Benedictine Sisters receive special edition of The Saint John’s Bible


( For 500 years, the Bible has been printed using printing presses and more recently, digital media. Before that, monks and nuns copied the Bible by hand. As a result we have those magnificent hand-lettered and illuminated bibles such as the Book of Kells or the Lindisfarne Gospels.

In that tradition, the Benedictine monks of Saint John’s Abbey and University, Collegeville, MN, commissioned The Saint John’s Bible, a hand-lettered and illuminated, seven-volume bible. On Sunday, October 10, 2010, Abbot John Klassen, in the name of the Abbey, formally presented the sisters at Mount Saint Benedict Monastery with the first four volumes of the Heritage Edition of this bible, and Sister Lenore Paschke, prioress of the monastery, accepted the gift in the name of all the sisters.

Eleven monks accompanied Abbot John to Mount Saint Benedict for the presentation along with Dan and Katharine Whalen, donors to both Saint John’s Abbey and to Mount Saint Benedict Monastery. Dan Whalen’s aunt, Sister Cathi Merck, and sister, Sister Anita Whalen, are members of the Mount community. Whalen, who had contributed significantly to the funding of the bible project, was able to nominate Mount Saint Benedict Monastery to receive this special edition of the bible. The Benedictine Sisters received the gift during a Vespers prayer service filled with expressions of gratitude and celebration.

The celebration of the formal presentation of The Saint John’s Bible began with each volume of the bible being presented by Abbot John and being carried into the Mount Chapel by one of the monks as an act of formally entrusting the word of God to the sisters. Abbot John in his reflection recalled the deep scriptural tradition of Benedictine life when he said, “We swim in a sea of scripture whether in the psalms or the readings or the hymns we sing.” After the Vespers service, the monks and the sisters enjoyed a social hour of renewing acquaintances and meeting new friends during a social hour and dinner.

The Saint John’s Bible is the product of collaboration between the Abbey and Donald Jackson and a team of calligraphers and illuminators located in Wales, Great Britain. Calligrapher to the Queen of England, Jackson had dreamed of producing a hand-lettered Bible. While at a festival of the book arts in Chicago in the 1990s, along with Father Eric Hollas of Saint John’s Abbey, he conceived of the idea of producing such a bible.

At Saint John’s University, a committee of artists, medievalists, theologians, biblical scholars and art historians called the Committee on Illumination and Text worked with Jackson and his team in developing a plan for the illuminations found in the Bible.

This bible was created using both ancient and contemporary techniques. The pages of The Saint John’s Bible were laid out using the computer, but the actual work of calligraphy and illumination was accomplished using ink, gold and platinum leaf, and egg tempera. Pens, made of turkey, goose and swan quills were used for the calligraphy which was written on vellum made of prepared calf skins. Jackson developed a font to be used specifically for this bible.

The Saint John’s Bible contains 160 illuminations of various passages. Illuminations are different from illustrations which simple depict a specific event, because the illuminations are intended to evoke prayer. They also contain allusions to 20th and 21st century events, placed within the context of biblical passages. creating a bible for the 21st century.

Six volumes of the Bible have been completed, but only four volumes of the Heritage Edition have been printed. The Heritage Edition is a full-size, museum quality facsimile of the original volumes of The Saint John’s Bible. The first volume of the Heritage Edition of this bible was presented to the Vatican.

Mount Saint Benedict Monastery is the smallest group to receive a Heritage Edition of The Saint John’s Bible.

Plans have been made to share this magnificent bible with clergy of the area in the near future. The sisters are also planning a special day on The Saint John’s Bible on April 9, 2011 for the people of the area to explore the volumes of The Saint John’s Bible.

Benedictine Sisters receive special edition of The Saint John’s Bible
By Sister Denise Schonhardt
Mount Saint Benedict Monastery
Crookston Daily Times
Posted Oct 12, 2010 @ 12:28 PM

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Topics: John Klassen, Monk Travel, St. John's Bible

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