‘The Great Charter of Liberties or Magna Carta agreed between King John and his barons at Runnymede in 1215 is one of the most famous documents in history. It is considered the foundation of English common law and much of its worldwide importance lies in the interpretation of the clauses from which grew the right of the freedom of the individual or habeas corpus.'
‘No free man shall be arrested, imprisoned, dispossessed, outlawed, exiled or in any way victimised, or attacked except by the lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land.’
This right is most famously contained in the American Bill of Rights embodied in the constitution of the United States of America.
Magna Carta went through a number of revisions and reissues before being enshrined in English statute law in 1297. The most significant revision of Magna Carta was issued by Henry III in 1217. Hereford Cathedral is fortunate to possess one of these 1217 charters, only four of which survive.’
Hereford Cathedral Website
This document is so important, not just because it is over 800 years old but because it marks an important milestone in the formation of modern government of what became the United Kingdom as well as similar democracies such as the United States. It is a document therefore that has global significance.
A short distance from the Mappa and Magna Carta is one of the oldest libraries in the country.
‘The Chained Library at Hereford Cathedral is a unique and fascinating treasure in Britain’s rich heritage of library history; there were books at Hereford Cathedral long before there was a ‘library’ in the modern sense.
The cathedral’s earliest and most important book is the 8th-century Hereford Gospels; it is one of 229 medieval manuscripts which now occupy two bays of the Chained Library. There has been a working theological library at the cathedral since the 12th century, and the whole library continues to serve the cathedral’s work and witness both as a research centre and as a tourist attraction.’
Yes, you read that correctly…8th century! The Hereford Gospels, circa 780, illustrating the Gospel of John is an 8th-century illuminated manuscript gospel book in insular script (minuscule), with large, illuminated letters. An added text suggests this was in the diocese of Hereford in the 11th century.
I was standing in the chained library yesterday, in the shadow of the Hereford Gospels with colleagues from the diocesan staff who had gathered at the palace to hear our 107th Bishop, Richard, talk about the new strategic direction for our work within the Church of England in our ancient diocese.
Our various teams work in different ways all over the diocese, so we are rarely all together in one place. It was lovely therefore to have a little time together in the afternoon session to look at the cathedral’s ancient treasures, which many of us walk past almost every day but only rarely visit.
So, it was there that I was standing in the chained library yesterday afternoon at the exact moment that our Primary Minister, Liz Truss, resigned. For a few moments we huddled with our backs to the ancient manuscripts and stared at Sarah Whitelock’s phone. This was another significant piece of history as we saw closing stages of the shortest term of office of a British Prime minister in history. 45 days.
I knew that the moment of juxtaposition between ancient and modern history would likely become a flashbulb memory for me. Where were you when Liz Truss resigned? I will always know the answer to that one, I think.
My years as a teacher baked in a tendency to prefer not to publicly comment on politics but given that a few weeks ago, I touched on the reformation without any disasters I am feeling confident...
The biggest problem with the current political crisis is that it feels like our country has lost its stability. Almost above all else, we need that back. Tricky thing is that stability depends on consensus and consensus is harder to find in the midst of instability.
All our school leaders will recognise those stormy moments that crop up in the life of a school. A crisis is always a stiff test of leadership. When we have strong and dependable leadership in place, we fear the crisis moments a little less because we have confidence that the captain of the ship will plot the right course to escape the storm. That is as true for a storm in a school as it is in a country. The storms that hit the country are obviously much larger than those in any one school, although the turbulence of those national storms can be felt in all our schools. The war in Ukraine is a good example, as many of our schools have welcomed Ukrainian refugees.
Hereford Cathedral’s world treasures are all from a time where there was far greater instability than we know today. As we stand before them, we feel connected with those turbulent times and are perhaps reminded of our own relative security, even when the entrance to number 10 Downing Street seems to need a revolving door.
I also take comfort from the stability of faith in Jesus Christ. I can read the Gospels today just as fellow Christians were doing in Hereford a thousand years ago. And together, these two historical times and generations are connected to a man from Galilee who walked with us two thousand years ago. Whose actions and words were so transformational that they were recorded and preserved in a book 1200 years ago that has been preserved, protected and treasured through all the centuries of turbulence and uncertainly. And there it sits on the shelves of the chained library in Hereford and the wheels of time continue to turn. Prime ministers will come and go but the guiding light of Christ remains.
Prayer for 18th Sunday after Trinity
Almighty and everlasting God,
increase in us your gift of faith
that, forsaking what lies behind
and reaching out to that which is before,
we may run the way of your commandments
and win the crown of everlasting joy;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
It was the turn of John Fletcher of Madeley and Kimbolton CE Primaries to weather the turbulence of an OfSTED inspection this week. We give thanks for Stacey and Adam and the teams in those two precious schools communities.
Please could you take a moment to pray for our friends and colleagues at The Blue Hills Federation in the Clun Valley. Very sadly their long serving Chair of Governors, Sandra Davies died at the weekend. Sandra will be much missed as she was a church warden in Newcastle and a long-standing governor. Someone who has given so much time to church and church school personifies the dependable stability and local rootedness that every one of our schools needs to flourish.
Blessings and best wishes for some peace and a restful half term. Thanks for all your hard work in this phase of the school year. I won’t mention the word yet, but I did see a child with a mince pie in their lunch box this week…
Canon Andrew Teale
Diocesan Director of Education