The Saint John’s Bible

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Thanks to an anonymous donor, the Cathedral is the proud owner of a heritage copy of the Saint John’s Bible. Here are some interesting facts about it:

First illuminated manuscript Bible in more than 500 years.

Sponsors—Benedictine Monks of Saint John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota. Commissioned in 1998 as a millennium project originally proposed by Donald Jackson and led by Br. Dietrich Reinhart, Abbot of Saint John’s at the time.

Chief calligrapher & creative director Donald Jackson, Senior Scribe to Queen Elizabeth. He chose the calligraphers and artists.

Translation—New Revised Standard Version. In seven volumes: Pentateuch 2003, Historical Books 2010, Wisdom Books 2006, Psalms 2004, Prophets 2005, Gospels & Acts 2002, Letters & Revelation 2011.

Committee for illumination & text

  • Comprised equally of men and women, scholars and artists.
  • Each would read the text, meditate and pray.
  • Decided which verses to illuminate and suggest themes.
  • Each artist developed a plan and prototype to present to the committee.


  • Same techniques used by ancient scribes & illuminators.
  • All organic materials: vellum (calf skin) & ground lamp black, carnelian, lapis lazuli, gold leaf, etc. mixed with egg yolk and water.
  • Wrote with goose, turkey or swan feather quills.
  • 12 scribes worked in Donald Jackson’s scriptorium in Wales.
  • One scribe to do facing pages.
  • Six artists: three in the United States, three in the United Kingdom.
  • Each was free to use his or her own style of art.

Art symbolism

  • Gold: the presence of the divine.
  • Black: absence of the divine, sins of commission.
  • Vacuous spaces: sins of omission.

Heritage copies

  • 299 copies so far, reproduced as accurately as possible.
  • Special cotton paper to reproduce the weight of vellum.
  • Shadows on prior or subsequent pages “bleed through” to reproduce the appearance of translucent vellum.
  • Gold leaf for all the gold in all 299 copies.