Saint John’s Bible

The Saint John’s Bible 25th Anniversary Dedication Tour Concludes With Canterbury Presentation

The Cathedral received a rare, full-size Heritage Edition in an Evensong service

CANTERBURY, Kent, England – The 25th Anniversary Dedication Tour of The Saint John’s Bible came to a triumphant conclusion Saturday, when Canterbury Cathedral received a rare, full-size Heritage Edition in an Evensong service.

The gift to the oldest Christian community in England was made possible through the generosity of an American couple through The Catharine Elizabeth Laney Trust.

“When we first started planning this trip, we thought we would be lucky if we could deliver one fine art edition of The Saint John’s Bible to England,” said Brian J. Bruess, Ph.D., President of the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University. “Never in our wildest imaginations did we think we could present four.”

In 1998, Saint John’s Abbey and Saint John’s University sought to “ignite the spiritual imagination of people throughout the world by commissioning a work of art that illuminates the world today.” They commissioned Donald Jackson, considered one of the world’s foremost Western calligraphers, to handcraft the original manuscript of The Saint John’s Bible, which took place at Jackson’s scriptorium in Monmouth, Wales.

It marked the first time in 500 years that a Benedictine Monastery had commissioned a handwritten, illuminated Bible. The construction paralleled that of its medieval predecessors – written on vellum, using quills, natural handmade inks, hand-ground pigments and gold leaf while incorporating modern themes, images and technology of the 21st century.

Jackson’s team was made up of skilled scribes, some who worked at the scriptorium and others who took pages of vellum back to their own studios. They met at regular intervals to hold together the weight, texture and appearance of the script. The Bible also incorporated art works from several guest artists whom Jackson selected.

“Given that the United Kingdom is the land where The Saint John’s Bible was conceived and principally created, and that it is also the birthplace of its creator, it is only fitting that this week we have had the opportunity to present fine art editions of The Saint John’s Bible to several esteemed Anglican institutions: Sarum College in Salisbury, Lambeth Palace Library in London, and now this extraordinary Cathedral in Canterbury,” said Abbot John Klassen, OSB, of Saint John’s Abbey. “In the near future, we will present another one to Durham Cathedral.”

Founded in 597 A.D. by Saint Augustine, Canterbury Cathedral is the earliest cathedral foundation in England. It is the cathedral of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, leader of the Church of England and symbolic leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The Heritage Edition is a full-size reproduction of the original masterpiece. Each of the seven volumes that make up The Saint John’s Bible is approximately 2 feet tall by 3 feet wide when open and weighs about 20 pounds. Only 299 of The Saint John’s Bible, Heritage Edition, have been produced. Each volume is signed and numbered by Donald Jackson.

During the tour, participants and spectators at each public presentation witnessed the permanent installation of The Saint John’s Bible to the historical canon of religious works at each institution.

“This has been an extraordinary week, and we hope you feel the same,” Bruess said in his closing remarks Saturday. “To borrow Donald Jackson’s line, our goal was to give you everything you hoped for, but more than you ever imagined.”

“Tonight we receive a Heritage Edition of The Saint John’s Bible given in honor of his grace, the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby,” said the Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, The Very Reverend Dr. David Monteith.

“I’ve known this Bible for many years now, and it is a joy that we are to have one here, not only to keep it safe, but to study it, to read it, to use it, to pray with it and to learn more how God works in his world through the stories of his people down the ages.”

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