Bells to toll arrival of Magna Carta in St Albans

The Magna Carta Medieval Festival takes place in Verulamium Park in St Albans from August 3-4.

The Magna Carta Medieval Festival takes place in Verulamium Park in St Albans from August 3-4. - Credit: Photo supplied

A PEAL of bells from St Albans Cathedral today (Thursday) will herald the momentous arrival of an original Magna Carta in the city where it all began 800 years ago.

The bells are expected to be heard at about midday, ringing out Beethoven’s Ode to Joy to both mark the presence of the iconic charter, on loan from Lincoln Cathedral and launch the Magna Carta Medieval Festival.

This city earned its place as a Charter Town when in August 1213 the Cathedral was the venue of the first meeting between barons and clergy to discuss their grievances against King John.

This historic meeting ultimately led to the articles that became Magna Carta, sealed at Runnymede two years later.

The document marked a sea change in rights and freedoms, and has been a symbol for justice and fairness in the UK and internationally.

The Very Rev Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans Cathedral, said: “It is not widely known that the Abbey played a key role in the development of Magna Carta.”

The arrival of the ancient document – just four original copies have survived – at the Cathedral and the city-wide festival are key events in local 800th anniversary celebrations.

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The 1215 Magna Carta, which is also the focus of a special exhibition at the Cathedral, can be viewed from August 3-29.

Tickets are available on the door, or from

n It’s 1213 in St Albans this weekend as the city hosts 800th anniversary events starting with the Magna Carta Festival at Verulamium Park, from 11am, August 3-4.

n The festival features a historical encampment, medieval-themed arts and crafts, equestrian, combat and archery displays, re-enactment of the meeting between King John, barons and clergy (2.30pm) followed by a battle re-enactment at 3pm, on both days.

n Also on Saturday and Sunday, you can create your own Manga Carta Japanese art at the Clock Tower, Market Place, from 10.30am until 4pm. At 11am on Saturday, Breaking Barriers features music, poetry and a performance on people’s perception of autism.

n At 4.15pm on Sunday, August 4, an ornate civic procession will leave Verulamium Museum led by St Albans Mayor Cllr Annie Brewster, accompanied by fellow Mayors representing some of the five Magna Charter towns.

n The Museum of St Albans, Hatfield Road, is hosting the “Magna Carta 1213: the Journey Starts Here” exhibition until September 15.