Skip to main content

Easter Sunday at Canterbury Cathedral: Heritage Edition of The Saint John’s Bible is Adorned with Special Bookmark

Posted April 14, 2024 in Religious Institutions

Canterbury, Kent, England – The Gospel was proclaimed from a Heritage Edition ofThe Saint John’s Bible during Canterbury Cathedral’s Easter Sunday eucharist. If you are located in the U.S., you can watch the full service, here. If you are located in the United Kingdom, you can watch the full BBC One broadcast of the service, here.

Those familiar with this work of sacred art will have noticed a new addition to the piece during Easter service – a special bookmark made by retired physician and cathedral stitcher of the Holy Stitchers, Dr. Alyson Osterloh.

The bookmark, which was made in March 2024, was crafted out of textiles found in the Cathedral Sewing Room at Canterbury Cathedral. As is true of The Saint John’s Bible, the bookmark itself is both new and old. According to Osterloh, the material used to make the bookmark can be traced back to Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, the renowned early-19th century architect and designer known as the pioneer of Gothic Revival architecture. The bookmark’s fabric was gifted to the Cathedral Sewing Room alongside a plethora of silk and textiles that had been recovered from a church in Cheshire after being rendered unusable. Much of the gifted material was, indeed, deteriorated beyond repair – but not the lovely textiles that the Holy Stitchers used to create the new bookmark.

The specific church from which the materials originated remains unknown, but the Holy Stitchers believe it is from one of four churches associated with Pugin’s work:

  • Christ Church, Macclesfield, Cheshire, England: designed in 1838.
  • Alban’s Church, Macclesfield, Cheshire, England: designed in 1838 and built between 1839 and 1841.
  • Giles Church, Cheadle, Manchester, England: built between 1841 and 1846.
  • Mary’s Church, Warrington, Cheshire, England: built in 1875.

Canterbury Cathedral was gifted its Heritage Edition during the 25th Anniversary Dedication Tour, a multi-stop pilgrimage that took place in November 2023 during which several editions of The Saint John’s Bible were gifted to prominent Anglican institutions across England. These gifts were made possible by the generosity of Elaine and Bruce Culver through their Catharine Elizabeth Laney Trust.

Read more about the Dedication Tour, here.

“The bookmark was made by sewing the two long sections of braid together with machine sewing over an adhesive buckram interlining covered with fine linen,” said the braid’s creator, Dr. Alyson Osterloh. “The distal end of the bookmark was fashioned with a rounded hand sewn end following the shape of one end of the circular motif and weighted with two lead curtain weights embedded within the buckram/linen interlining. The proximal end was finished with a decorative fringed braid.”
“It is of note that these two patterns of braid feature in a dalmatic in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum,” said the braid’s creator, Dr. Alyson Osterloh. “It is recorded as being designed by A W Pugin with a date of circa 1848 and is of green silk with red and gold braid and was given to the V&A by St. Augustine’s Abbey having been made for the Abbey.

Canterbury Cathedral’s Heritage Edition, of which there are and only ever will be 299 in the world, has been under the love and care of the Cathedral for nearly six months at the time of this article’s publication. However, the work is created such that its existence will span a surplus of one thousand years.

“This is something of great preciousness as a book,” said The Most Reverend Justin Welby Archbishop of Canterbury in a story by PBS NewsHour. “It isn’t just a collection of ancient documents. The beauty of the illustrations…the facing page to Genesis chapter one is breathtaking.”

Canterbury Cathedral is not the first or only steward of The Saint John’s Bible to adorn the work in such a way. Many institutions, such as the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, have thoughtfully furnished the Bible with intricate display cases of the highest caliber. Saint John’s Abbey and University, which commissioned The Saint John’s Bible in 1998, also offers intricate cases crafted by the monks of Saint John’s Abbey for the display and storage of the sacred work.

It would be remiss not to mention that the interwoven fabric of the braid is a remarkable symbol of the unity that the gift represents between a Catholic Benedictine Monastery (Saint John’s University and Abbey) and the Church of England (Canterbury Cathedral). Marking the pages of this work of sacred art, which both denominations use to reflect upon the Word of God, this new, special bookmark is truly a testament to the living nature of the Word, and of The Saint John’s Bible.