The Saint John’s Bible on display at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis is a hand-illuminated Bible that gives the viewer a different experience in which Scripture is encouraged to be seen and read aloud.
A seven-volume Heritage Edition (a fine art reproduction of the original, handwritten Bible) was permanently installed at the cathedral basilica in 2017. The volumes include Pentateuch, Historical Books, Wisdom Books, Psalms, Prophets, Gospels and Acts, and Letters and Revelation.
Docent-led viewings are available on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:45-11:45 a.m., and from 1-3 p.m. To schedule a viewing outside of these times, contact Susie Irons at (314) 373-8205 or [email protected]. The Saint John’s Bible will be on display during Holy Week, however docents will not be available.
Saint John’s University, a Benedictine university in Collegeville, Minn., commissioned Donald Jackson to hand-write and illuminate the Bible in part to celebrate the new millennium. Jackson is senior scribe to the Queen of England and a world-renowned artist and calligrapher. Referred to as “America’s Book of Kells” by Newsweek Magazine, the Bible is the first to be commissioned by a Benedictine monastery in over 500 years.
In January 2017, the Archdiocese of St. Louis kicked off a yearlong tour of the Heritage Edition of the Bible, with a permanent installation at the cathedral basilica at the end of the tour.
Inspired by handwritten, illuminated Bibles at the British Library in London, Jackson knew he wanted to create a similar work of art for the modern age. Working with a group of art historians, medievalists, artists, biblical scholars and theologians in Collegeville, Jackson and his team of calligraphers and artists created the 1,165-page manuscript, using the text and notes of the New Revised Standard Version translation. Each page of calligraphy took about eight to 12 hours to complete, and some of the 160 major illuminations took months. The project was completed in 15 years.
In 2013, Jackson completed the seventh and final volume of the Heritage Edition, a reproduction of all seven volumes. The edition is used in liturgies, by scholars, in presentations and in the everyday activities of faith communities. The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis is the third place in Missouri to have a set permanently installed; the other two are at the University of Missouri-Columbia and at Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Kansas City, Mo.