Treasures from the Library: St John’s Bible

This week’s Treasure is a relatively new one, and well suited for Lent.


In 1998, St John’s University and St John’s Abbey officially commissioned a new illuminated Bible, now known as the St John’s Bible. The Bible is presented in 7 volumes; work was first begun during Lent 2000, and the volumes were completed and released over a period of time, from 2001 to 2007.

The original seven volumes are currently held at St John’s University, but you can explore the volumes digitally through their website. The College holds the standard publicly available copy of the St John’s Bible. There is also an edition referred to as the Heritage Edition, which is a fine art copy of the original including touch ups by hand and gold leaf. Per the St John’s website, there is a Heritage copy as Assumption College in Worcester, MA.

Speaking for myself, I’m a big fan of illuminated manuscripts. I still remember my trip to the Getty Museum and the Huntington Library when I was on the cusp of high school. By far the biggest draws for me were the glorious collections of illuminated Bibles and Books of Hours– the colors were brilliant, even after so much time. The gold was tarnished but there was a distinct sense of history, of use. The Huntington has secular manuscripts as well, notably the Canterbury Tales. I highly recommend both institutions; the collections are wonderful and the surroundings are marvelous. The Huntington has botanical gardens attached and they are always a highlight to my visit. There is something lovely about a library and garden together. The Getty, on the other hand, is located up on the cliffs and glitters in the afternoon sun so fiercely you need sunglasses, though you’ll not notice it when you’re in among their collections.

For those seeking additional digital access to Medieval manuscripts, turn your attention to the Digital Scriptorium and Cambridge’s online Scriptorium.

The nice thing about having a complete copy of the St John’s Bible available for students is to see the contemporary take on a very old form. The illuminations contained in the Bible may not be everyone’s cup of tea– as with digital images, it is difficult to get the full sense of the illumination in a reproduction. The color scheme is somewhat different from what might be seen in medieval manuscripts. There is more information on the principles that shaped the St John’s Bible available on their website.

For our copy of the St John’s Bible, it is available to view within the library. In the foyer, there is an alcove which contains the display stand and all seven volumes. Any of the volumes may be moved to the Helm Room or Scholar’s Lounge for viewing but must be returned to the viewing stand. They are not available for circulation.

Lenten Resources

Lenten Resources

With Ash Wednesday on February 10th, Lent is rapidly approaching. With that in mind, check out the following resources for a fruitful Lent:

In the Library— the number of copies per book may vary

  • The Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola are always a popular choice. They are located in the Helm Room, BX 2179 L7 E5.
  • Introduction to the Devout Life by St Francis de Sales comes recommended in this post from Jen Fulwiler. Also located in the Helm Room, call number BX 2179 F85.
  • The Great Divorce by CS Lewis may not be your prototypical Lenten book, but I found it to be very interesting and through provoking. You’ll find it in the Helm Room, BJ 1401 L4.
  • Orthodox Lent, Holy Week and Easter: Liturgical texts with commentary by Hugh Wybrew is a summary introduction to the Orthodox traditions of the season. Located in the Helm Room, BX375.T75.W83
  • The Easter Book by Francis Weiser traces the development of Lenten and Easter traditions through the length and breadth of Christendom through history. You’ll find this volume in the Stacks, GT.4935.W4
  • Easter Vigil and Other Poems, by Karol Wojtyla I have not read the poems written prior to Karol Wojtyla becoming Pope Saint John Paul II but I can’t imagine that there would not be value there. PG7158 J64 A26, located in the Ballroom
  • Resurrection and the Message of Easter by Xavier Leon-Dufour BT481 L4513
  • Journey toward Easter, by Pope Benedict XVI comes recommended by both Jen Fulwiler and Simcha Fisher in the posts linked to elsewhere in the list, and can be found in the Helm Room. BX1912.5 R3813
  • Great Lent: Jouney to Pascha by Alexander Schmemann come recommended in this post from Simcha Fisher and can be found in the Helm Room, BX.376.S36
  • Jesus of Nazareth, by Pope Benedict XVI. Part of Pope Benedict’s reflection on the Life of Jesus, this volume covers the time from the Baptism of Christ to the Transfiguration. Located in the Helm Room, BT303.2 B4613
  • Reflections on the Psalms by CS Lewis has been recommended to me as a good companion when reading through the Psalms. Call number BS 1433 L4 in the Helm Room.
  • The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis. A Lenten classic. Located in the Helm Room, BV 4501 L48.
  • The Bible should go without saying, but our large collection of various translations can be found in the Helm Room. Of particular note, we have several volumes of the St John’s Bible in the foyer of the library by the entrance to the Scholar’s Lounge. The St. John’s Bible is a modern take on the illuminated manuscript, commissioned by St John’s Abbey and St John’s University in Minnesota. Additional information on the Bible and its production can be see at

Online Resources

  • View Pope Francis’ Lenten Message on the Vatican Website.
  • Our Dioceses, the Dioceses of Manchester, have set up a page chock full of information, meditations, prayers, and considerations for a fruitful Lent.
  • The USCCB has also put together resources for a fruitful Lent, particularly calling attention to the Pope’s call that “the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year be lived more intensely as a privileged moment to celebrate and experience God’s mercy”
  • Catholic Apptitude has a page for Lenten apps that is updated yearly. 2016 apps are already being updated and will be through the start of Lent.
  • If you’re looking for articles on how to have a fruitful Lent, a quick search of Catholic Exchange or National Catholic Register will turn up a number of articles.
  • EWTN has a really nice Lent and Easter Portal set up for this year, starting the week of Ash Wednesday and taking you all the way through Easter.