Today, the Biggs Museum of American Art
announced that it will host the Illuminating the Word: The Saint John's Bible exhibition from December 4, 2015-March 27, 2016. This international exhibition features 70 pages of The Saint John's Bible, the first monumental hand-illuminated bible to be commissioned by a Benedictine monastery in over 500 years.
"The Biggs Museum is exceptionally proud to be a rare American host of Illuminating the Word: The Saint John's Bible," shared Ryan Grover, Curator of the Biggs Museum. "It's a 'must-see' exhibition - visitors will find themselves being drawn in by the striking illuminations, vibrant colors and thoughtful treatment of these ancient texts."
On Wednesday, August 26, 2015, from 4:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m., the public will have an opportunity to meet the Director of The Saint John's Bible project, Tim Ternes, as well as the new Director of the Biggs Museum, Charles Guerin. This forum is intended to give the public a behind-the-scenes look into the making of Illuminating the Word: The Saint John's Bible exhibition, which opens at the Biggs Museum on December 4th. Light refreshments will be served.
"The Saint John's Bible is a work of art that captures the imagination of people across all backgrounds, faiths, lack of faith or interests," said Tim Ternes, Director of The Saint John's Bible. "The handwritten pages of graceful script and vibrant, engaging artworks draw people in and create conversations. The Saint John's Bible is so much more than a book, and really the only way to understand it is to experience it in person."
Overview of The Saint John's Bible: Illuminating the Word Exhibition
The exhibition was realized through the collaborative efforts of the Biggs Museum and the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML) at Saint John's Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minnesota.
Saint John's Abbey, a Benedictine monastery, and Saint John's University, founded by the Abbey in 1857, officially commissioned Donald Jackson, one of the world's foremost calligraphers, in 1998 to carry out the creation of The Saint John's Bible. Mr. Jackson, Senior Scribe to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth's Crown Office at the House of Lords in the United Kingdom, led a team of artists who collaborated with a theological team from Saint John's Abbey and University.
Almost fifteen years in the making, The Saint John's Bible is composed of seven 15 ¾" by 23 ½" volumes: Pentateuch, Historical Books, Wisdom Books, Psalms, Prophets, Gospels and Acts, and Letters and Revelation. All of the 1,127 hand-illuminated pages remain unbound at this time to allow for exhibition.
This unique undertaking combines a centuries-old tradition of craftsmanship with the latest capabilities of computer technology and electronic communication. The words are handwritten on vellum (calfskin) using hand-cut quills fashioned from turkey, swan or goose feathers, and ancient inks hand-ground from natural minerals and stones such as lapis lazuli, malachite and vermillion. The pages are illuminated with the brilliance of 24-karat gold leaf, silver leaf and platinum. The complete work includes 1,127 handwritten pages and over 160 major artworks.
The Saint John's Bible is the first handwritten Bible that interprets and illustrates scripture from a contemporary perspective, reflecting a multicultural world and humanity's enormous strides in science, technology and space travel. An ecumenical undertaking, The Saint John's Bible also incorporates imagery from Eastern and Western religious traditions, as well as influences from the Native American cultures in the Minnesota area.
At Saint John's University, the creation of The Saint John's Bible was directed by a committee of theologians, artists and scholars known as the Committee on Illumination and Text. The actual pages were created by a team of 23 professional scribes, artists and assistants in a scriptorium in Wales, under the artistic direction of renowned calligrapher Donald Jackson. This extraordinary presentation of one of the world's great religious texts was conceived as an expression of faith relevant to the modern world. It is a visual record of a new generation's perception and artistic interpretation of an age-old historical and literary document. The exhibition at the Biggs Museum will include original folios (pages) from all seven of the volumes of The Saint John's Bible which make up the complete Old and New Testament: Pentateuch, Historical Books, Wisdom Books, Psalms, Prophets, Gospels and Acts, and Letters and Revelation. 70 pages will be on view including 32 vivid illuminations that share the pages with the graceful script. Highlights include the illuminations for Creation, Adam and Eve, The Ten Commandments, Esther, Vision of Isaiah, Valley of the Dry Bones, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Wisdom Woman, The Genealogy of Christ, Loaves and Fishes, The Opening to the Gospel of John, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (pictured) and the Vision of the New Jerusalem.
Illuminating the Word: The Saint John's Bible presents the story of the book's creation. Artist tools and materials along with preliminary sketches and artist drafts give insight into the thinking and processes used in creating the pages. A small selection of ancient rare books and manuscripts provide a historical context for the manuscript tradition and serve as a testament to the durability of the traditional methods and materials used in the project.