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In the Middle Ages, monasteries helped preserve humanity’s body of knowledge through meticulous copying of existing books and writing of new texts. In the 21st Century, Saint John’s Abbey and University, in Collegeville, Minnesota, commissioned The Saint John’s Bible, the first handwritten and illuminated Bible commissioned by a Benedictine monastery in more than 500 years. Benedictine College’s Convocation and Arts Committee will host an exhibition of 25 archival prints from The Saint John’s Bible from March 13 through Easter Sunday, April 16.
Co-sponsored by St. Benedict’s Abbey and the Benedictine College Art Department, the fine art prints will be on display in the McCarthy Gallery of Art in Bishop Fink Hall, the Abbey Gallery on the lower level of the Abbey Church, and the foyer leading into the Dining Hall. The galleries will be open on Wednesdays from 2 – 8 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays from 12:30 – 4:30 p.m., or by appointment. The pieces displayed next to the Dining Hall will be available throughout the day. The exhibition is free and open to the public.
The Saint John’s Bible is comprised of more than 1,130 pages and 160 illuminations contained within seven volumes, with each page of text is 15 7/8 inches wide and 24 ½ inches tall. A team of artists and scribes under the direction of Donald Jackson, prominent illuminator and calligrapher to Her Majesty’s Crown Office in Parliament, created the Bible from 1995-2011. The goal was to illuminate, rather than illustrate, the Bible. In the end, it is a unique blend of ancient techniques and materials and modern themes and imagery.
The Convocation and Arts Committee has planned additional programming around the exhibit.
On March 29, Sister Irene Nowell, OSB, Ph.D., a noted biblical scholar and member of Mount St. Scholastica Monastery, will offer a special lecture on The Saint John’s Bible at 7 p.m. in O’Malley-McAllister Auditorium on the Benedictine College campus. Sister Irene served as an adjunct professor in the Theology Department at St. John’s University and was one of only eight people involved in The Saint John’s Bible project committee. She was the Old Testament scholar on the committee that interpreted the biblical text for the artists who produced the illuminations.
The Department of Music will present a concert of musical works that explore the same passages as the illuminations on exhibit. The concert is set for March 26 at 3 p.m. in the Abbey Church.
In partnership with the Benedictine College Library, the committee has arranged to host a full-scale replica volume of Gospels and Acts during Holy Week, April 9 – 15, 2017. The volume will be on display in the main lobby of the Library, located on the college campus. It will be available for viewing during normal Library hours.
There will also be an illumination workshop for Benedictine students put on by the monks of St. Benedict’s Abbey during Palm Sunday weekend.