Celebrating Lincoln’s Magna Carta

With its medieval castle and one of the finest cathedrals in Europe, Lincoln’s rich history has been put firmly in focus for 2015 with the national and international celebrations marking 800 years of Magna Carta.

Lincoln possesses one of only four surviving originals of the 1215 manuscript- the ‘grand charter’ regarded today as the foundation of modern constitutional democracies.

The four original surviving Magna Carta manuscripts have been brought together in one place for the first time since their creation 800 years ago, and a University of Lincoln historian has been invited to study the momentus collection.


The unification event at the British Library assembled the four Magna Carta manuscripts - which are now owned by the British Library, Lincoln Cathedral and Salisbury Cathedral.

Magna Carta, the ‘grand charter’ signed by King John of England in 1215 AD under duress from his rebellious barons, represents one of the world’s most influential manuscripts. It is regarded today as the foundation of modern constitutional democracies, having enshrined in England the rule of law, separation of church and state and the right to trial by jury.

The surviving four manuscripts were together at the British Library for three days, from Monday 2nd February to Wednesday 4th February 2015 – when the manuscripts were subject to a unique academic examination.

Dr Philippa Hoskin, Reader in the University of Lincoln’s School of History & Heritage, was hand-picked as one of six world-leading academics specialising in the study of the Magna Carta to take part.

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the project will see the researchers examine the manuscripts side by side. They will explore the handwriting of each of the scribes, consider evidence of the ownership of the documents over 800 years, and examine the four manuscripts in the context of several hundred other King John charters. 

Dr Hoskin said: “The unification of the four surviving original manuscripts represents a truly landmark occasion and I am delighted to be attending the unique study day. It is an extremely exciting investigation to take part in as we don’t know what we might discover. We know that we have questions to ask about the way the documents were created and distributed, but it’s only when we see all four manuscripts together in one room that we will understand whether those questions can be answered.”

Following the unification event, which was sponsored by global law firm Linklaters, the manuscripts travelled to the House of Lords for one further day on Thursday 5th February, before they were separated and put on display by their home institutions in major anniversary exhibitions.

Lincoln Cathedral's Magna Carta will go on display in Magna Carta: Power, Justice and Accountability in the newly-built David P. J. Ross Magna Carta Vault at Lincoln Castle from 1st April 2015.

Claire Breay, the Head of Medieval Manuscripts at the British Library, the Very Reverend Philip Buckler, Dean of Lincoln, and the Very Reverend June Osborne, Dean of Salisbury, released a joint statement on the event: “King John could surely never have anticipated the enduring global legacy of Magna Carta when he agreed to its terms in 1215. 800 years later, the international interest and excitement about this unification event is testament to the extraordinary significance and symbolic power of these four manuscripts.”

To mark the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta, the University of Lincoln has named 2015 its Year of Liberty. For more information click HERE  





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February 2015

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