May 18, 2010

Image as Insight: The St. John's Bible

Remember the beautiful images Baya Clare, CSJ invited us to contemplate? Here, she tells us more about their source, the Saint John's Bible.

The illuminations from my previous column as well as today's images, come from the Saint John's Bible. Today's images are from Acts of the Apostles.

The first, in which text is also displayed, appears at the beginning of the book. The second illumination, depicting Pentecost, is a "carpet page" at the end. Both are by calligrapher Donald Jackson who says, “The continuous process of remaining open and accepting of what may reveal itself through hand and heart on a crafted page is the closest I have ever come to God.”

In 1998, Saint John's Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minnesota commissioned him to produce a hand-written, hand-illuminated Bible. Jackson coordinates a team of calligraphers and artists in Wales who collaborate with a team of scholars in Minnesota to create what observers characterize as "both a work of art and a work of theology, a prayerful, contemplative and much-needed contribution to the body of modern-day Christian art."

“The illuminations are not illustrations. They are spiritual meditations on a text. It is a very Benedictine approach to the scriptures,” says Fr. Michael Patella, OSB, Chair of the Committee on Illumination and Text.

The Bible is being produced in seven volumes. Six are completed, with only the Letters and Revelation volumes still to be done. They're currently on display at churches, synagogues, educational institutions and museums.

Please check the website to discover if and when it will be displayed near you. Meanwhile, I invite you to explore the many images available on the website. They offer a fascinating blend of ancient technique and modern symbol, providing a rich source of material for visual contemplative prayer.

You can also follow the project on and

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