Police in Salisbury, England, have arrested a 45-year-old man they say tried to steal an original copy of the Magna Carta from Salisbury Cathedral late Thursday.
The unnamed suspect used a hammer to smash holes in the protective glass box surrounding the 803-year-old document, but was unsuccessful in reaching the document itself.
The Wiltshire police said the would-be thief was detained after alarms sounded and he attempted to flee.
“He walked out of the Chapter House and tried to leave the cathedral via our work yard and he was detained there and restrained until the police arrived,” the Very Rev. Nick Papadopoulos, the dean of Salisbury, told the BBC.
“He had been carrying a hammer so our guys were very courageous,” said the dean.
Only four original copies of the Magna Carta remain in existence. The cathedral bills its document as “the best preserved original manuscript” of the four. It was unharmed in the incident.
King John signed the Great Charter in 1215, approving basic legal principles such as equality before the law and the right to a fair trial.
“At the time it was the solution to a political crisis in Medieval England,” Salisbury Cathedral say on its website, “but its importance has endured as it has become recognized as a cornerstone of liberty influencing much of the civilized world.”
The basic tenets of the Magna Carta inspired other major political documents including the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.