Rare fine art Bibles grace St. Mary's

St. Mary's University College in Calgary has acquired a volume of the rare fine art Pentateuch volume of the St. John's Bible.


h3 class="cap">St. Mary's University College in Calgary has acquired a volume of the rare fine art Pentateuch volume of the St. John's Bible.
October 15, 2012

CALGARY – St. Mary's University College has acquired two volumes of the rare fine art edition of The Saint John's Bible – Pentateuch and Psalms – thanks to the generosity of G.J. (Gerry) and Anna Maier.

The initiative is part of a $350,000 fundraising initiative that will fund the acquisition of the works, their care and display, and programs connecting schools, parishes and communities.

The Heritage Edition is a full-size fine art edition of the original masterpiece. Each of the seven volumes that make up The Saint John's Bible is approximately two feet tall by three feet wide when open and weighs from six to nine kg.

The Saint John's Bible is the first handwritten and illuminated Bible produced by a Benedictine monastery in over 500 years. While its artistry is contemporary, The Saint John's Bible was created in the tradition of handwritten medieval manuscripts.

Only a limited number of the editions, which are signed and numbered, are being offered to the general public.

St. Mary's joins the likes of Yale, Vassar, St. Martin in-the-Fields, The Mayo Clinic and the Vatican in having the privilege of hosting the Heritage Edition of The Saint John's Bible and is proud to host Western Canada's only edition.

"The Heritage Edition provides an accessible link to the original artwork for those who wish to bring its beauty, and its spiritual and historic significance into their lives and the lives of others," says Benedictine Father Eric Hollas, senior associate for arts and cultural affairs, Saint John's University.

"It is a work of art in its own right and ignites the imagination as it imparts the word of God."

Hollas, who was instrumental in initiating the project, delivered the inaugural lecture in the Saint John's Bible Speakers' Series Oct. 4 celebrating the arrival of two volumes at St. Mary's University College.


The Saint John's Bible took more than 16 years to complete, the work of a team of scribes and artists led by the renowned calligrapher and artist, Donald Jackson, scribe to the Queen of England.

In his talk, The Sacred Text Alive on a Page: The Making of The Saint John's Bible, Hollas discussed the work's design – the scriptorium, the hand-cut goose quills that were used, the vellum and hand-ground pigments – as well as the story of the art and the way it has been used to link the medieval and contemporary worlds.

St. Mary's University College is planning a series of events to celebrate The Saint John's Bible during the upcoming Year of Faith.

"The Saint John's Bible will be the centrepiece of an exciting year of talks and activities including lectures and workshops on sacred art and calligraphy," says St. Mary's University College president, Dr. Gerry Turcotte.

"During this time, the Bible will attract thousands of new visitors to St. Mary's. The illustrated volumes will travel to schools, parishes and partner organizations as part of our community outreach initiative."

St. John's conducted a worldwide search for the finest papermakers, printing experts and binders to create a printed work worthy of the original manuscript.

The best archival-quality 100 per cent cotton paper, fade-resistant permanent inks and metallic foils containing genuine gold, have been used to closely approximate the look and feel of the original. The edition is printed with a special printing technique using ultraviolet light.

The Saint John's Bible is the first handwritten, illuminated Bible commissioned since the advent of the printing press. The creation of the Bible continues the Benedictine tradition of copying and caring for sacred texts.


It was commissioned in 1998 by the Benedictine monks of Saint John's Abbey and University to ignite the spiritual imagination of believers throughout the world and to illuminate the word of God for a new millennium.

Construction of The Saint John's Bible parallels that of its medieval predecessors, but incorporates modern themes, images and the technology of the 21st century. This 1,150-page Bible has been created in seven distinct volumes: Pentateuch, Historical Books, Psalms, Prophets, Wisdom Books, Gospels and Acts, and Letters and Revelation.