Loyola University Chicago

Loyola University Museum of Art



Steve Christensen

LUMA Offers Rare Look into the Pages of The Saint John's Bible

Thirteen Bifolia from the Bible Debut in Chicago on August 20

CHICAGO, August 4, 2011 - The Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA) will display 13 bifolia (pair of pages) from The Saint John's Bible as part of the exhibition Inscribing the Divine: The Saint John's Bible, which opens to the public on Saturday, August 20, 2011. The Saint John's Bible is a modern masterpiece of sacred art executed according to the traditional arts of calligraphy and hand illumination and this is the only public exhibition of its pages in Chicago. The exhibition will remain on display through October 23, 2011.

The Saint John's Bible is the first handwritten and illuminated Bible to be commissioned by a Benedictine monastery in more than 500 years. It evokes the central role played by medieval monks in producing copies of the Bible throughout the Middle Ages. For a thousand years, monastic scribes wrote every word on parchment (treated animal skin) by hand with a quill pen, decorating important pages with painted and gilded illuminations. By the time of its completion in the very near future, this seven-volume Bible will have taken more than 13 years to execute. It will comprise 1,150 pages and contain 160 illuminations.

The 13 bifolia on view at LUMA are drawn from the Old Testament. Eight come from the first five books of the Bible, known to Jews as the Torah and to Christians as Pentateuch; five come from the Psalms. Among the full-page illuminations is a depiction of the seven days of Creation, with each day represented as a vertical strip on the page.

The Benedictine monks of the Collegeville, Minnesota, monastery of Saint John's Abbey commissioned the Bible to mark Christianity's third millennium. The British calligrapher Donald Jackson conceived of the Bible as a marriage of ancient and modern methods; he designed both its distinctive script and its unique style of illuminations. He was assisted by a team of calligraphers and artists, who joined him in his studio near the Welsh market town of Monmouth.

The invention of the printing press in the late 15th century led to the demise of manuscript Bibles. In undertaking the production of The Saint John's Bible, the monastery did not renounce printing altogether. The Heritage Edition is a printed replica of the unique manuscript Bible that is available commercially. LUMA will exhibit two volumes of the Heritage Edition within the context of the 450-year-old history of the printed Bible.

That history has been marked by doctrinal, linguistic, and textual conflict. LUMA will highlight significant moments by exhibiting printed Bibles drawn from its own Martin D'Arcy Collection and Loyola University Chicago's E.M. Cudahy Memorial Library. On view will be two 17th-century polyglots, whose production was spurred by Protestant concern over the accuracy of the text. Among the languages included in the volumes are Hebrew, Samaritan, Farsi, Amharic Syriac, Greek, Latin, English, and German. Bibles in Chippewa, Chinese, and Gaelic will also be on view, as well as an edition of the first French Bible published in North America.

Public Programs:
All events take place at LUMA, 820 N. Michigan Avenue, unless otherwise noted.

Opening Reception
Friday, September 9 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Free for LUMA members and Loyola faculty, staff, and students

From Inspiration to Illumination, an Introduction to The Saint John's Bible
Tuesday, October 4 at 6 p.m.
Free for LUMA members and Loyola faculty, staff, and students

Through the use of video, full-size reproductions, and high quality projected imagery, Tim Ternes, the director of The Saint John's Bible Project, will guide participants through the story of The Saint John's Bible. Guests will learn about the processes, tools, methods, and materials behind the making of The Saint John's Bible, and will explore several artworks through guided imagery discussions. Participants will also get to handle vellum samples and a quill and view larger reproductions of several pages and an entire volume.

Music in The Saint John's Bible
Tuesday, October 11 at 6 p.m.
Free for LUMA members and Loyola faculty, staff, and students

Interwoven across the pages of the Psalms in The Saint John's Bible are voice prints of Christian, Jewish, and Sioux Nation music traditions. Please join us for an evening of music that highlights these three traditions.  

About LUMA
Opened in 2005, the Loyola University Museum of Art is dedicated to exploring, promoting, and understanding art and artistic expression that illuminates the enduring spiritual questions of all cultures and societies. As a museum with an interest in education and educational programming, LUMA reflects the University’s Jesuit mission and is dedicated to helping people of all creeds explore the roots of their faith and spiritual quests. Located at Loyola University Chicago’s Water Tower Campus, the museum occupies the first three floors of the University’s historic Lewis Towers on Chicago’s famous Michigan Avenue. For more information, visit the museum’s website at LUC.edu/luma.

Art illuminating the spirit!