On this day 803 years ago, the Magna Carta was issued in London (Nov. 6, 1217). Today, Museum of the Bible is delighted to announce it will host an original 1217 Magna Carta as part of “Magna Carta: Tyranny, Liberty, Justice,” a major new exhibit created by Hawkwood International. Museum of the Bible has partnered with Hawkwood International, which has the exclusive right to exhibit the Hereford Cathedral Magna Carta and 1215 King’s Writ, to bring the exhibit to Washington. 

The Magna Carta is widely considered to be a major inspiration for the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the British Human Rights Act.  

The groundbreaking exhibit is set to open in April 2021 and run through October 2021. 

Throughout the story is the reminder that rulers are ordained by God and that bad rulers — be they kings, emperors or presidents — better watch out and take heed of the words of the Prophet Isaiah: “Woe unto those who make unjust laws.

In addition to the Magna Carta, the exhibit will feature the unique 1215 King’s Writ, the document sent to sheriffs across England immediately after the sealing of the 1215 charter by King John. It is the only surviving copy of this document and the only contemporary document that refers to “Runnymede” as the location of the meeting where King John and the barons agreed to the terms of what became known as the Magna Carta. 

“Bringing the King’s Writ, the parchment issued at Runnymede in 1215 by ‘Bad’ King John in the presence of the Barons, uniquely shapes the story we are telling,” says Alon Shulman, cofounder of Hawkwood International. “It is the only known copy in existence having been kept together with 
Magna Carta at Hereford Cathedral for over 800 years. Prior to this it was unthinkable to the medieval mind that the king could be subject to the same laws as everyone else. We’re looking forward to showing how many of the freedoms enjoyed or longed for around the world today stem from this moment.” 

The story of the Magna Carta is the story of bringing tyrants to account; it is about overcoming tyranny, rather than the creation of democracy. This is at the heart of the Magna Carta from the medieval period to the modern day, through the Magna Carta, the Stuarts, the American Revolution and to the present. Throughout the story is the reminder that rulers are ordained by God and that bad rulers — be they kings, emperors or presidents — better watch out and take heed of the words of the Prophet Isaiah: “Woe unto those who make unjust laws.” 

The exhibit explores the role that the Bible and the English Church play in the struggle against tyranny. Beginning in the early thirteenth century in England, the exhibition explores the medieval world, the context of the creation of the Magna Carta and the personalities involved. The second part of the exhibition looks at the Americas in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, where the notion of the Magna Carta took on new meaning in the struggle for independence. 

“Magna Carta has played a direct role in overcoming tyranny around the world and across the ages, so it is apt that it is in the ‘land of the free’ that we will tell the story of Magna Carta — and its relationship with the Bible — from the thirteenth century to the present day,” says Luke Purser, cofounder of Hawkwood International. “The idea of Magna Carta defined the importance of the process of law in regards to life, liberty and property found in the United States Bill of Rights, so it is fitting that we are bringing the Magna Carta and the King’s Writ to the Museum of the Bible at the heart of the U.S. Capital.” 

“We are honored to bring such a monumental exhibit to Museum of the Bible. While the Magna Carta remains an imperfect document created by imperfect people, its influence on human rights, democracy and law is unparalleled. More than 800 years after its revision it continues to shape thinking on contemporary issues,” remarked Jeff Kloha, chief curatorial officer at Museum of the Bible. “In ‘Magna Carta: Tyranny, Justice, Liberty,’ visitors will encounter these early, foundational documents in an interactive and engaging exhibit. They will leave with a greater understanding of the relevance of the Magna Carta, the enduring importance of the rights that developed from it, and the central role played by the church and the Christian faith in its creation and longevity."

“The Hawkwood team is honored to be bringing Magna Carta to Museum of the Bible in 2021. We’re working together on a shared vision to create the first truly immersive Magna Carta museum experience,” said Lord Fink, chairman of Hawkwood International. “Magna Carta has survived cataclysmic world events, including the Black Death, Great Plague and Spanish Influenza, which has given added context to planning this during the current global pandemic, where we have used 21st century technologies to bring the 13th-century world to life.” 

“Magna Carta: Tyranny, Justice, Liberty” will provide an immersive experience using light and sound to evoke the Middle Ages. Alongside manuscripts and artifacts, Hawkwood has created original music and film that will tell the story of the Magna Carta from medieval England to Revolutionary America, and up to the present. Visitors will not only see the famous Magna Carta itself, but will find out about medieval saints, knights, barons and kings. As well as King John, the story of the Magna Carta includes characters such as William Marshall — “the greatest knight,” Archbishop Stephen Langton, William Penn, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Eleanor Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.

Artifacts on display as part of “Magna Carta: Tyranny, Justice, Liberty” include: 

  • Codex Valmadonna I: In Hebrew and Aramaic, manuscript on parchment, England, 1189
  • Illuminated New Testament: In Latin, manuscript on vellum, Verona, ca. 1215
  • The King’s Writ: In Latin, manuscript on vellum, Runnymede, 1215
  • The Magna Carta: In Latin, manuscript on vellum, London, 1217
  • Stephen Langton, Interpretationes hebraicorum nominum: In Latin, manuscript on parchment, Northern France, ca. 1220-1245
  • Magna Carta and Statutes of England: In Latin and Anglo-Norman by several hands using English cursive and charter scripts, manuscript on vellum, England, ca. 1300
  • William Penn, The Peoples Ancient and Just Liberties Asssrted (sic), in the Tryal of William Penn, and William Mead, at the sessions held at the Old-Baily in London, the first, third, fourth and fifth of Sept. 70. against the most arbitrary procedure of that court: In English, London, 1670
  • Edward Coke, The Second Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England: Containing the Exposition of many ancient, and other Statutes. Whereof you may see the particulars in a Table following: In English, London, 1681
  • Henry Care, English Liberties, of the free-born subject’s Inheritance, including Magna Charta, Charta de Foresta, etc.: In English, Boston, 1721
  • Continental Congress, Journal of the Proceedings of the Congress, held at Philadelphia, September 5, 1774: In English, Philadelphia, 1774