Image of courtesy of Lincoln Cathedral, England

Lincoln Cathedral, one of the finest medieval Gothic cathedrals in Europe, has possessed the Magna Carta since June 1215. At that time Lincoln, originally founded by the Romans, was one of the leading urban centers in England. King William I (reigned 1066–1087) made it a seat of power and built a castle and cathedral there, both of which remain today. The Bishop of Lincoln, Hugh de Welles, was one of those recorded in Magna Carta as being present at the sealing of the document at Runnymede.

The Lincoln Cathedral Magna Carta remained hidden in the archives until its importance was recognized in the nineteenth century. For its 800th anniversary in 2015, the document will be placed in a custom-built vault in Lincoln Castle, on loan from the Cathedral for display to the public.

1215 Magna Carta

Written on a single sheet of parchment in fifty-four lines of Latin, the Lincoln Magna Carta is unique because it bears the address “LINCOLNIA” written twice on the reverse. One annotation states: “agreement between King John and the barons,” to which another scribe has added “by grant of liberties of the Church and of the kingdom of England.” The Great Seal of King John signaling the authenticity of the document is missing, but three small holes at the bottom of the page show where it would have been attached. Only four original copies of the 1215 Magna Carta survive: one belongs to Lincoln Cathedral, one is at Salisbury Cathedral, and two are in the British Library.

King John of England (reigned 1199–1216). 1215 Exemplar of Magna Carta. Great Charter of Liberties. Manuscript on parchment, June 1215. Loaned by kind permission of the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln Cathedral, England

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