It’s been 25 years since St. John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minn., commissioned the first handwritten, hand-illuminated Bible since the invention of the printing press.
To commemorate the anniversary, St. John’s is presenting rare reproductions of the tome to institutions in the Church of England.
A team is traveling to the United Kingdom this week to present the Bibles to three sites: Lambeth Palace Library, Canterbury Cathedral and Sarum College.
The St. John’s Bible was commissioned in 1998, and created under the artistic direction of calligrapher Donald Jackson of Wales. It was completed in 2011.
Grow the Future of Public Media
MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!
It was created with all medieval techniques, on vellum using quills and hand-ground inks and illuminated with gold and silver leaf, said the Rev. John Ross, executive director of the St. John’s Bible Heritage Program.
Ross said the trip aims to bring the masterpiece home to its creative birthplace, and also to help bridge religious divides.
“In this day and age where we see religious conflict literally taking the lives of thousands of people, we have a counter story that says people of different religious stripes can actually come together around something,” he said. “In this case, it’s a thing of beauty that brings people together from different traditions.”
The original manuscript is housed at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library on the St. John’s campus in Collegeville.
An apostles’ edition will be presented to the Lambeth Palace Library. Only 12 apostles’ editions exist, and they’re valued at $1 million each, Ross said. Others are at the Vatican, the Library of Congress and the Morgan Library & Museum in New York.
Two heritage editions, each worth $185,000, will be given to Sarum College and Canterbury Cathedral.
A financial donation from an American couple made the gifts possible, Ross said. Proceeds from the sale of the St. John’s Bible are being used to fund the preservation costs of the original manuscript and to start a scholarship fund, he said.