The Saint John’s Bible is the first handwritten, hand-illuminated bible to be commissioned by a Benedictine abbey in more than 550 years, and its heritage edition now resides at St. Mary’s University. St. Mary’s, the first organization in Texas to acquire the bible, unveiled the seven volumes Oct. 9, 2013 in a presentation on campus.
The Saint John’s Bible was commissioned in 1998 by the Benedictine monks of Saint John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minn. The Heritage Edition, valued at about $150,000, is a full-scale reproduction of the original masterpiece; each volume measures 2 feet tall by 3 feet wide when open. Only 299 sets of the Heritage Edition exist, and about 100 have been acquired.
The Bible is a gift made possible through the generosity of John and Susan Morrison, longtime friends of St. Mary’s President Thomas M. Mengler, J.D.
“St. Mary’s will be forever grateful to the Morrisons,” Mengler said. “This beautiful Bible will inspire generations of Catholics in this region. We look forward to sharing it with the community as we strengthen our Catholic identity and Marianist charism.”
Mengler introduced the community to the Bible on Oct. 9 in Conference Room A of the University Center. There was also a presentation – “The Word of God Alive: The Making of The Saint John’s Bible” – by the Rev. Eric Hollas, O.S.B., Senior Associate for Arts and Cultural Affairs at Saint John’s University.
St. Mary’s will make the Bible available to the public through lecture series, parish exhibitions and interfaith services. It’s also a vital part of the University’s plan to establish an interdisciplinary Center for Catholic Studies, where St. Mary’s will engage in coursework and research that promotes dialogue and understanding of Catholicism, as well as religion and culture in general.
“The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition is a truly limitless treasure, and it will help people to experience the richness of God’s Word among us,” said the Most Rev. Gustavo García-Siller, M.Sp.S., Archbishop of San Antonio. “I thank St. Mary’s University and its generous benefactors, who were instrumental in bringing this inspiring artistic and spiritual work to San Antonio. I know that The Saint John’s Bible will be a true source of Grace for the many it will touch.”
The Heritage Program began in April 2008. Each set uses the best archival-quality 100 percent cotton paper, fade-resistant ultraviolet inks, hand stamping and metallic foils containing genuine silver and gold to mirror the original.
Another unique feature of the Bible is that it combines ancient themes with achievements and events of the past five centuries, including the World Trade Center towers and DNA’s double helix. It blends religious imagery from various Eastern and Western traditions, reflecting our modern understanding of the global village.
“The Heritage Edition provides an accessible link to the original artwork for those who wish to bring it into their lives and the lives of others,” Hollas said. “It is a work of art in its own right and ignites imagination as it imparts the Word of God.”
The Saint John’s Bible was created by scribes, artists and craftspeople across the world under the direction of Donald Jackson, one of the world’s most prominent calligraphers.
The original 1,150-page Saint John’s Bible remains unbound on the Saint John’s campus. The Heritage Edition exists in seven volumes: Pentateuch, Historical Books, Psalms, Prophets, Wisdom Books, Gospels and Acts, Letters and Revelation.