[Episcopal News Service] Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., has received a special handcrafted copy of the Saint John’s Bible, the first completely handwritten illuminated Bible.
This edition, commissioned in 1998 by the Benedictine monastery of Saint John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minnesota, is based on the original Saint John’s Bible manuscript, consisting of 1,150 pages in seven distinct volumes and measuring more than 2 feet 3 inches tall. The original is on display at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library on Saint John’s University’s campus.
The cathedral received one of only 12 new Apostles Editions of the Saint John’s Bible — one copy representing each of the 12 apostles — as a gift from the Catharine Elizabeth Laney Trust. The special edition Bible, now a part of the cathedral’s permanent collection of sacred art and literature, took 23 artists and calligraphers more than a decade to finish, in 2011.
“The Saint John’s Bible is a testament to the enduring power of faith and art that invites us to explore the sacred in new ways,” said the Very Rev. Randy Hollerith, dean of Washington National Cathedral, in a press release. “We are deeply honored to receive this extraordinary work of sacred art and Scripture, and hope it will serve as a profound source of inspiration for our community and visitors alike.”
Other copies of the Apostles Edition of the Saint John’s Bible were given to the Vatican Museum of Art, the Library of Congress and other institutions.
On Oct. 15, the cathedral hosted a public dedication and blessing ceremony for the rare Bible during the Sunday choral Evensong service. The event was open to the public and can be viewed on the cathedral’s website and YouTube channel.
Representatives from the Saint John’s Bible Heritage Program and benefactors presented the special Bible to Hollerith and the Rev. Jan Naylor Cope, provost of the cathedral, during the ceremony.
Washington National Cathedral’s copy of the Saint John’s Bible will be housed in its public programming venue, the Virginia Mae Center, where it will be included in specialty programming and events.
“To encounter the text and illuminations of The Saint John’s Bible is to realize that the God who continues to create new stars is also interested in us, individually and in community,” the Bible’s anonymous donors said in the press release. “God encourages and welcomes our questions, as does our Anglican/Episcopal tradition. In this way, we grow in the knowledge and love of God and of each other. It is our honor to gift an Apostles Edition of The Saint John’s Bible to Washington National Cathedral, to the glory of God and in thanksgiving for the Cathedral’s ministry.”
-Shireen Korkzan is a reporter and assistant editor for Episcopal News Service. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.