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Washington National Cathedral Welcomes Rare Apostles Edition of The Saint John’s Bible

On October 15, 2023, Washington National Cathedral received one of only 12 existing Apostles Editions of The Saint John’s Bible.

Posted October 18, 2023 in Religious Institutions

Washington, D.C. – There are – and only ever will be – 12 Apostles Editions of The Saint John’s Bible to ever exist. Due to the historic and long-lasting nature of an Apostles Edition,  communities that welcome this canonical work of sacred art and scripture into their lives are destined to secure a centuries-long legacy as heralds to a depiction of the Word of God that is representative of the 21st century. 

On October 15, 2023, Washington National Cathedral joined the Vatican Museum of Art, Morgan Library & Museum in New York, and Library of Congress in hosting this remarkable work. The acquisition marks a significant addition to the Cathedral’s permanent collection of sacred art and literature. The Apostles Edition was gifted to the Cathedral through the generosity of The Catharine Elizabeth Laney Trust.  

An Apostles Edition of The Saint John's Bible lays open in Washington National Cathedral.
A newly dedicated Apostles Edition of The Saint John’s Bible lays open in Washington National Cathedral.

The Saint John’s Bible is a testament to the enduring power of faith and art that invites us to explore the sacred in new ways,” said The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of the Washington National Cathedral. “We are deeply honored to receive this extraordinary work of sacred art and Scripture and hope it will serve as a profound source of inspiration for our community and visitors alike.” 

To celebrate the acquisition, the Cathedral hosted a public dedication and blessing ceremony during the Cathedral’s Sunday Choral Evensong service. The event was attended by several hundred worshipers, including a sizeable presence of Washington D.C.-area alum from Saint John’s University. It was a grace-filled event of prayer and song that was also livestreamed through the Cathedral’s website and social media pages. 

During the ceremony, representatives from The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Program and the benefactors presented The Saint John’s Bible Apostles Edition to The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, and The Rev. Canon Jan Naylor Cope, Provost. (Brad Neary, Director of the Heritage Program, was one such representative. Read Neary’s personal insights and reflection on the event, here.) 

Congregation at Washington National Cathedral looks at the saint john's bible
After the service, the congregation was invited to experience the Apostles Edition up close.

“The spiritual journey inward, to the triune God who is in each one of us, is as rich, as complex, and as tantalizing in its mystery as the journey into outer space,” said the Right Rev. John Klassen, Abbot of Saint John’s Abbey. “And there doesn’t seem to be any end to it; it just keeps going and going and going. For monastics, as well as for all Christians, that journey is everywhere nurtured, guided, and sustained by our encounter with Scripture. This is one of the major reasons that Saint John’s Abbey and University committed themselves to create The Saint John’s Bible. 

“The monastic community of Saint John’s Abbey and the academic community of Saint John’s University are thrilled to have a seven-volume Apostles Edition of The Saint John’s Bible residing in and stewarded by our Nation’s Cathedral and are deeply grateful to the generous benefactors who made this historic gift possible,” added Klassen. 

History Made with Human Hands 

The Saint John’s Bible was commissioned in 1998 by the Benedictine monastery of Saint John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minnesota, and was created between 2000-2011 by a team of 23 scribes, artists and craftspeople under the artistic direction of Donald Jackson, one of the world’s foremost calligraphers and Scribe to Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Crown Office at the House of Lords in London, England. 

The original manuscript of The Saint John’s Bible consists of 1,150 pages created in seven distinct volumes: Pentateuch, Historical Books, Wisdom Books, Psalms, Prophets, Gospels and Acts, and Letters and Revelation. The original manuscript of The Saint John’s Bible is more than 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide and is hand-painted and hand-illuminated on vellum, using quills, natural handmade inks, hand-ground pigments, and gold leaf. The original manuscript resides at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library on the Saint John’s University campus. 

The Apostles Edition of The Saint John’s Bible, named to represent each of the 12 apostles, was made with the vision that this work would thrive in the presence of community. The singular goal of the project is to share it with communities across all faith traditions, backgrounds and geographies to ignite spiritual imaginations across the globe. To ensure longevity, beauty, and durability against oils, touch, and time, the work is produced on 100 percent cotton paper using lightfast ultraviolet ink. Each color is dried instantly on the press before another color is laid on. Accents are made from gold and silver foils. 

The Saint John’s Bible is an experience of the presence of God and the responses of our hearts, minds and senses,” said the anonymous benefactors who have made this gift possible through The Catharine Elizabeth Laney Trust. “To encounter the text and illuminations of The Saint John’s Bible is to realize that the God who continues to create new stars is also interested in us, individually and in community. God encourages and welcomes our questions, as does our Anglican/Episcopal tradition. In this way, we grow in the knowledge and love of God and of each other. It is our honor to gift an Apostles Edition of The Saint John’s Bible to Washington National Cathedral, to the glory of God and in thanksgiving for the Cathedral’s ministry.”  

Discover The Saint John’s Bible 

To view the full media kit, click here 

To read Brad Neary’s JourneyNote about his experience at this once-in-a-lifetime event, click here 

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