Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

How Did the Magna Carta End Up in Houston?

Photo courtesy Hereford Cathedral
Hereford Cathedral archivist Rosalind Caird examines the Magna Carta in

This Friday, a rare copy of the Magna Carta and an accompanying King's Writ will go on displayin Houston at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Known as one of the most important documents in history, the Magna Carta was written and signed by King John and England's feudal barons in 1215. It directly inspired international constitutional law and the tenets upon which the U.S. Constitution is based.

So why has this rare copy — one of only four in existence — traveled from its home at Hereford Cathedral in England to Houston of all places?

Glyn Morgan of Hereford Cathedral tells Texas Standard host David Brown that when they were deciding where to share the document, they were looking at "who would deal with the display, who would give access, who would use the documents imaginatively," and The Houston Museum of Natural Science showed it could.

The Cathedral's Canon Chris Pullin said it wasn't a hard decision to allow the fragile 800 year old piece of calfskin to leave its home. 

"It's really because it is such an important document in the history of the world, the history of democracy," he said. "We want to share it with people. And in Hereford we're a bit out of the way, and not so many people can see it. But by bringing it here, we know that a million, perhaps two million, people might come and see it. And if that inspires and encourages them to think about what it means to be a proper human being, then it will have all been worth it."

Morgan said, there's also a special connection that inspired the loan.

"There is a long-term link between Herefordshire and Texas already," he said. "The Hereford cattle originated with us and were such an important part of in the earl development and expansion of this part of the US."

The documents are on display starting this Friday, Feb. 14 through Aug. 17th. Tickets are on sale at the Museum's website

Emily Donahue is a former grants writer for KUT. She previously served as news director and helped launch KUT’s news department in 2001.
Related Content