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Magna Carta is seen as a major step in the history of human rights. #Humanrightsday

What is Human Rights Day?
Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10th December. It commemorates the day (10 December 1948) the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Magna Carta is famous as a symbol of justice, fairness, and human rights. For centuries it has inspired and encouraged movements for freedom and constitutional government in Britain and around the world. But when it was issued by England’s King John in June 1215 it was an attempt to prevent a civil war between the king and his powerful barons…


Magna Carta (Latin for “Great Charter”) is one of the most celebrated documents in English history. At the time it was the solution to a political crisis in Medieval England but its importance has endured as it has become recognised as a cornerstone of liberty influencing much of the civilized world

Salisbury Cathedral is extremely proud to be home to the finest of the four surviving original 1215 Magna Carta. Their Magna Carta is on permanent display to visitors in the newly-conserved Chapter House.

Only four copies of Magna Carta dating from 1215 have survived the ravages of time and Salisbury Cathedral is proud to be home to the best preserved original manuscript. Elias of Dereham, priest and steward of the archbishop of Canterbury is thought to have brought Salisbury’s copy of to Old Sarum in the days following the events at Runnymede and it has remained in the Cathedral’s care ever since

The Salisbury Connection

At Runnymede King John was urged to accept the demands of the barons and agree Magna Carta by his half-brother, William Longspeé, whose Effigy is in Salisbury Cathedral. Also present at Runnymede was Elias of Dereham, who at the time was steward to one of the key players in the crisis, the Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton. Elias himself was a skilled negotiator and was at the very centre of the discussions between the King and the barons. Once Magna Carta was agreed and sealed he was entrusted with delivering ten of the thirteen copies made, one of which was given to the original cathedral at Old Sarum. Elias later became a Canon of Old Sarum before masterminding the building of the present Salisbury Cathedral.

Join us on a private guided tour of Salisbury Catheral and see Magna Carta or join a guided coach tour from London

The excellent Visit Wiltshire website will help you plan your trip to Salisbury and Wiltshire.

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Best-preserved Magna Carta goes on show at Salisbury Cathedral for Magna Carta 800

Salisbury Cathedral – home to the finest preserved of the four original copies of Magna Carta – celebrates the 800th anniversary of its signing

a photo of bottles and quills on a table inside a cathedral

Quills and ink at the ready as Salisbury Cathedral prepares to reveal the Magna Carta© Ash Mills

Salisbury Cathedral’s Magna Carta is the finest preserved of the four original copies and it is celebrating the 800th anniversary of its signing by King John at Runnymede with a fitting new display that promises to explore both its history and its relevance today.

Promising a “thrilling experience” that will take visitors on a journey of liberty and justice through the Cathedral, its medieval cloisters and the stunning 13th century Chapter House, the centrepiece will be the original Magna Carta housed in a new display.

The immersive exhibition, called Magna Carta: Spirit of Justice, Power of Words, is designed to bring to life the history and the contemporary relevance of this extraordinary document, which is often seen as representing the foundation of modern human rights and the justice system we recognise today.

Tactile hands-on activities will include a medieval sword, quill pens and a parchment that visitors can try out to get a feel of medieval life, while touch screen displays will allow people to explore the continued fight for justice and human rights in the 21st century.

// Best-preserved Magna Carta goes on show at Salisbury Cathedral for Magna Carta 800 | Culture24// // // // // // // // //

“So many of the liberties that we hold dear today – and perhaps sometimes take for granted – can be traced back to Magna Carta,” said The Dean of Salisbury, the Very Revd June Osborne.

“Despite its age the document has clearly gained in relevance for a modern audience, and there is a tangible sense of anticipation as we open this new exhibition and launch the 800th anniversary celebrations in Salisbury.”

Re-housed in a dramatic new enclosure, the cathedral’s copy of Magna Carta is joined by manuscript treasures from the archive together with a new interpretation of the ornate medieval frieze, which visitors can follow round the Chapter House.

More is revealed about the historical characters linked to Salisbury who shaped the creation and early years of Magna Carta, while contemporary reflections on the meaning of Magna Carta are provided through an thought-provoking documentary made in partnership with local students and Bournemouth University.

With the accent firmly on encouraging a response, the exhibition has been designed to appeal to families and younger audiences as well as the Cathedral’s many international visitors, using media installations, simple interactives, objects and stylish graphics.

“I know that the many visitors who will come to Salisbury Cathedral to experience this exhibition will be excited and engaged by what they find,” added the Very Rvd Osborne. “I hope they will go away inspired by Magna Carta’s enduring values of fairness, universal rights and justice.”

A wide-ranging programme of supporting events has been arranged by the Cathedral during 2015.

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  • You can see Magna Carta: Spirit of Justice, Power of Words from February 28 2015.

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