January 31, 2019 - Jesuit High School, Tampa, Fla., received a phenomenal gift on Monday, Jan. 28: A Heritage Edition of The Saint John's Bible. The school will host this Bible for several years as just the second high school ever to have The Saint John's Bible.
The Saint John's Bible is the first oversized, handwritten, illuminated Bible to be commissioned since the invention of the printing press more than 500 years ago. All 1,165 pages of each edition are 2 by 3 feet, requiring seven volumes. It features exquisite calligraphy, vibrant imagery, and stunning gold and silver illuminations created by world-renowned calligraphers and artists.
This extraordinary Bible is being lent to Jesuit High by Jeffrey and Susan Turner, the parents of a Jesuit student. Two hundred ninety-nine Saint John's Bible Heritage Editions were produced between 1995 and 2011, Jesuit's is the second in the series; the first was a gift to Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican in 2008.
The Saint John's Bible will be displayed on the south end of the lobby in Gonzmart Hall, in a custom-made wood and glass display case (also lent to Jesuit by the Turner family) specially designed to hold all seven volumes. Specific volumes also will be displayed intermittently in the Chapel of the Holy Cross.
Susan Turner and Jim Triggs, the executive director of the Saint John's Bible Heritage Program, attended a special presentation convocation at the school on Monday.
"The mission of this project is to ignite the spiritual imagination of people around the world in all faith journeys," Triggs said. "The idea was not only to recreate an art form, but to glorify and celebrate God's word in a vernacular that actually resonates now.
"The vision and values behind this beautiful book celebrate things that are really important to Christians at the beginning of the 21st century – care for the poor, care for the sick, the dignity of all people no matter how young or how old or where they are from, and the embracing of science and discovery. The art of The Saint John's Bible reflects those values.
"It also reflects, as you look at the illuminations, cultures from around the world. You'll find Asian art, and African art, and Native American art ... The idea that if it's true and if it's beautiful, it comes from God, and we celebrate that in The Saint John's Bible."
Susan Turner's parents, Gerald and Henrietta Rauenhorst, established the Minnesota-based GHR Foundation in the 1960s, and three decades later the foundation partnered with the Saint John's Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minn. in commissioning this unique and exceptional undertaking. The Saint John's Bible was created over the next decade-plus in a scriptorium in Wales by master calligrapher Donald Jackson, the official scribe to Queen Elizabeth II.
Jackson and a team of six calligraphers and six artists employed techniques used in the creation of ancient illuminated manuscripts such as quills on calf-skin vellum, gold and platinum leaf, and hand-ground pigments, along with modern technology such as computers to plan the layout and line-breaks for the text, illuminating the Word of God for a new millennium. The seven volumes, from the Book of Genesis to the Book of Revelation, include 160 major illuminations and countless additional artistic features.
The original work resides at Saint John's University. The 299 fine art Heritage Editions (no more will be produced), made with cotton paper and Italian leather, are placed in religious, arts, academic, healing, and literary institutions around North America and beyond, including London, Hong Kong, and Australia, and two at the Vatican.
Other locations in the U.S. to host a Saint John's Bible include the Library of Congress, Yale University, Marquette University, and several Mayo Clinics.
After the convocation, there was a small ceremony inside Gonzmart Hall at the site of Jesuit's Saint John's Bible led by Father Hermes and including several Jesuit students who will serve as docents. The Saint John's Bible will be utilized by faculty and students across many disciplines, including social studies, English, fine arts, theology, and science.
James Bencivenga '19 will serve as one of the docents. "On behalf of the student body, I'd like to thank the Turner family for the honor of partaking in The Saint John's Bible Heritage Society," Bencivenga said. "The Saint John's Bible is truly an incredible sight to behold.
"The possibilities for its benefit to our campus will be endless."