Durham Cathedral has announced the latest two exhibitions that will feature in its Open Treasure project. Open Treasure – a series of rolling exhibitions – is set to include sections on mythical monsters and documents connected with the historically important Magna Carta treaty.
The exhibition Beasts will open on Monday 20th February and run until Saturday 10th June. It will focus on the bizarre beasts and monsters that have fired the human imagination throughout history.
Beasts will showcase medieval documents featuring dragons and lions as well as ancient manuscripts claiming to prove that fantastical creatures such as unicorns and griffins exist. Held in the Monks’ Dormitory, the exhibition will also feature early natural history books showing sea serpents and wyverns alongside sketches of rhinos and giraffes
The exhibition Magna Carta and the Forest Charters will be hosted in the cathedral’s Collections Gallery from Monday 19th June to Saturday September 9th. The exhibition is being put on to celebrate the creation – 800 years ago – of the first Forest Charter, a document which granted ordinary people certain rights, protections and privileges.
Also on display will be the three copies of Magna Carta held by Durham Cathedral, which date back to 1216, 1225 and 1300. The 1216 Magna Carta is the only surviving version of the document from that time.
An agreement made between King John and his barons in 1215, the Magna Carta has often been viewed as the first time the rights and liberties of individual subjects were set down in English law. The Magna Carta was renewed several times over the years.
The copies of Magna Carta will be displayed alongside the Forest Charters, documents which took their inspiration from the Magna Carta. The Forest Charters which will be on show date back to 1217, 1225 and 1300.
The Forest Charter from 1217 is one of only two such documents surviving from that period. The Magna Carta and the Forest Charters exhibition will ask how these documents came to be in the possession of Durham Cathedral.