Magna Carta: Houston, 2014

magna carta 3td

Recently, Your Humble Correspondent took a few days off to visit Houston. The occasion was my father-in-law’s third year memorial. While there, we noticed that the Magna Carta was on display at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. It was almost three years ago that me and my two sons took a trip to Great Britain. We had intended to go to Salisbury Cathedral to see the Great Charter but time constraints forbade us.

Imagine our glee when we saw that it was on display in Houston. Anyway, here are some random photos of the display. Some of it was tangible: they had a set of chain mail which you were allowed to pick up to get a feel for it. I’d say this particular set weighed at least 15 or so pounds. When you consider that the average, well-fed knight was only 5’8″ or so and weighed only 140 pounds, then you start to get a feel for the burdens of being armed.

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Some examples of Medieval weaponrymagna carta 4th

My son Miguel

King's writ

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The successors of William the Conqueror


  1. Tim R. Mortiss says

    Love that stuff, George!

    In particular, the clip of a bit of the Bayeaux Tapestry. For a variety of reasons, as a teenager I became fascinated with the Battle of Hastings and the Norman conquest, and sought out all information about it that could be found. On October 14, 1966, at age 18, I kicked off a Battle of Hastings party at my frat house at Berkeley, to celebrate its 900th anniversary. In later years, in my 20s and into my 30s, we would have regular Battle of Hastings parties, some very elaborate, and at one point we painstakingly reproduced, at larger scale, a section of the Tapestry for a backdrop.

    In 1987 we were able to get to Normandy, and explored out of Rouen to Bayeux, where were got to see the great Tapestry itself!

    Looks like a great trip, George!

    • Patrick Henry Reardon says

      If you sponsor any Battle of Hastings parties in the future, Tim, I would be eternally grateful for an invitation.

      • Tim R. Mortiss says

        I have realized that the 950th anniversary is October 14, 2016….who knows what may eventuate?

  2. Sean Richardson says

    This is wonderful stuff, the foundations of our history, the rule of law and of democracy. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing all of the existing Magna Carta, and I am humbled each time I view one of them. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Looks as if you ought to refresh all of us on the significance of the Magna Carta, and how it applies to the founding of our country. A bit of history please.

    • DC Indexman says

      One of the reasons for this charter was to curtail the powers of King John, and the Barons at the time were also hoping to replace him with another King to their liking. The charter also helped to eventually establish into law that the Council of Barons, later Parliament, had the authority over decisions on the raising of taxes. This of course worked its way into the U.S. Constitution.

  4. Antonio Arganda says

    The Norman invasion of England officially marked the demise of Orthodoxy in England at the hands of its new Frankish overlords . the clergy was purged of its bishops and abbots and Normans were imported to replace them.
    the last Orthodox king Harald Godwinson was killed at Hastings and his progeny fled to Scandanavia and then to Novgorod where several of them became saints of the Orthodox Church.

    • Sean Richardson says

      Antonio: While I have heard this argument used, I think it’s very hard to establish that the kings/bishops in England before 1066 were Orthodox. Following the Synod at Whitby in 664, the Church in England changed from a mixture of Western and Eastern calendars to an all-Western calendar and their theological direction was decidedly toward Rome. One might make an argument that parts of the Church in England were Orthodox in approach before this time, but I think it’d be difficult to make that argument after 664. It is true that Harold’s daughter married a Russian, but there is little substantive documentation as to what became of their family lineage. As much as I like the story, this might fall into the category of ‘wishful-hoping’.

    • Tim R. Mortiss says

      I, too, dispute this. When I was received into the Church last Palm Sunday, I was able to use my given name, Edward, because of Edward the Martyr, not Edward the Confessor (a far more prominent king, of course). Edward the Martyr is by common consent considered Orthodox, maybe just “under the wire”. He was only two or three generations before Edward the Confessor.

      I think that it is clear that England was non-Orthodox by the time of the Conquest. Not to say that it did not become even more non-Orthodox under the very papal Normans, as contrasted to Anglo-Saxon Christianity.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Tim, if I may add to your point (I think): two months ago when I was at St Antony’s in Florence, the icon outside my cell was that of “St Edward the Right-believing King of England.” It was painted in the Byzantine style. I wanted to take a photo of it with my Android but there wasn’t enough light.

    • William Tighe says

      The Synod of Hatfield of 680 AD specifically embraced the filioque (as doctrine at least), led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Theodore of Tarsus.

      • Tim R. Mortiss says

        The papacy did not formally approve the filioque until 1014, though it had been in wide use in the West for a long time before that in various places. The 1014 date I presume has something to do with the question of the “dividing line”…..this was 40 years before the 1054 business.

  5. Aleksandar says

    Hi everyone,

    This is definitely off topic, so I apologise beforehand. But I have a question on the procedure for the deposition of a bishop. Apostolic canon 74 sets out what is required, but I have also read somewhere that a synod of 12 bishops is required to depose/defrock a bishop (this is mentioned in the OCA constitution). Is there a particular canon that specifically mentions the requirement of there being 12 bishops present or is apostolic canon 74 most relevant on this issue? I’d very much appreciate some feedback on this topic.


  6. Isa Almisry says

    From the Pedalion:
    Apostolic Canon 74
    When a Bishop has been accused of something by trustworthy men, he must be summoned by Bishops; and if he answers and confesses, or is found guilty, let the penalty be fixed. But if when summoned he refuses to obey, let him be summoned a second time by sending two Bishops to him. If even then he refuses to obey, let him be summoned a third time, two Bishops again being sent to him; but if even then he shows contempt and fails to answer, let the synod decide the matter against him in whatever way seems best, so that it may not seem that he is getting the benefit by evading a trial.

    (c. VI of the 2nd; cc. IX, XVII, XXI of the 4th; cc. XIV, XV of Antioch; c. IV of Sarican; cc, VIII, XII, XVI, XXVII, XCVI, CV, CXXXI, CXXXVII, CXXXIX of Carthage; and c. IX of Theophilus.).


    The accusation brought against the Bishop and mentioned in the present Canon is not one involving a financial matter, that is to say, not anything of a private nature and calling for personal blame, as, for instance, that a man Has been unjustly treated by the Bishop or that he has been greedily victimized, as Balsamon has incorrectly interpreted it, but, on the contrary, it is one involving an ecclesiastical matter such as might be expected to imperil his rank. But how can this be determined? By the 1 trustworthy men whom the Canon produces as accusers. For men bringing charges against a bishop on account ol financial claims or personal grievances are not examined as to whether they are Orthodox or are misbelievers, nor as to whether they are under suspicion or above suspicion, that is to say, thoroughly trustworthy, but, on the contrary, no matter what sort of persons they may be they are entitled to have their changes sifted, according to c. VI of the 2nd, and cc. VIII and XXVII ot Carthage. But as for those who accuse him on ecclesiastical grounds and m regard to ecclesiastical matters must be both Orthodox and above suspicion, or trustworthy; or else they are not admissible as accusers, according to the same canons. That is why Zonaras too appears to agree with such an acceptation of this Canon. So what the Canon means is simply this: If any bishop should be accused by trustworthy and unaccused men of any ecclesiastical crime he must be summoned to trial by the other bishops. Then if he appears and confesses of his own accord that the accusation is true, or, though he deny it, it is proved by indisputable evidence offered by his accusers that he is guilty of such a charge, then it shall be determined by the bishops what penalty he ought to bear. If, on the other hand, he be summoned and refuse to appear for trial, let two bishops be sent to him and let them summon him a second time. If he again refuses to appear, let two bishops be sent to him once m Dre, and let them summon him a third time. If even for a third time he scorns the summons and refuses to go, henceforward let the synod of bishops decide the case against him even in his absence and decree whatever it deems just and right and lawful penalties, lest he consider that he is gaining any benefit by such tactics in avoiding trial and postponing the time.

    Canon XXVII of Carthage adds that the synod of bishops ought to send the accused bishop letters of request, and if within a space of one month he does not appear, he is to be excluded from communion. Or if he prove that necessary business prevented his appearing for trial, he is to be allowed another month’s time. After the second month has passed without his appearing for trial, he is to be excluded from communion until he proves himself innocent of the crime with which he is charged. But Balsamon says that the thiee summons which the Canon requires to be served upon the accused bishop are to be spaced thirty days apart. So that if the accused bishop fails to appear for trial before the synod within a period of three months, he is thereafter to be condemned at an ex parte hearing. Accordingly in the days of the Holy Apostles, on account of the tact that there were no patriarchates as yet, two bishops had to be sent to summon a bishop; but nowdays it is sufficient if he is notified and this fact is verified by the Patriarchal notaries. According to cc. XII and CXI of Carthage twelve bishops are required to try a bishop, six to try a presbyter, three to try a deacon, and their own metropolitan and bishop. If, however, by consent, they appoint umpires (or chosen judges), even though the latter be less in number than the number ordained, they shall have no right of appeal, according to cc. XVI and CV and CXXXI of the same council. If, on the other hand, any bishop promised at first to let his ease be tried by the bishops, but afterwards refuses to consent to this, he is to be excluded from communion. Nevertheless, until his case has been finally disposed of, according to c. XCVI of the same council, he is to be deprived of his episcopate. If anyone accuses a bishop, the case is to be tried first before the bishops of the synod of the province in question. But if this synod is unable to handle the case, let the trial be held by a larger synod of the diocese, in accordance with c. VI of the 1st. But if anyone has a case to be tried with a metropolitan, let him apply either to the exarch of the diocese or to the patriarch of Constantinople, according to cc. IX and XVII of the 4th. If when the bishop is tried some of the bishops of the province are in favor of acquitting him while others insist upon condemning him, let the Metropolitan call other bishops from nearby districts and let them decide the ease, according to c. XIV of Antioeh. But if all the bishops of the province unanimously arrive at one and the same decision against the accused, let the one thus condemned not be tried any more by other, according to c. XV of the same council. But c. IV of Sardican ordains that if the deposed bishop who has been tried by neighboring bishops claims to have a new defense, no one else is to be ordained in his stead until a better investigation has been made. But that men who accuse bishops and clergymen of criminal offenses must be men above suspicion and Orthodox is decreed more especially by c. CXXXVIII of Carthage, which states that slaves or even freed men are not acceptable as accusers of clergymen against their own lords, nor are mimes and buffoons or any persons that are infamous, and in general all those who are inadmissible as accusers in the case of civil laws. Moreover, c. CXXXIX of the same C. says: When anyone has charged a clergyman with a number of crimes, if he be unable to prove the first crime, let him not be accepted any longer with respect to the rest of his charges as credible. But neither are those who are still under excommunication admissible as accusers, according to c. CXXXVII of the same council. But it such persons are inadmissible as accusers of clergymen, still more are they inadmissible as against bishops. In addition, c. XXI of the 4th says that the reputation of those accusing bishops and clergymen ought to be investigated; and c. IX of Theophilus says the same thing too. See also the Interpretation of c. VI of the 2nd, and that of c. IX of the 4th.

    Canon 12 of Carthage”
    12. If any Bishop fall liable to any charges, which is to be deprecated, and an emergency arises due to the fact that not many can convene, lest he be left exposed to such charges, these may be heard by twelve Bishops’, or in the case of a Presbyter, by six Bishops besides his own; or in the case of a Deacon, by three.
    (Ap. c. LXXIV; c. VI of the 2nd; c. IX of the 4th; c. IV of Antioch; cc. XVI, XXVIII, CV, CXVIII of Carthage.).
    When a bishop is accused of anything, it has been ruled in c. IV of Antioch that he is to be tried by the Synod of the province. But if it should be found difficult to assemble many bishops, the present Canon commands that his case is to be tried by twelve bishops and his own, lest the accused bishop remain exposed to the charges involved in the accusation brought against him — that is to say, more plainly speaking, in order that he may not be treated with contempt by his laity on the ground that he is subject to an accusation and has not been acquitted. As for charges brought against a presbyter, their case may be tried by six foreign bishops and their own. As for charges against a deacon, they may be heard by three bishops arid their own. Read also Ap. c. LXXIV and c. VI of the 2nd and c, IX of the 4th.

    • Tim R. Mortiss says

      Are there contemporary examples of such trials? These would be interesting to know about.

      As a side-note, various circumstances led me (as a lawyer who happened to be a Presbyterian) to be defense counsel for two Presbyterian ministers accused of adultery (the cases were separate and years apart in time). Both cases went to full-blown ecclesiastical trials before the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Presbytery of Olympia. No such actual trials had ever occurred in the Presbytery, at least since the memory of man runneth not to the contrary.

      Those who know the Presbys know that they have a lot of due process, and lots of written procedure; quite fair, actually. An ordinary civil lawyer can easily master the relevant procedural and substantive law. I can imagine that a trial of Orthodox bishops would require the acquisition of much more (and more arcane) legal knowledge! 😉