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St. Norbert College is hosting a Year With The Saint John’s Bible until March 2019. Photos courtesy of Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minn., 2014.

Year With The Saint John’s Bible Begins With a Blessing

An extraordinary replica of the meticulously handwritten and illuminated Saint John’s Bible will be on display during the next year at St. Norbert College.

St. Norbert is hosting the Gospels & Acts volume of the Heritage Edition of The Saint John’s Bible until March 2019, offering students, faculty and staff the opportunity to study and interact with an intricate re-creation of the first handwritten and hand-illuminated Bible to be commissioned by a Benedictine monastery since the invention of the printing press more than five centuries ago.

St. Norbert’s Year With The Saint John’s Bible began Feb. 16 with an installment ceremony and blessing by the Rev. Andrew Ciferni ’64 (CNS) at the Mulva Library. The college will also display five framed illuminations from other volumes of The Saint John’s Bible as part of the year-long program.

“We’re extraordinarily excited about it,” says Julie Massey ’87 (Mission & Student Affairs). “It’s a piece of art, it’s a piece of literature, it’s a piece of faith wrapped up all in one.”

The Saint John’s Bible was commissioned in 1998 by Saint John’s Abbey and University in central Minnesota. Donald Jackson, the renowned calligrapher and official scribe to Queen Elizabeth II, inscribed the first words on Ash Wednesday in 2000.

Jackson worked with a team of calligraphers and artists to create the 1,165-page manuscript and 160 major illuminations, completing the final pages in 2011. The Saint John’s Bible was produced on calfskin vellum using traditional inks and tools. The illuminations feature gold leaf to represent the divine and silver to reflect the principle of wisdom.

The Heritage Edition is one of 299 copies of The Saint John’s Bible, which is printed in seven volumes on 100 percent cotton using state-of-the-art offset lithographic printing to replicate the look and feel of the original version. Each Heritage Edition is unique, requiring treatments by hand for portions of The Saint John’s Bible that cannot be replicated mechanically. Jackson himself numbers and initials each volume.

The Heritage Edition will be on display outside Ruth’s Marketplace in Michels Commons through the end of March and will appear at other locations on campus during the next year, including the Baer Art Gallery in September. Five St. Norbert students have also been trained as docents to make the Heritage Edition available for classroom and small-group study.

“Our hope is people can engage with the Gospels & Acts volume in a number of ways,” Massey says.

Three lectures are planned during the Year With The Saint John’s Bible, including:

  • “From Inspiration to Illumination, an Introduction to The Saint John’s Bible,” a lecture with The Saint John’s Bible director Tim Ternes at 7 p.m. Sept. 11 in the Fort Howard Theater at the F. K. Bemis International Center.
  • “Science and Faith in Harmony: The Heavens Declare the Glory of God” by Hubble astronomer Anton M. Koekemoer of the Space Telescope Science Institute. (The Bible includes images inspired by the Hubble quest as it delivers the Word of God to the age of space exploration.) The Oct. 9 event in Birder Hall begins with a 6:30 p.m. concert and is followed by a 7 p.m. lecture.
  • “Exploring the Art of Manuscript and the Prémontré Cartulary,” a lecture with Heather Wacha, a postdoctoral fellow in medieval studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in February 2019 (date and location to be determined).

March 6, 2018