Oh dear, you're using an old internet browser

Unfortunately you're still using an old version of your internet browser, this is known to have problems displaying websites made after 2009. For a much better browsing experience we recommend using Firefox, Google Chrome or the latest version of Internet Explorer. Learn how to browse happy.

(Clicking these links will not start any downloads or change anything on your computer) (Hide this notification)

Magna Carta on Tour

You are here: Home » Library & Education » Magna Carta on Tour

Magna Carta has been displayed at Lincoln Castle since 1993.

it has now come off display and will remain offsite during the building stage of the Lincoln Castle Revealed project. This project is being funded by the Historic Lincoln Trust.

Time won’t be wasted since Magna Carta is going on tour

Why tour?

What’s all the fuss about? After all, Lord Phillips said in his 2013 Magna Carta Lecture that the document we now revere was little more than a cynical attempt by a bad king to buy time from those determined to temper his abuse of power. As will become clear in the course of the tours, it is the influence that it has had and still has that counts.

The Tours

St Albans in August 2013

We loaned our Magna Carta to that City and Cathedral to help them celebrate the 800th Anniversary of the first meeting of churchmen and barons, led by Lincolnshire born Archbishop Stephen Langton, in St Albans in 1213 to dicuss their grievances against King John.

Bury St Edmunds May 2014

In May 2014 we plan to lend Magna Carta toBury St Edmunds Cathedral to help their commemoration of the swearing of an oath by the Barons to confront King John


In June 2014 Lincoln Cathedral’s Magna Carta will travel to the United States for three major exhibitions celebrating the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the document by King John at Runnymede in June 1215.


The Lincoln Magna Carta will be exhibited first at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), from July 2 until September 1, 2014. In partnership with the Massachusetts Historical Society, Magna Carta will be on view in the MFA’s Art of the Americas Wing alongside other historical loans, as well as portraits and works of art from the Museum’s collection. Focusing on Massachusetts’ and America’s ongoing relationship with Magna Carta, additional objects include The MFA’s Sons of Liberty Bowl (1768) by Paul Revere––engraved with the words “Magna/Charta” and “Bill of/Rights”––and two manuscript copies of the Declaration of Independence––originally penned by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

“I am proud to bring Magna Carta to Boston, where it inspired so many Sons of Liberty and Founding Fathers to action, and am grateful to the Lincoln Cathedral for this extraordinary loan,” said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director at the MFA. “This foundational document will hold a place of honor among American masterpieces and colonial treasures that bring some of Massachusetts’ most famous patriots to life.”


In September, Magna Carta moves to the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts for an exhibition from September, 6 until November, 2.  Michael Conforti, director of the Clark, said, “We are delighted to have the opportunity to bring the Magna Carta to Williamstown and know that this will be a historic moment for our community and for the Clark. We are planning an exhibition that underscores the document’s importance as the foundation of the principles that shaped our nation and inspires our visitors to consider anew the notions of democracy and freedom.”


The final exhibition is at the Law Library of Congress in Washington, D.C, where it will be on display from November 6, 2014, until January 19, 2015. In addition to the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, this exhibition will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the November 1939 deposit of the Lincoln Magna Carta at the Library for safekeeping during World War II. The document was on display at the 1939 World Fair in New York when the war began.  Until the US entry into the war, it was exhibited at the Library, after which it was taken to Ft. Knox and returned to Britain in 1947.

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said, “We are honored to place on exhibition Magna Carta, one of the lasting treasures of human history.  The principles that underlay Magna Carta are the foundation of our liberties, inspiring this country’s Founding Fathers in shaping the U.S. Constitution and the laws of this land.  We especially welcome the return of the Lincoln King John 1215 Magna Carta, because the Library of Congress played an important role in its safekeeping during World War II.”

Although it has been said that the now-revered document was little more than a cynical attempt by a bad king to buy time from those determined to temper his abuse of power, its influence has been immense. One of the earliest statements of limited government and a point of departure for centuries of thought on individual rights, Magna Carta has become the world’s most enduring symbol of the rule of law. The founders of the United States looked to Magna Carta as a major influence in the creation of the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.This theme will be explored in each of the exhibitions against the backdrop of Lincoln, a small city in the East of England, whose role in the story of Magna Carta was immense.

The Dean of Lincoln, the Very Reverend Philip Buckler said, ‘The Lincoln Cathedral Magna Carta is a source of great pride for the people of Lincoln and its Cathedral. It has been met by great enthusiasm whenever it has travelled to the United States in the past and we look forward to it being a source of inspiration to all those who visit the exhibitions, so much so that they are encouraged to come and visit Lincoln – the place where so much of the story begins.

British Library

There are in existence four 1215 Magna Carta. Two are held by the British Library and one by Salisbury Cathedral. All four of the original surviving 1215 Magna Carta manuscripts will be brought together for the first time in history at a 3-day event at the British Library from 2-4 February 2015.

Why Lincoln?

‘In a sense, Lincoln is where the story of Magna Carta begins and ends.  A young Lincolnshire cleric called Stephen Langton studied at the schools of Lincoln Cathedral, and later became Archbishop of Canterbury. He instilled in Magna Carta his ideas on just kingship. But King John renounced Magna Carta within weeks of agreeing to it.  He cut a swathe through Lincolnshire in a civil war to save his throne.  Illness ended his life in Newark Castle, a residence of the bishops of Lincoln.  Fighting continued, until the climax was reached in a battle in Lincoln which defeated the French prince and rebel barons, asserting the succession of John’s son Henry III to the English throne.’ (from the introduction to the forthcoming Pitkin Guide to the Lincoln Magna Carta by Nicholas and Carol Bennett).

Of the Lincoln 1215 King John Magna Carta eminent Medieval Historian, Professor Nicholas Vincent, said this: ‘A fourth and final original was brought to light at Lincoln Cathedral, [later] printed in facsimile in the Statutes of the Realm in 1810, and henceforth used as the basis for most of the editions of Magna Carta published over the past two centuries. Its particular quality lies in the fact that it is written in an ‘official’ hand and has remained at Lincoln since the time of its first issue.’

 Magna Carta 8oo

We are working with the Magna Carta 800 Committee of the Magna Carta Trust to bring the legacy of Magna Carta into the bloodstream of the nation.

Previous tours

The Lincoln Magna Carta has attended two World’s Fairs, one in New York in 1939 and one in Brisbane in 1988.  Also, in the 1980’s it made a number of visits to the US and was exhibited in most states and major cities.

In the early part of the twenty-first century the Cathedral was approached by Virginia Beach to ask if Magna Carta could be present at the four-hundredth anniversary of the first settlers landing there in 1607.  There have been three other visits… to the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California and to the Fraunces Tavern Museum in New York.


Support Our Cathedral

Find out how you can help support the Lincoln Cathedral →

Share this page

Lost your password?