While taking a nod from the past, Benedictine monks from the St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minn. recently made history by creating the first illuminated Bible since the Middle Ages.
And because of the initiative of staff from Mount Aloysius College in Cresson, prints of the Bible are on display for the enjoyment of the local public.
The exhibit, which features 17 prints of introductory pages from books of both the Old and New Testaments, will be on display through July 16.
Sister Helen Marie Burns helps hang a piece from the St. John’s Bible exhibit in the Ecumenical Library at Mount?Aloysius College in Cresson.
Sister Helen Marie Burns, a Sister of Mercy and the vice president of mission integration at Mount Aloysius, said the introductory pages are some of the most artistically engaging from the illuminated work.
"The craft of illuminating, both in terms of the art and the calligraphy, are skills that are pretty depleted from the face of the earth at this point in time," she said.
The creators of the Bible, which included the St. John's monks and other collegues, formed a community of theologians, artists and calligraphers from around the world. Sometimes meeting in Collegeville and sometimes abroad, the project took 13 years to complete, finishing last year.
If you go
What: Display of prints of The St. John's Bible
When: Through July 16
Where: Mount Aloysius College, 7373 Admiral Peary Highway, Cresson
Details: Library hours are Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Event is free and open to the public. For more information or to schedule a group visit, call Sister Helen Marie Burns at 886-6510.
"So, it really was the process used in the Middle Ages, as well as the product of the Middle Ages," Burns said.
Its display is the third in Pennsylvania, with other prints having appeared in venues in Erie and Bryn Mawr before the project's total completion.
Burns said a major reason Mount Aloysius was chosen to host the exhibit was due to the college's ecumenical studies center, which houses 18,000 ecumenical volumes and continues to grow. She added that many pastors come to the ecumenical library to prepare for sermons or conduct their own study.
"We certainly have a lot of students who use it," said Brandi Porter, director of the library. "It's also a collection that is unique in that so many other researchers are requesting it on inter-library loan."
Gerald Myers, a retired pastor who donated the library to the school and remains active on its ecumenical board, said he is "delighted" that the St. John's Bible exhibit was brought to the library. He added that since the beginning of the Church, art and scripture went hand-in-hand.
"It seems to me that this time in which we live is very visual," he said. "There for, the written word needs to be outlined by the visibility of the message. The visibility of the Gospel is very important."
Porter said she believes visitors to the exhibit will find the library very accessible and easy to get to. She added that there are brochures, along with a 50-minute instuctional DVD that can be screened upon request, to help explain the history and significance of the Bible.
"It's an easy way to walk through and take your time with it," she said.
Burns said she hopes locals take advantage of seeing the exhibit, as it may soon be considered the U.S. equivalent to Ireland's Book of Kehls.
"I think anyone who appreciates art and appreciates scripture would find this just a wonderful, quiet moment during the summer to be with the Word of God and the creative energies of people in their own time and place," she said. "They aren't looking back to the ancient times of the Book of Kehls, but looking to see there are people today who take this care with the Word of God."
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.