World's best preserved Magna Carta in global spotlight at 800th anniversary

2015-06-22 15:08:13 GMT2015-06-22 23:08:13(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

by Xinhua Writer Zhang Jianhua

LONDON, June 22 (Xinhua) -- Southwest England's Wiltshire, home to the world's finest preserved original Magna Carta, is under international spotlight as Britain celebrates the 800th anniversary of the Great Charter this year.

In 1215, Magna Carta was signed by England's King John, pressured by rebellious barons, to establish the legal principle that nobody, even the king or queen, was above the law.

Magna Carta, literally meaning "Great Charter," was believed to be among the world's earliest constitutional documents to protect people's freedoms and rights, influencing political and legal frameworks in many countries.

There are only four remaining copies of the original Magna Carta, written in Latin on sheepskin, with the best preserved one kept in Salisbury Cathedral in Wiltshire, and the other three in the British Library and Lincoln Cathedral.

Salisbury, a major city in Wiltshire, has proven to be a hub of celebrations this year, partly thanks to the many events related to the commemoration of Magna Carta's 800th anniversary. It has also been ranked by Lonely Planet as the 7th best city in the world to visit in 2015.

Salisbury Cathedral, one of Britain's finest ancient cathedrals, took much pride in displaying its original Magna Carta in a medieval setting, carefully protected in a specially designed showcase.

The cathedral has also hosted a new interactive exhibition "Magna Carta: Spirit of Justice, Power of Words" in its 13th century Chapter House. It aims to take visitors on a journey of liberty and justice, shedding light on the history and the contemporary relevance of the document.

June Osborne, dean of Salisbury Cathedral, said the anniversary was hugely significant for the cathedral, the city of Salisbury and the county.

"It is an opportunity to publicly celebrate the values of Magna Carta and the liberties it has brought us, liberties that we hold dear today and are tempted to take for granted, " she said.

Salisbury staged a massive Magna Carta Pageant last week, which became a city-wide carnival of color, music and dances.

A series of giant "baron" puppets led a delegation from communities across Wiltshire. Hundreds of locals and visitors took part in the parade and thousands piled along the streets to watch the procession.

"Communities from across the county are getting right behind this event, involving schools, young people and local groups, and it really does promise to be an extraordinary pageant and a night to remember, " said Jane Scott, leader of Wiltshire Council.

VisitWiltshire, the county's official tourist board, has created a new two-day trail, which features a wide range of Magna Carta related activities and highlights the county's best tourism destinations.

It encourages visitors to explore the various events and attractions listed on its website, including the famous World Heritage Site of Stonehenge, just 8 miles away from Salisbury.

David Andrews, CEO of VisitWiltshire, said: "The Magna Carta 800th anniversary celebrations are a great reason for both domestic and international visitors to make time for Wiltshire and stay longer in the county."

"With a wide variety of activities, events, restaurants, accommodation and places to visit, there is plenty for people to do as part of their own Wiltshire trail," he added.

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