Hundreds of people flocked to Salisbury Cathedral‘s cloisters on Friday, 6 March to attend the formal opening of the new Magna Carta Exhibition and hear the director of the British Museum deliver the first Magna Carta lecture.
Broadcaster and author Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, did the honours and cut the red ribbon to signify the formal opening of Magna Carta: Spirit of Justice, Power of Words, the Cathedral’s new permanent exhibition housing its 1215 Magna Carta document.
Along with the Very Revd June Osborne, Dean of Salisbury, MacGregor also cut an amazing 20” diameter cake in the form of King John’s seal. The cake made by baker Christine Jensen, who created the award winning Magna Carta cake, was handed out to guests before they joined a large audience in the Cathedral to hear Neil MacGregor lecture on Making the Magna Carta We Want: The Unintended Meanings of an Icon in Salisbury Cathedral.
MacGregor’s talk illustrated how the Magna Carta has been adopted and used beyond its original intentions in the centuries since it was agreed and sealed - and how politicians, protestors, lawyers and other individuals of all political persuasions had used the document to their own ends, demonstrating it’s remarkable power as an instrument of change. McGregor concluded by asking what our Charter for today would be. Both the Cathedral’s permanent exhibition and Neil MacGregor’s lecture, the first in a series, are part of the year-long 800th Anniversary Magna Carta celebrations.
Said Neil MacGregor: “Magna Carta is not just a constitutional document: it has become in its own way an institution. And like all institutions it has been constantly reinvented. Every generation has found what it needs for its own particular time in the words of Magna Carta and the circumstances of its signing. In this sense it is truly an icon – a window on to a world of imagined perfection and an object on to which we project our needs and our wishes. What do we want Magna Carta to do for us today?”
Said the Very Reverend June Osborne, Dean of Salisbury, who chaired the event: “In his ‘History of the World in 100 Objects’ Neil MacGregor examined many important ideas through the prism of his selected cultural icons. This lecture brings that same scrutiny to bear on Salisbury’s Magna Carta, exploring its capacity to bring individuals from across the world together to share and discuss the historical and judicial forces that have shaped our world.”