A Gift of Sacred Art
Donors present St. Catherine with a Bible of the 21st century
When St. Kate's hosted an exhibition of special prints and some never-before-seen illustrations from The Saint John's Bible in 2008, a record-setting 3,000 visitors came to the Catherine G. Murphy Gallery on the St. Paul campus. That overwhelming interest inspired Lois Rogers '63 and her husband, John, to give St. Kate's its own copy of the famed Bible.
Commissioned in 1998 by Saint John's Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minnesota, The Saint John's Bible is a modern-day manuscript created in a medieval manner — on calf skin vellum with quills and paints hand-ground from minerals and stones such as lapis lazuli, silver, copper and 24-karat gold.
Even its size is typical of ancient times, says Jim Triggs, executive director of The Saint John's Bible Heritage Program. Each of the seven volumes that make up the Bible weighs about 35 pounds and opens two-feet-tall by three-feet-wide. "If you were in a procession and you wanted to make a real statement about your faith, showing up with a little book didn't make a lot of sense," he explains.
The Rogers' gift to St. Kate's — the Heritage Edition of The Saint John's Bible — is one of only 299 fine-art reproductions of the original. (The first was presented to Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican in April 2008.) And, in fact, the three volumes that St. Kate's currently has were presented in a procession, during President Andrea Lee's Advent Vespers service last December.
"We heard that the response at St. Catherine was the most wonderful the [exhibit curator had] received," says Lois Rogers, who serves on the board of the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, which oversees programming for The Saint John's Bible. "People just really got the Bible, and they saw the beautiful connections between the illuminations and the Word."
"So, it seemed like the perfect gift," she adds — a way to give back to her alma mater and to share something stunning with other people. (John Rogers is a Saint John's University graduate.)
The Saint John's Bible is written in English rather than the traditional Latin, and the illuminations have a contemporary spin. For example, Adam and Eve are depicted as Africans to reflect more recent thinking about the origins of humanity.
"Medieval bibles spoke to that era, to the life and times of the 12th and 13th centuries," says Triggs. "We wanted this Bible to speak to the issues of the 21st century." St. Kate's three volumes (Wisdom, Prophets and Psalms) are stored in its climate-controlled archives. Subsequent volumes will be delivered as they are complete. Ultimately, the University plans to display this sacred gift on campus for all to enjoy.
— PAULINE OO
— Lois Rogers '63