This is the day that …the Magna Carta was signed, “an ever memorable day to Englishmen and to all nations descended from Englishmen!” It was AD 1215!
Few Christians realize the spiritual significance of this landmark document.
Pope Innocent III had placed England under an interdict. (That could be compared to excommunication, not just for an individual, but a whole nation!) And it meant no more masses, no more Christian burials, no more confession, no more priestly absolution of sin … and more. For a people who had believed these unscriptural practices to be ‘gospel’, it was a matter of the gravest importance.
King John had rejected the papal Archbishop and appointed one of his own choosing!
The interdict had its desired effect. King John gave in – accepted the Pope’s choice of Archbishop of Canterbury, and surrendered the British Empire to Rome – and promised to pay annual tribute into the Roman coffers (English Church History, by C. Lane, page 207).
But by an amazing twist of circumstances, Stephen Langton (the Pope’s choice for Archbishop) then sided with the English barons – against the papal demands! It was he who had the Magna Carta drawn up – a charter that stated among other things, “The Church of England shall be free, and hold her rights entire, and her liberties inviolate!” In other words, there would be no interference or domination from the Pope.
Thus it was, at Runnymede, Archbishop Stephen Langton and the barons compelled King John to sign the document against his will! (New Guide to Knowledge of Church History, by M. Bloxam, page 156).
Because the actual document bears no date, some historians have suggested 19 June was the day it was signed.
In the Making of the Magna Carta (page 9), it records how “by 15 June it … had been completed and could be laid before the King for his formal acceptance… The date, 15 June, may well be that on which the sealing took place” (pages 7, 9).
The Pope fumed … condemning and annulling it in a Bull (24 August, 1215). “We do utterly reprobate and condemn this agreement … whereby the Apostolic See is brought into contempt.”
Despite the Pope’s indignation the Magna Carta prevails as a landmark of political and spiritual advancement. It was a stepping-stone toward the Reformation days when the ties with Rome would be finally broken.
This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.
Tags: archbishop of canterbury, church, church of england, england, english church history, history, magna carta, pope, pope innocent iii, prout, stephen langton
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