The Magna Carta Comes to Massachusetts

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(Museum of Fine Arts, photo by Phyllis Cahaly, MOTT)

Visitors to Massachusetts who are intrigued by the state’s illustrious history, especially its role in the Revolutionary War and the founding of the nation, will have one more reason to visit this summer.

The Magna Carta, one of the world’s great documents on behalf of liberty, freedom and the rights of individuals, is on display in Massachusetts this summer. The Magna Carta: Cornerstone of Liberty, runs at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston from July 1 – September 1, 2014. The exhibit includes one of only four remaining copies of the charter, which was written in England nearly 800 years ago.

Written in 1215, the Magna Carta became the inspiration for both the Massachusetts Constitution and for the Constitution of the United States, as the supreme law of the land, and subsequently for the American Bill of Rights, which protected the rights of all citizens.

The Magna Carta provided the framework for “A government of laws, and not of men,” John Adams wrote at the time.

The exhibition is organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, in partnership with the Massachusetts Historical Society and Lincoln Cathedral in Lincolnshire, England, with support by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. State Representative Cory Atkins (D-Concord), co-chair of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development, was instrumental in working with the MFA and Lincoln Cathedral to secure the loan of the Magna Carta.

In addition to the rare charter, the MFA is also putting on display some of its prized possessions, including the museum’s Sons of Liberty Bowl, created by Paul Revere in 1768, as well as sculptures, portraits and historical documents related to the original American colonies. And the Massachusetts Historical Society is loaning two manuscript copies of the Declaration of Independence and other documents of from the 18th century.

The Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau has put together a Magna Carta Boston History Pass for the exhibit that includes free admission to several sites along Boston’s Freedom Trail.

According to the Secretary of State’s Office, the Magna Carta was one of the early symbols here in Massachusetts. When Bostonians stopped recognizing the authority of the British Crown in the 1770s, the General Court instructed a committee to design a new Colony Seal. The temporary seal that was approved depicted a man holding the Magna Carta, engraved by Paul Revere himself.

Massachusetts visitors and residents will have a second chance to see the exhibit, since it travels to the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown after September 1, before moving to the Library of Congress in Washington DC.

For more information on visiting Massachusetts this summer or any time of the year, go to