Magna Carta at Christ Church
‘To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice’ (Clause 40 of Magna Carta 1215)
2015 marked the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta (‘The Great Charter’), one of the most famous documents in world history. Magna Carta is credited with being the first effective check in writing on arbitrary, oppressive and unjust rule — in a word, on tyranny. It established a fundamental principal of the rule of law: that executive power should not be above the law, but should be subject to the law of the land.
The effects of this inspiring document are still felt today. Its principles informed the American Bill of Rights (1791) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). More recently, Magna Carta was cited in 2008 in a majority opinion of the US Supreme Court that the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay should not be detained indefinitely without trial.
To celebrate this anniversary, Christ Church Cathedral is, for the very first time, exhibiting its own copy of Magna Carta, which is contained within the cathedral’s Liber Niger or ‘Black Book’. The Christ Church Magna Carta forms the centrepiece of a new, interactive exhibition in the Cathedral Crypt, where visitors can view Magna Carta in the original vellum manuscript. They are also invited to explore the ‘Black Book’ of Christ Church in more detail in an interactive digital exhibit, which includes images of the complete medieval Latin text of Magna Carta and explanations of its most significant passages.
Entrance to the exhibition is free with Cathedral admission.