Last week, Saint John’s University celebrated the one-year anniversary of The Saint John’s Bible Gallery – the permanent home of the original folios of The Saint John’s Bible. Located within the University’s Alcuin Library, the gallery provides an exhibition space for visitors to view the Bible and reflect on its artistic achievement and spiritual teachings.
The original folios of The Saint John’s Bible have been traveling on national and international exhibitions since 2005. In designing their permanent home at the gallery, Tim Ternes, director of The Saint John’s Bible and Hill Museum & Manuscript Library Programming at Saint John’s University, told the Saint Cloud Times that his goal “was to create an exhibition worthy of any major metropolitan city museum in the world.”
Thousands of guests who have visited in the past year would tell you he succeeded. The folios are displayed in nonreflective glass tower cases and almost appear to be suspended in air. Conservation lighting helps both preserve the work and create a meditative atmosphere in the gallery, where 28 pages are displayed on a rotating basis – inviting viewers to make return visits.
Ternes stated that 237 tour groups and 6,600 pre-registered visitors have now viewed the Bible in the gallery. The total number of visitors is much higher, as many unregistered visitors come for self-guided tours. Along with visitors from all over the continent, guests from China, England, Russia, France, the Bahamas, Mexico, Canada, Italy, France, Australia and Mali have taken in the work.
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“The Bible by its very nature is meant for all, and The Saint John’s Bible is created to be a communal book,” said Ternes. “The Bible Gallery was designed to invite people to come together across traditions and interests to ponder, discuss, question, enjoy and simply wonder. It is exciting to see so many people accepting that invitation into the scriptures and the art and come together with others to make meaning.”
In addition to the Bible itself, the gallery is also home to The Book of Honor, a calligraphed volume by artist Diane von Arx that lists the more than 1,400 individual and group donors who supported the development of The Saint John’s Bible. Visitors can also learn more about the creation of The Saint John’s Bible, with displays dedicated to lead calligrapher Donald Jackson’s custom-designed script and the ancient techniques used by the project’s team of artists.
Included in the exhibition is a modern-day flourish: an interactive touchscreen display that lets visitors explore the story of the Bible, discover background on the illuminations, and find out more about the artists who contributed their talents.
Reflecting on the gallery’s impact on the lifeblood of the University – its students – Ternes shared that it “gives The Saint John’s Bible a stronger physical presence on the Saint John’s University campus. It is not uncommon to see small groups of students enjoying the folios. One parent commented to me that she never thought she would see the day when HER son took her to see a Bible. ‘He was actually excited to share it with me,’ she said.”