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"Sacred Words: The Saint John's Bible and the Art of Illumination" on view at OKCMOA
Donald Jackson, Creation, Copyright 2003, The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota, USA.

OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLA.- The first illuminated, handwritten Bible of monumental size to be commissioned by a Benedictine monastery in the modern era is on view at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art this fall. "Sacred Words: The Saint John's Bible and the Art of Illumination" opened Oct. 15 at OKCMOA and includes seventy selected folios from "The Saint John's Bible" as well as other historical illuminated manuscripts, such as a Book of Hours, Quran pages and Torah scrolls.

"Illuminated manuscripts are one of the great artistic traditions of the Middle Ages," said E. Michael Whittington, OKCMOA President and CEO. "This magnificent bible commissioned by Saint John's Abbey and University was crafted in exactly the same manner as its medieval predecessors. Its illuminations, however, are breathtakingly contemporary interpretations of the Old and New Testaments. The additional texts on display will be a wonderful exploration of how the artistry and calligraphy of illuminations was shared throughout the Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam."

"Sacred Words" includes a seven-volume collection of original, unbound illuminated manuscript folios on calfskin vellum from "The Saint John's Bible," as well as sketches, drawings, inks and tools used to create the manuscript. "The Saint John's Bible" includes all 73 books of the Old and New Testaments and is presented in seven volumes of approximately 1,150 pages using the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.

"Sacred Words" also includes several other historical manuscripts, providing the opportunity for comparison and further exploration of themes related to manuscript illumination and production.

"The Saint John's Bible" was created by a team of 23 scribes, artists and assistants headquartered in a scriptorium in Wales under the artistic direction of Donald Jackson, one of the world's foremost calligraphers and the scribe to Queen Elizabeth's Crown office at the House of Lords. The theological aspects of the project were guided by a committee of theologians, artists and scholars at Saint John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota. The Bible incorporates many of the characteristics of its medieval predecessors: it is written on vellum, using quills, natural inks, hand-ground pigments and gold-leaf gilding. However, so this edition is relevant today, it employs a modern English translation as well as beautifully painted illuminations that interpret biblical passages in contemporary terms.

"Sacred Words" presents the concept, historical context, technical execution and significance of "The Saint John's Bible" and illumination as an art form. This exhibition, open through Jan. 8, 2017, examines the revival of a millennia-old tradition of meticulous handcraftsmanship that incorporates advances in modern technology.

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