Sacred Words: The Saint John's Bible and the Art of Illumination

Exhibition Website

Oct 15 2016 - Jan 8 2017

The first illuminated, handwritten Bible of monumental size to be commissioned by a Benedictine monastery in the modern era will be on view at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art this fall. Sacred Words: The Saint John’s Bible and the Art of Illumination  includes 70 selected folios from The Saint John’s Bible as well as other historical illuminated manuscripts, such as a Book of Hours, Quran pages and Torah scrolls. 

Sacred Words includes a selection of original, unbound illuminated manuscript folios on calfskin vellum from The Saint John’s Bible, as well as sketches, drawings, inks and tools used to create the manuscript. The Saint John’s Bible includes all 73 books of the Old and New Testaments and is presented in seven volumes of approximately 1,150 pages using the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation. Sacred Words will also include several other historical manuscripts, providing the opportunity for comparison and further exploration of themes related to manuscript illumination and production.

The Saint John’s Bible was created by a team of 23 scribes, artists and assistants headquartered in a scriptorium in Wales under the artistic direction of Donald Jackson, one of the world’s foremost calligraphers and the scribe to Queen Elizabeth’s Crown office at the House of Lords. The theological aspects of the project were guided by a committee of theologians, artists and scholars at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. The Bible incorporates many of the characteristics of its medieval predecessors: it is written on vellum, using quills, natural inks, hand-ground pigments, and gold-leaf gilding. However, so this edition is relevant today, it employs a modern English translation as well as beautifully painted illuminations that interpret biblical passages in contemporary terms.

Sacred Words presents the concept, historical context, technical execution and significance of The Saint John’s Bible and illumination as an art form. This exhibition examines the revival of a millennia-old tradition of meticulous hand-craftsmanship that incorporates advances in modern technology.

Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.

  • Books / Manuscripts
  • International
  • Contemporary
  • Sacred

Exhibition Venues & Dates