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Illustrated Saint John’s Bible to Spend a Year in Residence at Champlain College

BURLINGTON, Vt. -- Champlain College will welcome The Heritage Edition of the Saint John's Bible to campus for one year beginning Jan. 19, 2015. The Saint John's Bible (SJB) is the first handwritten illuminated Bible of its scale in more than 500 years. The Heritage Edition is a full-size, fine art reproduction of the SJB, as the original is on display at the Saint John's Abbey. The SJB is so large, boasting 1,500 pages, that it is organized in seven volumes; Champlain will be hosting the volume of the New Testament containing Gospels & Acts.

The Saint John's Bible residency will enhance teaching and learning in the Champlain community, according to Elizabeth Beaulieu, dean of the Core Division at Champlain College.


The College will host a multi-denominational blessing and welcome reception on Monday. Jan. 19 to inaugurate the year-long celebration. The event, open to the public, will be held from 5 to 6 p.m. in the Miller Information Commons on campus.


Because the original pages require significant care, world-renowned calligrapher, illuminator and senior scribe to the Queen of England Donald Jackson, artistic director of the SJB, directed the creation of the Heritage Edition (HE) so that the SJB can be shared with the world. Many colleges and universities have hosted a volume of the Heritage Editions for a year. While at Champlain, the SJB will primarily be found on display in Miller Information Commons, residing in a handmade case of Vermont cherry built by Champlain College senior Zachary Sittler. The book will occasionally visit classes or local establishments while in Burlington.

"Potential visitors may be wondering why a secular institution such as Champlain College is interested in hosting the Bible for a year," Beaulieu noted. The mission of the SJB is "to ignite the spiritual imagination of people around the world of all faith journeys." In addition, the SJB exemplifies the best of innovative interdisciplinary work; historians, artists and the theologians labored to illuminate sacred scripture with beautiful design while putting a contemporary spin on a timeless narrative. This reflects many of themes of interdisciplinary education, innovation, inclusivity, creativity, and social justice that resonate throughout Champlain's curriculum.

"At Champlain we celebrate such inclusiveness, and we hope that the Bible's visit on our campus will inspire a similar spirit of daring and creativity," stated Beaulieu.

Many 2015 events featuring the SJB are planned, including:

• A presence at the College's Ash Wednesday service on Feb. 18, at 8:30 a.m. in the Morgan Room in Aiken Hall.
• Father Michael Patella from SJB will host a talk on "Athens or Jerusalem: Where is home for The Saint John's Bible?"  on March 23 at 7:30 p.m. in Perry Presentation Room.  
• Anton M. Koekemoer, lead scientist on the Hubble Telescope project to talk about faith and science intersection entitled "Science and Faith in Harmony: The Heavens Declare the Glory of God" on Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m. in Alumni  Auditorium. 
• Susan Sink of SJB will speak on "Illuminating the Word: The Art of the Saint John's Bible" on Oct. 20 at 7:30 p.m. in Alumni Auditorium. 

Organizers are also planning a Brown Bag and Bible Lunch Series open to members of the Champlain community. The series of four lunchtime discussions from a variety of perspectives about the SJB and its place as a work of art, a religious text, a mediator of symbolic power, and a representation of human culture begin on Tuesday, Jan. 20.

Brown Bag with the Bible Lunch Series. Bring a lunch -- dessert provided! Aiken Hall, Morgan Room, 12:30-1:30 p m. Join us for discussions from a variety of perspectives about the Saint John's Bible and its place as a work of art, a religious text, a mediator of symbolic power, and a representation of human culture. 

  • Tuesday, January 20: The Red Dragon, the Black Pullet, and the Secret Books of Moses: Sacred Text and Hidden Wisdom in Afro-Atlantic Traditional Culture,  Stephen Wehmeyer, Assistant Professor, Core.  This interactive discussion explores the ways in which the Bible-text, symbol, and object- serves simultaneously as an instrument of repression and of liberation in African American and Afro-Caribbean traditional culture. We will explore the ways in which African American and Afro-Caribbean populations "conjure" Biblical texts, as a process of re-framing, re-contextualizing, and re-purposing hegemonic sacred literature to cope with oppressive ethnic and economic realities.
  • Wednesday, February 11:  Calligraphy Basics Workshop, Toni-Lee Sangastiano, Associate Professor and Coordinator of Art, CCM. Inspired by the hand-written Saint John's Bible, the history of illuminated manuscripts, and the evolution of written language, learn the basics of calligraphy and explore a selection of calligraphic scripts during this hands-on workshop. All materials will be provided. Please RSVP to Toni-Lee (sangastiano@champlain.edu) and indicate whether you are left-handed or right-handed. Space is limited.
  • Wednesday, March 18: Decoding the Bible: The Symbolic Power of Illuminated Representation, Cheryl Casey, Assistant Professor, CCM. The history of the book is in many ways the history of power-power especially to shape collective perceptions of the world through signs and symbols. As with all types of media texts, the St. John's Bible re-presents a particular concept of existence that is tied to a certain historical moment. This lunch hour will be spent decoding the St. John's Bible as one example of how media texts function as symbolic representations of the shared or dominant values, prejudices, assumptions, and beliefs of a culture.
  • Tuesday, April 14: Illuminations: Past and Present, Rowshan Nemazee, Assistant Professor, Core. The arts and religion have always been intertwined. During this lunch hour, we will look at the art of illumination in medieval books of hours and biblical texts, comparing and contrasting them with a few pages from the St. John's Bible. This exercise aims to reflect this creative medium's desire to enhance depth and wholeness, while garnering personal responsibility and building foundations for love, compassion and dignity in the "reader."

For the full Saint John's Bible at Champlain event listings and updates, visit  http://www.champlain.edu/st-johns-bible-home 

(Photos courtesy of Saint John University, Collegeville, Minnesota, 2014. )

About Saint John's Bible:

The SJB project began in 1998 when Saint John's Abbey and University in Minnesota offered the commission to Jackson. He 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. For more information on Champlain College's Year with the Saint John's Bible: Educating the Imagination, please refer to  http://www.champlain.edu/st-johns-bible-home


About Champlain College: 

Founded in 1878, Champlain College is a small, not-for-profit, private college in Burlington, Vermont, with additional campuses in Montreal, Quebec and Dublin, Ireland. Champlain offers a traditional undergraduate experience from its beautiful campus overlooking Lake Champlain and over 60 online undergraduate and graduate degree programs and certificates. Champlain's distinctive career-driven approach to higher education embodies the notion that true learning occurs when information and experience come together to create knowledge. Champlain College is included in the Princeton Review's The Best 379 Colleges: 2015 Edition. Champlain was named a "Top-Up-and-Coming School" by U.S. News & World Report's America's Best Colleges and is ranked in the top tier of 2014 Regional Colleges in the North. For more information, visit www.champlain.edu.