Prophets: Word and Image exhibition at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library

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January 29, 2007

Exhibition showcases the largest number of original pages from The Saint John’s Bible to be displayed at Saint John’s Abbey and University

The Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML), located on the campus of Saint John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minn., will present the exhibition Prophets:  Word and Image from The Saint John’s Bible. This is the first time 28 original pages from Prophets have been available for viewing in Minnesota, and the greatest number of original pages ever displayed on campus. The exhibition begins Feb. 12 and runs through June 1.

Word and Image features pages from Prophets, the fourth completed volume of The Saint John’s Bible.  Among the pages on view are Ezekiel’s Vision of the New Temple, Suffering Servant, Valley of the Dry Bones, Daniel’s Vision of the Son of Man and the jubilant Messianic Predictions.  Also on view are artists’ sketches of the illuminations, as well as tools and materials from the scriptorium such as quills, hand-ground pigments, gold leaf, calfskin vellum and ancient inks from China.

According to Carol Marrin, executive director of The Saint John’s Bible, “Prophets:  Word and Image calls each of us to appreciate the beauty of this hand written and illuminated text while listening to the challenge, the gut wrenching questions that surface from these passages and accompanying images.”

Word and Image presents the first handwritten and illuminated Bible commissioned by a Benedictine monastery since the advent of the printing press more than 500 years ago. The Saint John’s Bible, a richly ornamented masterwork hand-illustrated with gold leaf on oversized vellum, is an unprecedented undertaking in contemporary book arts and a major cultural and interfaith endeavor.

Commissioned by Saint John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minn., The Saint John’s Bible is a contemporary work created in the tradition of handwritten medieval manuscripts. The artistic director of the project, Donald Jackson, is one of the world’s foremost Western calligraphers and scribe to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s Crown Office at the House of Lords. During the past nine years, Jackson has worked in rural Wales, with scribes and artists to write and illuminate The Saint John’s Bible entirely by hand, using quills and paints hand-ground from precious minerals and stones such as lapis lazuli, vermilion, malachite, silver, copper, and 24-karat gold.

The Saint John’s Bible, consisting of 1,150 pages in seven volumes, will be completed in 2008. Then it will be housed permanently at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library, Saint John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minn., where it will be used in worship and be available to scholars and the public. The Saint John’s Bible will tour to libraries and museums worldwide, offering educational and outreach initiatives for children and underserved communities.

Prophets, a reproduction book released in January, is available for purchase at HMML. HMML is open from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. Guests are welcome to view the exhibition at their leisure. There is no entrance fee. Interpretive tours and presentations are available for groups wishing to book in advance. Information and booking requests may be directed to Linda Orzechowski by calling 320-363-3514 or by e-mail at lorzechowsk@csbsju.edu.  For more information, visit The Saint John’s Bible Web site.

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