Man allegedly tries to steal 803-year-old Magna Carta from Salisbury Cathedral

Updated Oct 26, 2018 8:15 AM EDT

LONDON — British police have arrested a man suspected of trying to steal a Magna Carta from its display case at Salisbury Cathedral. Wiltshire Police said Friday that cathedral alarms sounded Thursday afternoon when a person tried to smash the glass box surrounding the Magna Carta.

The Magna Carta granted by King John in 1215 has become an enduring symbol of the rule of law. 

The document on display at the cathedral is one of four surviving original Magna Cartas.

A photo provided by the Wiltshire Police shows a glass case holding one of four original copies of the Magna Carta, which was damaged by an alleged would-be thief at Salisbury Cathedral, England, on Oct. 25, 2018.

Police say the Magna Carta was not damaged and no one was hurt during the incident. The cathedral said in a written statement that its copy of the vaunted document, considered a cornerstone of modern democracy and a primary influence on America’s Founding Fathers, would be back on display as soon as possible.

The Magna Carta established for the first time that neither monarch nor government was above the law and set out principles of liberty which echoed through the centuries.

The copy in Salisbury Cathedral was written immediately after the rights were formally agreed at Runnymede and sent out across the country as evidence of the decision.

As CBS News’ Charlie D’Agata reported in 2015, as Britain celebrated the Magna Carta’s 800th birthday, the document has served as the basis of the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The suspect was arrested on suspicion of attempted theft, possession of an offensive weapon and criminal damage. He has not been identified or charged.

Police say the man matched a description given by witnesses.

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