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What is the Saint John's Bible?

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Cristina Vanin
Associate Dean
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The Saint John’s Bible is the first illuminated, handwritten Bible of monumental size to be commissioned by a Benedictine monastery in more than 500 years. All 73 books from the Old and New Testaments using the New Revised Standard Version are presented in seven volumes of approximately 1,150 pages.
 
The work of The Saint John’s Bible was done in a scriptorium in Wales. Now complete, Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, is the Bible’s home.

The signs of our times are important elements throughout The Saint John’s Bible. Strands of DNA are woven into the illumination of the ‘Genealogy of Jesus.” Satellite photos of the Ganges Delta and photos from the Hubble telescope were used to depict Creation. In Acts of the Apostles, To the Ends of the Earth includes the first vision of earth as seen from space in a handwritten Bible.

Creation of the Bible
The Saint John’s Bible was made using traditional materials such as vellum (calfskin), ancient inks, gold and silver leaf and platinum, and was written with quill pens fashioned from goose, turkey and swan feathers.
 
With its 160 major illuminations, The Saint John’s Bible reflects three particular Benedictine values and biblical themes: hospitality; conversion of life; and justice for Gods people.
 
The Committee on Illumination and Text (CIT) at Saint John’s University provided the biblical and theological scholarship behind the project. The CIT was composed of artists, medievalists, theologians, biblical scholars and art historians. Under the leadership of Fr. Michael Patella, OSB, the CIT presented Donald Jackson with briefs and abstracts for the verses of the Bible illuminations.
 
The artists took several approaches to representing the divine in the pages of The Saint John’s Bible. Reading the Gospels, you will see the images of Jesus range from representational to abstract. In Prophets, the rainbow, the sign of God’s enduring promise to Noah, is used to show the presence of God. Gold leaf is used throughout, from Creation to Apocalypse, to direct the reader to the presence of the divine.
The Heritage Edition of the Saint John's Bible
The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition is a timeless gift of sacred art. Its breathtaking beauty offers hope today and will inspire future generations for centuries to come. While the original manuscript resides at Saint John’s University, this fine art version has been created to be a source of hope to people around the world.
 
An extension of the original work, the Heritage Edition is the only full-size, limited, signed and numbered fine art edition that will ever be produced. In all, 299 fine art editions have been created and placed in religious, arts, academic, healing and literary institutions around the world, including the Diocese of Hamilton.
 
The first volume released was presented to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican in April 2008. Upon viewing the pages, Pope Benedict exclaimed: “This is a work of art… this is a great work of art… this is a work for eternity.”
 
Bound in Italian leather and printed on 100 percent cotton paper, the Heritage Edition features the exquisite calligraphy, vibrant imagery and stunning gold and silver illuminations inspired by the original. With Donald Jackson as the creative director, the Heritage Edition is a work of art in its own right and each volume includes Jackson’s signature as its certificate of authenticity.
 
In 2017, St. Jerome’s University has two volumes of the Heritage Edition on campus: Gospels and Acts is on display in the Atrium of the Academic Centre; Pentateuch is on display in the Classrooms & Library Building.
A Year with the Saint John's Bible
The mission of The Saint John’s Bible is to ignite the spiritual imagination of people from all faith journeys. To that end, Saint John’s University created the Heritage Edition to spark the imagination of individuals, institutions and communities around the world.
 
Saint John’s University created A Year with The Saint John’s Bible to give institutions a way to experience The Saint John’s Bible for a full year.
 
In 2017, St. Jerome’s University has two volumes of the Heritage Edition on campus: Gospels and Acts is on display in the Atrium of the Academic Centre; Pentateuch is on display in the Classrooms & Library Building.  In addition, ten framed pages from the Heritage Edition are on display in Notre Dame Chapel and the Atrium.
 
St. Jerome’s University has planned a number of events for 2017. We begin with the inaugural event in January, with an ecumenical service in honour of Christian Unity Week.
 
On March 10, 2017, Fr. Michael Patella, OSB, the chair of the Committee on Illumination and Text for The Saint John’s Bible, will be presenting a public lecture entitled: “Bugs in the Bible: An Intertextual Approach.”  Fr. Patella will also be presenting at the Royal Botanical Gardens on March 11; in addition, he will be preaching at St. Jerome’s University on March 12.