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The Document

Image of text in Magna Carta

Salisbury Cathedral’s Magna Carta is closely written in a beautiful scribal hand. It is on a single sheet of parchment, and was originally sealed with the royal great seal; the seal on this document is no longer present, but the marks of its attachment are clearly visible at the bottom. 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.

This copy of Magna Carta has been displayed in various ways over the last century, but, apart from short periods when undergoing conservation, it has always been at Salisbury Cathedral. In the corners of the vellum can just be detected pin-holes, evidence of a less cautious approach to displaying this precious document than we apply today. And there is an enduring story in the cathedral community that many years ago a cathedral employee used to take it home each night to put it under their bed for safekeeping.

Watch a short film about Magna Carta and how it was created here: