Chazen Museum of Art


Illuminating the Word: The Saint John’s Bible

December 19 to March 15 | Pleasant T. Rowland Galleries


The Saint John’s Bible is a hand-written and illuminated bible commissioned by the monks of Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota. Celebrated calligrapher Donald Jackson and a team of scribes and illuminators completed the bible over a fifteen-year period employing techniques and materials that untold scribes before them used prior to the invention of the printing press.

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. 

In the Benedictine tradition of inclusion, The Saint John’s Bible incorporates elements from the world religions, including Judaism and Islam, as well as influences from the Native American cultures in the Minnesota area. It also documents Minnesota as the birthplace of The Saint John’s Bible through illustrations of flora and fauna indigenous to the region. 

The seven volumes comprise 1,150 pages of calfskin vellum, the script is written using hand-cut goose, turkey and swan quills, and the ink is hand-ground lamp black from 19th century Chinese ink sticks. Egg tempera and gold leaf provide vivid color to the illuminations.


Thursday, December 18, 6–8 p.m.: Reception for Illuminating the Word: The Saint John’s Bible. Refreshments, live music, cash bar.

Thursday, January 22, 5:30–8:30 p.m.: “From Inspiration to Illumination: An Introduction to The Saint John’s Bible.” Tim Ternes, Director, The Saint John’s Bible. 5:30 p.m., illustrated presentation. 7 p.m., group discussion. 8 p.m., exhibition walk through with question-and-answer. Room L160, Elvehjem Building

Thursday, February 5, 5:30 p.m.: "The Splendor of the Illuminated Book," public lecture by Chazen curator Maria Saffiotti Dale.

Saturday, February 21, ART•SPIN Afternoon featuring music and performances along with hands-on activities for all ages. Check our website for a complete schedule in the coming weeks. Mead Witter Lobby

Thursday, February 26, Starting at 1 p.m.: “Visualizing and Translating Scriptures: Reflections on The Saint John’s Bible A symposium presented by the Lubar Institute for the Study of the Abrahamic Religions. For complete information and to register for public sessions visit the Lubar Institute site here.

Thursday, February 26, 7:30 p.m.: "The Saint John’s Bible and Making Bibles in the Middle Ages,” symposium plenary lecture by  Dr. Christopher de Hamel, Donnelly Fellow Librarian of Corpus Christi College (Parker Library), Cambridge University. For more information and sponsors visit the Lubar Institute site here. No registration is necessary for this lecture. Room L160

Calligraphy Demonstrations in March: The Saint John’s Bible celebrates the traditions, methods, and materials of handwritten sacred texts. Calligraphers of Arabic, English, and Hebrew will demonstrate and discuss their work at selected times (see below) in the Mead Witter lobby.

Saturday, March 7 and Sunday, March 8, 12–3 p.m.: Linda P. Hancock, a calligrapher and designer highly respected in the lettering world, from Madison, Wisconsin, will demonstrate and discuss her work.

Wednesday, March 11, 9:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. and 1:30–4:30 p.m.: Rabbi Kevin Hale, a Torah scribe from Northampton, Massachusetts, will demonstrate and discuss Hebrew calligraphy as sacred text.

Thursday, March 12, 1–5 p.m.: Elinor Aishah Holland, an Arabic script calligrapher from Rockland County, New York, and Rabbi Kevin Hale, a Torah scribe from Northampton, Massachusetts, will demonstrate their work.  

Thursday, March  12, 6–8 p.m.: Linda P. Hancock, calligrapher and designer from Madison, Wisconsin, will join Elinor Aishah Holland and Rabbi Kevin Hale. They will demonstrate calligraphy in English, Arabic, and Hebrew, respectively.


Drop-in Docent Tours February 5, 12, 19, March 5 and 12 at 4 p.m.

Guided Tours for Groups, Illuminating the Word: The Saint John's Bible: call 608-263-4421 at least one month ahead of the desired date to make an appointment. The tour size is limited to 30 people. Docent-guided tours for groups will be offered for dates beginning January 23, 2015. Tours by docents are free of charge.

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Generous support for this exhibition has been provided by the Chazen Museum of Art Council, the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts, and from the Lubar Institute for the Study of the Abrahamic Religions.

IMAGE ABOVE: Valley of the Dry Bones (Ezekiel 36:15 – 37:25), Donald Jackson (artist) and Susie Leiper (scribe), Copyright 2005, The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota, USA. Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, Copyright 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

EXHIBITIONS PAGE THUMBNAIL: Messianic Predictions, Thomas Ingmire, Copyright 2005, The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota USA.

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