News & Politics

A Really Old, Very Important Copy of the Magna Carta Has Come to DC

The 1217 document, one of four in the world, will be on display at the Museum of the Bible until January 2, 2022.

1217 Magna Carta. Photo courtesy of Hawkwood International.

The Museum of the Bible is now showing one of the four original copies of the 1217 Magna Carta. However, you shouldn’t get too prideful about having one of the world’s most famous documents in DC: The historical document is only here until January 2022.

The Museum of the Bible received a copy of the Magna Carta on loan from Hereford Cathedral in England for its new exhibit “Magna Carta: Tyranny. Justice. Liberty.” The exhibit will use light and sound to tell the story of the Magna Carta from medieval England to the present, specifically the creation of the document and how it shaped the American struggle for independence. You can also see other historical documents on display, such as a 1300 version of the Magna Carta and the King’s Writ.

The Magna Carta was the first English charter to directly challenge the absolute authority of the monarchy with a declaration of human rights. The document is said to be a major inspiration for the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. While there are a handful of 13th-century “exemplifications” of the Magna Carta (one of which, a 1297 copy donated by David Rubenstein, is at the National Archives), there are are only four versions of the 1217 Magna Carta.

“While Magna Carta remains an imperfect document created by imperfect people, its influence on human rights, democracy and law is unparalleled,” said Jeffery Kloha, the chief curatorial officer at Museum of the Bible. “More than 800 years after its revision, it continues to shape thinking on contemporary issues.”

Tickets to the Museum of the Bible are on sale for $19.99 (or $9.99 for children 7 and older).

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Damare Baker
Assistant Editor

Before becoming an assistant editor, Damare Baker started out as an editorial fellow for Washingtonian. She has previously written for Voice of America and The Hill. She is a graduate of Georgetown University, where she studied international relations, Korean, and journalism.