The Magna Carta, Runnymede
A recently visited place and one of my favourites…
The monument is approached along an earth path over a field, past the JFK memorial on the right. Through a gate and a field of cows and through another gate. The setting is offset by the busy road to one side and Heathrow airport beyond – the sight and sound of low flying jumbo jets overhead a constant reminder that this is not medieval England.
The monument itself is a double drum hewn from blocks of the local earth, forming a corridor in between. The entrance is a simple opening in the outer drum, with another opening offset around the corridor. The inner opening reveals a light drenched pool with a simple bench all around.
Tranquil, contemplative, layers of meaning. The space and atmosphere changes according to the weather, season and time of day. Above was a beautiful day with a deep blue sky, providing a perfect disc of the sky above. This circular slice of open sky provides a detached view and distant sounds of the outside world, while inside the cylinder space, one sits in quiet contemplation. The sounds of the road and aeroplanes can still be heard, but detached – the focus is the solitude and calm of the interior space. A flat pool ripples in a gentle breeze, but when still, allows a reading of Article 39, only possible as a reflection in the water around the edge.
A monument to the Magna Carta and a reflection upon the founding principles of democracy.
The artist Mark Wallinger has drawn inspiration from Clause 39 of Magna Carta and the fundamental principles of justice it embodies.
“No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.”– Clause 39, Magna Carta