberty, law and democracy and its legacy has been its enduring and worldwide influence. The critical importance of the charter is that it imposed for the first time detailed written constraints on royal authority in the fields 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.
Salisbury Cathedral Chapter House opening times to see Magna Carta 1215 are:
Monday-Saturday: 1 April – 31 October, 9.30am – 4.30pm, 1 November – 31 March, 10.00am – 4.30pm
Sundays: all year, 12.45pm – 4.30pm.
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