The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has declared its intention to provide "initial support" to Salisbury Cathedral in its efforts to prepare its rare surviving copy of the Magna Carta for the 800th anniversary events next year.
Salisbury holds one of the four remaining original copies of the
Magna Carta known to exist.
Two of the others are in the British Library
in London, and one is in Lincoln Cathedral.
Among other events for the 800th anniversary of the
charter's signing, all four documents will be brought together as part
of a unique display in the British Library, billed as a
"once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for researchers and the public to see
the documents side-by-side".
This will be followed by an exhibition featuring Salisbury
Cathedral's Magna Carta in the Chapter House alongside other documents
from its extensive archive.
Cathedral authorities said: "The responsibility of owning and
interpreting the Magna Carta is important in shaping Salisbury
Cathedral's objectives, especially as the document's 800th anniversary
in 2015 approaches."
Using the latest interpretation techniques, the cathedral intends to
communicate the Magna Carta's historic background and modern
significance to the many visitors expected in 2015 and beyond.
The Magna Carta is the foundation of English governance and is
considered so important that it holds a place on the "Memory of the
World" register, a collection of the most significent historical
documents and records listed by the United Nations Educational,
Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
The cathedral's website describes the physical document itself it in
the following terms "[It] is closely written in a beautiful scribal
hand. It is on a single sheet of vellum, and was originally sealed with
the royal great seal".
"The text, with its 63 clauses, occupies the whole sheet, with
margins of about 1cm. The text itself is in Latin, with various
customary abbreviations, some of which remain ambiguous to this day."
Historically, this copy found a home in Salisbury because of the
involvement of Elias of Dereham, a key aid to the then Archbishop of
Canterbury Stephen Langton, and an important negotiator in the 1215
crisis which led to the signing of Magna Carta.
Elias was a stonemason who was later charged with the construction of
Salisbury Cathedral, which he would ultimately become Canon of. Before
that, he was given the responsibility of distributing ten of the
thirteen copies of the Magna Carta made.
One of these went to Old Sarum Cathedral, built in 1092 and the place
of worship that existed before the current Salisbury Cathedral was
built on the site between 1220 and 1258.
Talking about the cathedral's copy of the Magna Carta, Canon Edward
Probert, Canon Chancellor, Acting Dean of Salisbury said, "Magna Carta
lay unnoticed in our archives for centuries before someone spotted it
and realised its huge significance.
"This funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund will also enable us to
employ a full time archivist so that other important manuscripts from
our archives can be experienced by the public for the first time."
"Salisbury Cathedral's archive is a real medieval treasure trove with
documents going back to the founding of the first Cathedral at Old
Sarum – so who knows what else might be discovered?"
In order to unlock the £500,000 being put forward by the Heritage
Lottery Funding, the cathedral will need to raise £200,000 of its own in
Martin Field, Deputy Chapter Clerk and Development Director of
Salisbury Cathedral said that he was "delighted" about the new funding.
He explained that it "allows us to develop our exciting plans for a
new Magna Carta exhibition and other celebratory activities in 2015,
bringing Magna Carta to many new audiences".
"The 'Great Charter' has inspired and influenced people to stand up
for justice and freedom around the globe and across the ages. People
will be able to come to Salisbury and experience for themselves the
extraordinary sway the ideas expressed in this document continue to
Nerys Watts, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund South West, said:
"Salisbury Cathedral's original 1215 Magna Carta is one of the world's
most important documents and is still hugely relevant to our lives
"This initial support will mean the Cathedral can work up detailed
plans to restore, re-present and open up the Magna Carta's fascinating
story for visitors long into the future. We are looking forward to
seeing these exciting plans progress over the coming months."
Wilsons Solicitors LLP, the oldest legal business headquartered in
Salisbury, has already pledged £30,000 towards the cathedral's £200,000
Managing Partner Andrew Roberts said, "Magna Carta is probably the
most famous document in English legal history. Its application of the
rule of law to all, including the state, continues to underlie the
personal and commercial freedoms that we enjoy today."
"We feel privileged to be the first business to support this
internationally important project to showcase this document, its context