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Handwritten; hand-illuminated St. John's Bible on exhibit at Flagler

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The St. John’s Bible marks the first time in 500 years that a Benedictine Monastery has commissioned a handwritten, illuminated Bible.


Father Michael Patella, professor of New Testament at Saint John’s School of Theology in Collegeville, Minn., will speak at Flagler College on Oct. 10.

Oct. 8, 2013

Much like the Bibles of medieval times, The Saint John’s Bible is massive, measuring two feet tall and three feet wide. This handwritten, illuminated Bible, which was created by the Benedictine Monastery at St. John’s Abbey in Minnesota, marks the first time in 500 years that a Benedictine Monastery has commissioned a handwritten Bible.

For four days, it will be on display at Flagler College.

The construction of the St. John’s Bible parallels that of its medieval predecessors: written on vellum, using quills, natural handmade inks, hand-ground pigments and gold leaf. The Bible also incorporates modern themes, images and technology of the 21st century.

An international team of calligraphers and artists were commissioned to create all seven volumes, and The Heritage Edition that will be on display at Flagler is true to the scale and artistic intent of the original manuscript.

With the help of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, Flagler College has acquired two volumes of the Heritage Edition, Pentateuch and Gospels & Acts, for an entire year. Two additional volumes will also be on display Oct. 10-13 in the Proctor Library at the college.

Artists took several approaches to the 1,100 pages and 160 illuminations in the Bible, allowing each to offer their own representations of the divine, including abstract images of Jesus. Artists also used modern interpretations in several illuminations, including strands of DNA woven into a depiction of the “Genealogy of Jesus.”

“The presence of these volumes here is significant since their very existence embodies the intersection between antiquity and modernity, in much the same way as does the city of St. Augustine,” said Jack Daniels, an instructor in religion at Flagler College. “The spiritual and pedagogical potential of the volumes cannot be understated. Indeed, it is the experience of the volumes that is unsurpassed, as one first sets one's eyes on the texts and images catching the light, and illuminating the imagination.”

The Heritage Edition of the St. John’s Bible will be on display to the public at Flagler College’s Proctor Library, 44 Sevilla St., on Oct. 10-11 from 4 to 8 p.m. and on Oct. 12-13 from noon to 4 p.m.

In conjunction with the exhibition of the St. John’s Bible, Father Michael Patella, professor of New Testament at Saint John’s School of Theology in Collegeville, Minn., will discuss the deep issues of the truth, faith and interpretation of God’s written Word on Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. He will speak at in the Lewis Auditorium at Flagler College, 14 Granada St., as part of the Cecile & Gene Usdin Judeo-Christian Lecture Series at Flagler College.

In addition to chairing the Committee on Illumination and Text for The Saint John’s Bible, Father Patella has written “Word and Image: The Hermeneutics of The Saint John’s Bible” (Liturgical Press, 2013). He has been a frequent contributor to The Bible Today and Give Us This Day and is also a member of the Catholic Biblical Association.

The Cecile & Gene Usdin Judeo-Christian Lecture Series is made possible through a generous endowed gift to Flagler College from Gene Usdin, M.D., a former president of the American Psychiatric Association and a clinical professor of psychiatry at Louisiana State University School of Medicine.

This Usdin lecture is free and open to the public, but seating is on a first-come, first-served basis; reservations are not required. Sign language interpreters are provided. Call (904) 819-6400 for more information or visit
For more information on the St. John’s Bible, visit