Apostles Edition presented to The Most Reverend Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury
Only 12 Apostles Edition sets of The Saint John’s Bible exist.
And it’s only fitting that one should reside in the United Kingdom, the nation in which the project was conceived and principally created.
That is now the case after Wednesday when an Apostles Edition was presented to The Most Reverend Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, on behalf of the Church of England during a burnishing ceremony and prayer service held at the Lambeth Palace Library in London.
The palace is the official London residence of the archbishop, the principal leader of the Church of England.
In 1998, Saint John’s Abbey and Saint John’s University commissioned renowned British calligrapher Donald Jackson 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.
“Given the United Kingdom is the land where The Saint John’s Bible was conceived and principally created, it is such a privilege to be able to bring it home here,” College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University President Brian Bruess said in remarks at a reception following Wednesday’s presentation.
Only a dozen of The Apostles Edition exist (one for each of Jesus’ disciples). One was presented to the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. last month. Other locations to have received one include the Vatican Museum of Art, the Library of Congress and the Morgan Library and Museum in New York.
“It’s a great honor to be here with you,” Welby said. “The Saint John’s Bible is astonishing. This is a very precious Bible to have in our library.”
The presentation was the centerpiece of a week-long series of events in England being conducted in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the commissioning of The Saint John’s Bible, and to honor Jackson, who along with his team received the Pax Christi Award Tuesday in London. The award is the highest honor bestowed by Saint John’s, recognizing those who have “devoted themselves to God by working in the tradition of Benedictine monasticism to serve others and to build a heritage of faith in the world.”
A Heritage Edition of The Saint John’s Bible was presented to Sarum College in Salisbury, England this past Sunday (Nov. 5), and another will be presented to the Canterbury Cathedral in an Evensong service this coming Saturday (Nov. 11).
Wednesday’s presentation at Lambeth was offered by an anonymous American couple. All three gifts have been made possible through The Catharine Elizabeth Laney Trust.
“In these troubling times, when conflict and violence seem to be piercing our world at every turn, and when faith and culture are wrongly used as instruments of division, it is reassuring to know that the Word of God can be a unifying spirit,” Bruess said. “And that leaders and followers of our faith traditions – Catholics and Anglicans – can come together in prayer, celebration and communion around an awe-inspiring sacred text.”
The edition will be placed in the library’s permanent collection.
“I’d like to express thanks on behalf of the Library and the church commissioners for this magnificient gift,” said Hugh Cahill, the senior librarian of the Lambeth Palace Library, in his remarks at the reception.
“We are honored to be entrusted with its care and to be among a select group of institutions such as the Morgan Library, the Library of Congress and the Vatican to hold copies of this edition.”