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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
The Observer

College displays rare volume of Saint John's Bible

One of 299 sets of Volume 6 of the rare Heritage Edition of The Saint John's Bible now rests in the main level of the Cushwa-Leighton Library at Saint Mary's College.

Joining the first five volumes of the Saint John's Bible, the sixth volume is the latest to be presented to the College, with the seventh volume possibly arriving within the next few months.

Judy Rauenhorst Mahoney, who gave the gift, majored in humanistic studies at Saint Mary's. A native of Minnesota, she and her father became interested in the project of making the Bibles, which takes place at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn.

"So they were following along and contributing to the creation of the project," Janet Fore, the library director at Saint Mary's said. "Judy decided for her love of Saint Mary's and her love of the St. John's Bible that we should have a copy of this Heritage Edition of it."

The Heritage Edition is a full-size, fine art reproduction of the original hand-calligraphied and hand-illuminated Bible. Featuring 160 illuminations, images contain references to the discovery of DNA, the Twin Towers and expressions of social and religious diversity.

"It's a very special project in that it's the first handwritten illuminated Bible sponsored by and created by the monastery in 500 years," Fore said. "This is the first thing done like this since the printing press. It's extraordinary."

The illumination incorporates gold leaf, which is used to accent brightly colored illustrations. The gold, reflecting off the page, paired with the sacred word, is supposed to reflect God's presence throughout the Bible.

"The artwork itself, the interpretation of the spiritual word is extraordinary and really brings it to life in a whole new way then I've ever seen or imagined," Fore said. "It's a very special thing to have here at Saint Mary's. We have actually used it in Opening Mass for three years in a row now."

The display case that the volumes are stored in was also given to the College as a gift from Anne G. Mahoney, Judy's daughter, who handcrafted the wooden case at the Saint John's Abbey Woodshop.

"We have one volume on display all the time and we can trade them out at any time. Under the display case is drawers for the other volumes," Fore said. "I try to turn the pages every so often so that viewers of the Bible can see the different types of illustrations and calligraphy work."

Fore said she was astounded when she received the message from the president's office revealing the generous gift by Judy and Anne was coming to Saint Mary's.

"I was very excited. I had been to St. John's University a few years ago and I knew about the project and how extraordinary and beautiful it was," Fore said, "I was very excited for it."

While the six volumes wait for the seventh and final volume to arrive at the College, the Cushwa-Leighton Library continues to welcome visitors from all over to view the Bible on display.

"One of the things that President [Carol Ann] Mooney really wanted was for it to be on display on the main floor all the time so people can see it just as they walk in," Fore said.