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An Evening with The Saint John’s Bible

Over 500 years ago the Johannes Gutenberg printing press was developed and the days of handwritten books were quickly numbered. This invention had a momentous impact on society because ordinary citizens had access to literature for the first time. On the contrary, this invention along with the more recent inception of computers, ultimately led to the demise of the art of calligraphy and handwriting.

However The Saint John’s Bible changed all of that. World-renowned calligrapher, Donald Jackson was commissioned in 1998 by Saint John’s University in Minnesota to create a handwritten and illuminated 1,150-page Bible in the grand tradition of Benedictine scribes. Following its completion over 12 years later, Saint John’s University has allowed the creation of 299 fine art reproductions and Saint Peter’s College is fortunate enough to have acquired one through a generous benefactor.

Over 60 alumni and friends of Saint Peter’s College gathered in McIntyre Lounge yesterday evening to hear an awe-inspiring lecture from Tim Ternes, Director of The Saint John’s Bible at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library in Collegeville, Minnesota.

Many guests of the event were extremely impressed to hear the intricate details of the Bible’s creation. “The symbolism of the artwork is so impressive and to be able to look at and touch these volumes is such an amazing opportunity,” said Susan Staub ’74. “When I studied at Saint Peter’s I was a theology and art history major and I went on to become a librarian. When I received an invitation for this event, everything came together for me!”

Ternes shared a wealth of information about how the Bible was designed and created using 130-year old Chinese ink and quills made of goose feathers. He also shared the significance of this work of art. “Scholars, artists and historians have looked at The Saint John’s Bible and independently many have said that this is a project on the scale of the commission of the Sistine Chapel,” said Ternes. “In fact, many have said that The Saint John’s Bible will most likely become the world’s next most significant religious artwork.”

Following the lecture, guests mingled around the five volumes that are currently available of the seven volume Bible. They flipped through the pages and shared their interpretations of what the illustrations mean.

“I love art and I jumped at the chance to come to the event because I knew the Bible would be beautiful,” said Eugene O’Connell ’70. “Beyond the artwork, Tim’s presentation was very fulfilling and informative. I am so pleased to be an alumnus of Saint Peter’s College and it is wonderful that the College had the foresight to hold this type of event.”