After visiting Stonehenge, we backtracked nine miles to the historic city of Salisbury. We had been searching for Old Sarum, the site of the oldest known settlement in the area. Unfortunately the sat nav got a little confused, likely due to user error, and so we never made it to Old Sarum. Instead, in a happy turn of events, we visited the Salisbury Cathedral, known for having the tallest spire and oldest working clock in England. It also contains within it one of four remaining original copies of the Magna Carta.
The Magna Carta, from Latin meaning ‘Great Charter,’ is a document which preserved the rights of nobles and later became foundational in preserving the rights and liberties of the common person. History goes that the infamous King John so angered the nobility by his heavy taxes and by his violation of privileges that they had traditionally held, to the point where he was imprisoning people without real cause. As a result of his tyranny, in June 1215, King John was coerced into agreement of the charter. In return for the observance of common law, King John would be allowed to continue to rule England. Today, the Magna Carta forms the basis for our practice of due process, which is found in clause 39 which states,
“No free man shall be arrested or imprisoned or disseised or outlawed or exiled or in any way victimised, neither will we attack him or send anyone to attack him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.”
With an appreciation for how our own Constitution has been influenced by the Magna Carta, written over 500 years before the foundations of our nation, we were excited to see it. Samantha was especially looking forward to it, as she had been studying the Magna Carta just the week prior in her seventh grade history class as part of the curriculum in the state of California. Unfortunately we do not have any photos; photography is not allowed inside the tent housing the document. However, there were interactive exhibits, as well as other medieval artifacts, such as indulgences, on display.
Salisbury Cathedral itself is a wonder, with its magnificent construction and rich history. The cathedral was built in the 13th century, with the foundation stones being laid in April 1220. The main body of the cathedral was completed in 1258. The famous spire, now the tallest in England was added in the early 14th century. Inside the cathedral, Lady Catherine Grey, sister of the ill-fated nine-day Queen of England, Lady Jane Grey, is buried here with her husband. Helena Snachenberg, lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth I also rests here, as well as others not mentioned in school history textbooks but have great importance in family histories. We appreciated the monument commemorating the Normandy Campaign of World War II, a crucial battle to the Allied Forces, and their eventual victory. We are forever grateful to the Wiltshire Regiment and the veterans who served. The cathedral is still a place of worship today, with regular services and programs. Salisbury Cathedral is free to visit, but as it is reliant on the generosity of its members and visitors, we gave a few pounds each to support its conservation.
After visiting the cathedral, we explored the town of Salisbury. The old streets are lined with modern shops, cafes, and restaurants. Stores such as H&M, Pandora, and other chain stores we enjoy here in the States can be found in the city centre. We sat down for dinner at a U.K. Italian chain restaurant, and enjoyed the Christmastime ambiance. In all it was an excellent visit, and one that I would recommend if you’re in Wiltshire. Happy trails!
For source information and to plan your visit:
Michael, Rochelle, and Emily Haas