National Cathedral receives rare Apostles Edition of The Saint John’s Bible

Washington National Cathedral
Posted Oct 13, 2023

Washington National Cathedral has received one of 12 Apostles Editions of The St. John’s Bible, the first hand-written Bible to be commissioned by a Benedictine monastery in 500 years.

Washington National Cathedral has received one of only 12 special editions of The Saint John’s Bible, the first handwritten, illuminated Bible commissioned by a Benedictine monastery in more than 500 years.

A copy of the seven-volume work of Scripture and sacred art commissioned by Saint John’s Abbey and University was gifted to the Cathedral by The Catharine Elizabeth Laney Trust and marks a significant addition to the Cathedral’s permanent collection of sacred art and literature.

A public dedication and blessing ceremony for the Apostles Edition of The Saint John’s Bible will take place during the National Cathedral’s Sunday Choral Evensong service at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday, October 15, 2023. This event is open to the public, and a live stream will be available on the National Cathedral’s website and YouTube channel.

During the ceremony, representatives from The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Program and the benefactors will present The Saint John’s Bible Apostles Edition to The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of the Washington National Cathedral, and The Rev. Canon Jan Naylor Cope, Provost.

The Saint John’s Bible is a testament to the enduring power of faith and art that invites us to explore the sacred in new ways,” said Dean Hollerith. “We are deeply honored to receive this extraordinary work of sacred art and Scripture, and hope it will serve as a profound source of inspiration for our community and visitors alike.”

Following the dedication, The Saint John’s Bible will be housed in the Virginia Mae Center, the Cathedral’s public programming venue, where it will be included in specialty programming and events offered through the Center. Other institutions that have received an Apostles Edition include the Vatican Museum of Art, The Library of Congress, and the Morgan Library and Museum in New York.

The Cathedral is receiving one of only 12 copies of The Saint John’s Bible Apostles Edition – one for each of the 12 apostles. It is produced on 100 percent cotton paper using lightfast ultraviolet ink. Each color is dried instantly on the press before another color is laid on. Accents are made from gold and silver foils.

“The spiritual journey inward, to the triune God who is in each one of us, is as rich, as complex, and as tantalizing in its mystery as the journey into outer space,” said the Right Rev. John Klassen, Abbot of Saint John’s Abbey. “And there doesn’t seem to be any end to it; it just keeps going and going and going. For monastics, as well as for all Christians, that journey is everywhere nurtured, guided, and sustained by our encounter with Scripture. This is one of the major reasons that Saint John’s Abbey and University committed themselves to create The Saint John’s Bible.

“The monastic community of Saint John’s Abbey and the academic community of Saint John’s University are thrilled to have a seven-volume Apostles Edition of The Saint John’s Bible residing in and stewarded by our Nation’s Cathedral and are deeply grateful to the generous benefactors who made this historic gift possible,” added Klassen.

The Saint John’s Bible was commissioned in 1998 by the Benedictine monastery of Saint John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minn., and was created between 2000-2011 by a team of 23 scribes, artists and craftspeople under the artistic direction of Donald Jackson, one of the world’s foremost calligraphers and Scribe toHer Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Crown Office at the House of Lords in London, England.

The original manuscript of The Saint John’s Bible consists of 1,150 pages created in seven distinct volumes: Pentateuch, Historical Books, Wisdom Books, Psalms, Prophets, Gospels and Acts, and Letters and Revelation. The original manuscript of The Saint John’s Bible is more than 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide and is hand-painted and hand-illuminated on vellum, using quills, natural handmade inks, hand-ground pigments, and gold leaf. The original manuscript resides at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library on the Saint John’s University campus.

The Saint John’s Bible is an experience of the presence of God and the responses of our hearts, minds and senses,” said the anonymous benefactors who have made this gift possible through The Catharine Elizabeth Laney Trust. “To encounter the text and illuminations of The Saint John’s Bible is to realize that the God who continues to create new stars is also interested in us, individually and in community. God encourages and welcomes our questions, as does our Anglican/Episcopal tradition. In this way, we grow in the knowledge and love of God and of each other. It is our honor to gift an Apostles Edition of The Saint John’s Bible to Washington National Cathedral, to the glory of God and in thanksgiving for the Cathedral’s ministry.”


Media are welcome to attend the Cathedral’s dedication of The Saint John’s Bible and should contact Eleanor Donohue at (202) 704-5840 or for further details or to connect with Cathedral Chief Public Affairs Officer Kevin Eckstrom at (202) 390-0240.


About Washington National Cathedral
Grounded in the reconciling love of Jesus Christ, Washington National Cathedral is a house of prayer for all people, conceived by our founders to serve as a great church for national purposes.