Sarum College in Salisbury is the first stop in a week-long series of national events to commemorate the 25th anniversary of The Saint John’s Bible, the first handwritten and illuminated Bible commissioned by a Benedictine monastery since the invention of the printing press in the 15th century.
Uniting modern technology and ancient Benedictine tradition, the project to create and distribute the bible aims to inspire the imagination of modern seekers.
“In our digital world where we can carry the Bible on our mobile phones, we do well to acknowledge the ongoing significance of the physical text. Books remain an important part of our search for truth,” says The Revd Canon Professor James Woodward, Principal of Sarum College.
“These holy words have been the source of conflict down the centuries. They have also inspired imagination in art, music, politics and social change. The text is never neutral. It can highlight our deepest differences but also unite us in vocation, learning and spiritual growth. This is an ancient text for a modern world. We shall cherish it and use it.”
Canon Professor Woodward will receive the Heritage Edition on behalf of Sarum College after it is blessed by The Rt Revd Stephen Lake, Bishop of Salisbury, on Sunday, November 5, 2023, at a Sung Eucharist Service in Salisbury Cathedral. Father John Klassen, OSB, Abbot of Saint John’s Abbey, will offer the homily during the service. The Abbey and Saint John’s University, Minnesota, USA, commissioned The Saint John’s Bible.
Canterbury Cathedral will also receive a Heritage Edition (8 November) and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will receive an Apostle’s Edition on behalf of Lambeth Palace Library (11 November).
The events celebrate the 25th anniversary of the commissioning of The Saint John’s Bible, and honour British calligrapher Donald Jackson, Artistic Director and Principal Illuminator, who handcrafted the original manuscript with a team of calligraphers in his scriptorium in Wales. Jackson is the former Scribe to Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
“The Dedication Tour is a homecoming of The Saint John’s Bible,” said the Revd Dr John F. Ross, Executive Director of The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Program. “We are returning to the creative birthplace of The Saint John’s Bible within an ecumenical spirit where a piece of sacred art is being presented from a Benedictine Abbey in central Minnesota to the Anglican Communion. It is a profound act of unity and respect in a time of division and conflict.”
Nearly a meter wide when open, the bible weighs more than nine kilos, and comes in seven volumes. Only 299 Heritage Edition sets, full-size reproductions of the original masterpiece, have been produced and each volume is signed and numbered by Donald Jackson.
The creation of the original manuscript parallels 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. The creation of the Bible continues the Benedictine tradition of copying and caring for sacred texts.
“Seeing The Saint John’s Bible is a physical reminder of the scope and ambition of this project. The colour, texture and detail of the text and its illustrations lifts scripture into an imaginative and generative space,” Canon Professor Woodward says.
“This extraordinary Bible will help us to dig ever deeply into the wisdom that also emerges when we attend carefully to these inspired words of God’s wisdom, longing, and love for all creation.”
The Bible will be on public display for guests, students, and staff at Sarum, and will form part of Sarum’s learning resources for the formation of a new generation of ministers in the Sarum Centre for Formation in Ministry.
Sarum College, founded in 1995, is a centre for ministerial formation and theological learning located in Salisbury Cathedral Close, Salisbury, UK. The original theological college on the site was founded by Bishop Hamilton in 1860. In addition to its learning programmes, the College hosts visitors, national and international, who attend conferences or come as tourists. For more information visit the About Us page on this website.
Salisbury Cathedral is an 800-year-old Anglican cathedral located in Salisbury, England that is home to one of four remaining copies of the Magna Carta. For more information visit www.salisburycathedral.org.uk
25th Anniversary Dedication Tour
Following events at Sarum College, the tour continues as follows:
- Lambeth Palace Library – November 8, 2023, 4:45 p.m. – Evening Prayer and Blessing of The Saint John’s Bible, Apostles Edition, gifted to The Church of England and the Anglican Communion. The Most Reverend Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, will lead this service and accept The Saint John’s Bible on behalf of the Church of England at Lambeth Palace, the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
- Canterbury Cathedral, November 11, 2023, 5:30 p.m. – Evensong and blessing of The Saint John’s Bible, Heritage Edition, gifted to Canterbury Cathedral.
The tour also includes a presentation on the history of The Saint John’s Bible, “The Story Behind the Story,” at St. Martin-in-the-Fields church on Trafalgar Square, London, from 4 to 6pm on Friday, Nov. 10. This is a free event open to the public. St. Martin-in-the-Fields received a Heritage Edition in 2009.
The Saint John’s Bible, Heritage Edition
The Heritage Edition allows individuals and artistic, religious and cultural institutions to experience and share the only full-size, limited edition, signed and numbered reproductions of The Saint John’s Bible. The Heritage Edition provides an accessible link to the original artwork for those who wish to bring its beauty, spiritual and historic significance into their lives and the lives of others.
Saint John’s Abbey and University conducted a worldwide search for the finest papermakers, printing experts and binders to create a printed work worthy of the original manuscript. The best archival-quality 100 percent cotton paper, fade-resistant permanent inks and metallic foils containing genuine gold, have been used to closely approximate the look and feel of the original. The Heritage Edition is printed with a special printing technique using ultraviolet light.
The Bibles given during this anniversary tour were gifted by an anonymous donation through The Catharine Elizabeth Laney Trust.
About The Saint John’s Bible
The creation of The Saint John’s Bible continues the Benedictine tradition of copying and caring for sacred texts. The original manuscript of The Saint John’s Bible consists of 1,150-pages created in seven distinct volumes: Pentateuch, Historical Books, Wisdom Books, Psalms, Prophets, Gospels and Acts, and Letters and Revelation. The original version of The Saint John’s Bible resides at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library on the Saint John’s University campus. For additional information, please visit https://saintjohnsbible.org.