Champlain College's Year with the Saint John's Bible
It is my pleasure to welcome The Heritage Edition of the Saint John's Bible to Champlain College and to invite you to participate in the various events we'll be holding throughout 2015.
The Saint John's Bible is the first hand-written and hand-illuminated Bible to be commissioned by a Benedictine monastery since the invention of the printing press. The Heritage Edition is a full-size, fine art reproduction of the seven-volume Saint John's Bible; we'll be hosting the volume containing Gospels and Acts.
The project began in 1998 when Saint John's Abbey and University in Minnesota offered the commission to world-renowned calligrapher, illuminator, and senior scribe to the Queen of England Donald Jackson. Jackson worked for fifteen years with a team of researchers, scribes, and calligraphers to produce the Bible. Endeavoring to replicate medieval techniques, Jackson used calfskin vellum, hand-cut goose quills, and paints made from hand-ground precious minerals and stone. Silver, copper and 24-karat gold leaf embellish the illuminations. The original is on display at the Abbey.
Potential visitors may be wondering why a secular institution such as Champlain College is interested in hosting the Bible for a year. The Saint John's Bible exemplifies the best of innovative interdisciplinary work; historians, artists, and theologians labored to illuminate sacred scripture with beautiful design while putting a contemporary spin on a timeless narrative. According to Saint John's, the mission of the Saint John's Bible is "to ignite the spiritual imagination of people around the world of all faith journeys." At Champlain we celebrate such inclusiveness, and we hope that the Bible's yearlong visit on our campus will inspire a similar spirit of daring and creativity. Additionally, we were drawn to the social justice and interfaith emphases of the project. For example, in one illumination, Jesus wears jeans and a sweatshirt, sowing the seed (perhaps alongside migrant workers) in a field. Images from the Hubble Telescope are used to depict creation and suggest our shared common humanity. Digital voiceprints augment the illumination that opens the Book of Psalms; the viewer actually is able to hear the monks at Saint John's Abbey singing Gregorian chant, a Jewish men's chorus singing psalms, a Native American sacred song, Buddhist tantric harmonics, an Islamic call to prayer, Taoist temple music, Hindu bhajan, and Indian Sufi chant.
But I don't want to spoil all the wonderful secrets that The Saint John's Bible holds for its viewers! While the book will occasionally be visiting a class or a local establishment, it will usually be found on display in Miller Information Commons, residing in a gorgeous case handmade of Vermont cherry by Champlain College senior Zachary Sittler. Come see it for yourself!
The themes of interdisciplinarity, innovation, inclusivity, creativity, and social justice resonate throughout Champlain's curriculum, and I eagerly anticipate the many ways the Saint John's Bible will enhance teaching and learning in our community. We'll inaugurate our yearlong celebration with a multi-denominational blessing and a welcome reception on January 19, 2015, from 5-6PM in Miller Information Commons, and then we'll feature many events throughout the year. I hope you will explore this website a bit and then join us for Champlain College's Year with the Saint John's Bible: Educating the Imagination.
Dean, Core Division