Free lunchtime talks at Bath Guildhall.

The Mappa Mundi, Magna Carta and Bath’s Roman Curse Tablets will be the subjects of talks presented by Bath & North East Somerset Council highlighting remarkable documents inscribed on The UNESCO Memory of the World International and UK Registers. The Registers recognise the world’s outstanding documentary heritage.

Examining real lead curses from the Roman Baths collection.
Examining real lead curses from the Roman Baths collection.

The free lunchtime talks – staged by the Council’s Heritage Services in the Bath Guildhall on 14, 21 and 28 January – present the perfect opportunity to learn more about some of the most significant written documents in the history of the world, which are held right here in the UK.

Cllr Ben Stevens (Lib-Dem, Widcombe), Cabinet Member for Sustainable Development, said: “These documents were of great importance in the past and are also of great importance to us today – helping us to better understand the world in which we live.”

The first talk about the Mappa Mundi is on Wednesday 14 January. It will be delivered by Sarah Arrowsmith, the Education Officer at Hereford Cathedral where it is displayed. This is the only complete example of a large mediaeval world map intended for public display. It gives us a window onto the world as it was known in the middle ages. It is drawn on vellum (calf skin) and holds historical, anthropological, ethnographical, theological, biblical and classical images and information. It presents a view of a world very different from ours.

On Wednesday 21 January, the Magna Carta will be the subject for Seif El Rashidi, the Magna Carta 800 Manager at Salisbury Cathedral. 2015 will be the 800th anniversary of its signing. Only four copies of the original Magna Carta exist, and one is held by Salisbury Cathedral. Considered by some to be the most significant document in our history, it set out for the first time the English principles of liberty, law and democracy and had a worldwide influence which endures to this day. The charter imposed constraints on royal authority in the areas of taxation, feudal rights and justice, thereby limiting unfair and arbitrary behaviour by the king towards his subjects. It is regarded by UNESCO as “an icon for freedom and democracy throughout the world”.

The final talk – given by Roman Baths Manager Stephen Clews about the Roman Curse Tablets from Bath – will be on Wednesday 28 January. They were included on the UK Register earlier this year. The Tablets are prayers requesting the assistance of the goddess Sulis Minerva in righting wrongs and ask for sometimes blood curdling punishment for the perpetrators of crimes. Some were written backwards to increase their potency. They provide a very different insight into the Roman world from that which comes down to us from other surviving documents. Who would want their name written upon a tablet thrown into the sacred spring seeking restitution and revenge?

The free talks will be held at the Guildhall, High Street, Bath from 1.10pm – 1.45pm on 14, 21 and 28 January. They are open to everyone and no ticket or advance booking is required.