Saint John’s Abbey and University, Collegeville, Minnesota today presented the Library of Congress with a gift of the Apostles Edition of The Saint John’s Bible, a work of art with more than 1,130 pages and 160 illuminations that reflect life in the modern era. The gift was made possible by Minneapolis-based GHR Foundation and is the first handwritten and illuminated Bible commissioned by a Benedictine monastery since the invention of the printing press, more than 500 years ago. The Bible will join the Library of Congress’ collection of rare spiritual texts and will be on public exhibition beginning Saturday, Sept. 26.
(L to R) Abbot John Klassen OSB; Chairman of Joint Committee on the Library Sen. Roy Blunt; Dr. James Billington; Pope Francis; Speaker of the House John Boehner; Saint John’s University President Dr. Michael Hemesath; and GHR Foundation CEO Amy Rauenhorst Goldman.
The gift of this Apostles Edition was made in the presence of Pope Francis, following his address to a joint meeting of Congress, in acknowledgement of the Pope’s devotion to scripture; his concern for the poor, sick and marginalized and for the dignity of all people; his care for creation; and his commitment to justice for all. The Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, received the Bible on behalf of the American people. Also present at the ceremony in House Speaker John Boehner’s office were Speaker Boehner, Saint John’s University President Dr. Michael Hemesath, Abbot John Klassen, OSB, and GHR Foundation CEO Amy Goldman.
The original manuscript of The Saint John’s Bible is held at Saint John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minnesota, a Benedictine institution. There are only 12 sets of the Apostles Edition in existence, including the one donated to the Library of Congress. The Saint John’s Bible is an unprecedented combination of ancient methods and materials, with themes, images and technology of the 21st century. Saint John’s Abbey and University partnered with world-renowned calligrapher Donald Jackson, senior scribe to Her Majesty the Queen’s Crown Office at the House of Lords in London, England, to create this masterpiece.
“The Library of Congress is truly honored to receive this priceless work of human creativity and divine inspiration in honor of Pope Francis’ visit,” said Dr. Billington.
“We felt this gift was an especially appropriate way to commemorate the Holy Father’s visit, said GHR Foundation Chair and CEO Amy Rauenhorst Goldman. “We hope this remarkable Bible will amplify Pope Francis’ focus on global collaboration and inspire interest in the deeper messages of Scripture for all Americans.”
The Bible will be available to researchers for study as part of the Library’s extensive collection of Bibles and religious texts from all the world’s religions, including one of only three perfect copies in the world of the Gutenberg Bible and the Library’s Giant Bible of Mainz, a hand-illuminated Bible contemporaneous with the Gutenberg.
“One of the early dreams of the creators of The Saint John’s Bible was to have fine art editions in the great libraries of the world,” said Saint John’s University President Dr. Michael Hemesath. “There is already a Saint John’s Bible in the Vatican Library, and now Pope Francis’s visit to the United States makes it possible for this incredible combination of scripture and art to be in the Library of Congress.”
The Saint John’s Bible and its limited-edition fine art editions resulted from a long collaboration among scholars of scripture and theologians at Saint John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minnesota and a team of artists and calligraphers led by Donald Jackson in his scriptorium in Wales, in the United Kingdom. Under the direction of expert calligrapher Jackson, who served as senior scribe to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s Crown Office at the House of Lords, teams of illuminators created The Saint John’s Bible entirely by hand using quills, illuminating it with precious metals and paints manually ground from precious minerals.
Illuminated Bibles throughout history have depicted the times and places in which they were created, and The Saint John’s Bible is no exception. The illuminations bring to life familiar scriptural passages from a modern perspective, both in terms of conveying a multicultural humanity and representations of science, technology, and space exploration, in addition to other more contemporary historical events.
The Library of Congress, which collects books, manuscripts, photographs, films, sound recordings and knowledge in many other formats from around the globe in more than 470 languages, is the home of an extensive array of materials reflecting the world’s broad and varied religious heritage. Its holdings range from the Gutenberg Bible and a collection of more than 1,500 other Bibles to Jewish Talmuds, Tibetan texts, ancient Buddhist scrolls and rare editions of the Qur’an.