1215 Runnymede Revisited

FeastRunnymede, a meadow on the Thames, a field of dreams, dreams to end the tyranny of an all-powerful sovereign.

The Magna Carta outlined basic rights with the principle that no free man was above the law, not even a King. It chartered limits on taxation without due representation, and it asserted the right to a fair trial. It inspired many other later documents that declare other rights to be free from interference.

But within weeks of its signing at Runnymede, the Magna Carta was dead. The King disowned it, and the Pope condemned it. Yet the seed had been planted in the fertile soil of the English heart.

In 1215 less than half the population were free men, and free men meant men only, not women. Now 800 years later the symbolic and aspirational ideas have taken root and flower and we speak of the rights not only of all men, and not only of women, but also of children, of the rights of the impoverished, of the rights of animals, and of the rights of future generations to enjoy the glories of creation that we can still witness around us. But as more biodiversity is lost every day, and as our world still has suffering and torture, the dream is not over. Every great thing starts with a dream and grows into reality. Perhaps we must ask, if we were to write a charter today, what would we demand to have written.

The exhibit at St. Peter’s features the ideas of artists and their vision for a more harmonious world, a world where the honeybee still hides within the lilies of the field. The work evokes the spirit of Runnymede, and is executed in artistic media that existed in or before the time of the charter. It comes from artists and artisans within Kent but also reaches beyond the shores of the United Kingdom.

Welcome to our field of dreams.


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