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Date: 24/02/2014

Magna Carta goes on display in Houston as New Interactive Website is Launched

Magna Carta goes on display in Houston as New Interactive Website is Launched

Hereford Cathedral's 1217 Magna Carta and 1215 King John's Writ have arrived in Houston Texas amid great excitement, to form the centrepiece of a new exhibition at the Houston Museum of Natural Science until August 17. 

The Great Charter of Liberties, or Magna Carta, agreed between King John and his barons at Runnymede near Windsor in 1215 is one of the most famous documents in history. It is considered the foundation of English common law and the inspiration for the American Constitution.  Hereford Cathedral’s 1217 Magna Carta, enshrines the text that has become the basis for human rights today.

Opening receptions were attended by the Mayor of Houston, the Director of HMNS, British Consul General for the Southern US, as well as representatives from Hereford Cathedral and the Hereford Cathedral Perpetual Trust.

Canon Chris Pullin, Chancellor of Hereford Cathedral, told Texans “Magna Carta represents 'a step-change' in the way the human race thought about itself, just as the moon landings directed from Houston had united the world and carried the sense of human achievement forwards”. Dirk Van Tuerenhout, HMNS Director of Anthropology added “The Magna Carta’s legacy is important, not because of what the original document actually said, but rather what people thought it said.  The charter studied greatly in the 17th century was not the 1215 Magna Carta but the truncated and modified version, based on the document issued in 1217, when Henry III was a mere boy and his reign far from secure.”

In addition, the document is displayed alongside the only known surviving writ sent from King John at Runnymede proclaiming the creation of this historic charter.  In this unique letter, the king instructs the election of twelve knights in each county to inquire into the ‘evil customs of the sheriff and other officials’ as required by the charter.

Visitors who are unable to get as far as Houston should not be disappointed. The exhibition opening coincides with the launch of the cathedral’s new interactive website, offering visitors across the world a chance to explore the events surrounding the creation of Magna Carta by King John and the boy king Henry III, and to purchase their own facsimile copies of the documents.

The new website also features an interactive exploration area for the cathedral’s famous Mappa Mundi, providing access to the Folio Society digitally enhanced version of the Map and the Factum Arte three dimensional surface scan. An additional interactive presentation focuses on rare books from the Cathedral’s unique Chained Library, with a profile of the Hereford Mappa Mundi Trust who have funded the development of the new website.  All profits from online purchases assist with the ongoing conservation and care of the Cathedral and these historic collections.