COLORADO SPRINGS, CO — Inside St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Colorado Springs, Father Matt Holcombe pages through a copy of the first illuminated, or illustrated, handwritten Bible created in 500 years.
"The idea for The Saint John’s Bible came to be through Donald Jackson. He was the chief scribe for the late Queen Elizabeth II," Holcombe said. ""He approached Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota and he pitched the idea to them in 1995. It took them three years to decide whether or not to do this project."
The project was a massive undertaking. The 1150 pages bound in Italian leather include all 73 books from the Old and New Testaments using the New Revised Standard Version. Each seven-volume set is illustrated with art, all created to "ignite the spiritual imagination."
"It took seven calligraphers and seven artists over a decade to make this," Holcombe said.
The original set remains at Saint John's University in Collegeville but 299 copies were also made, each with unique added touches from artists to create an original work of art.
"In Colorado there are three complete sets," Holcombe said. "There’s one at Regis University in Denver, there’s one at Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, and one at Holy Name in Steamboat Springs. This fall, Saint Michaels will acquire one of those 300 sets."
Holcombe's church was originally supposed to have The Saint John's Bible Heritage Edition on loan. Now, thanks to anonymous donors in the community, it will stay on display at St. Michael's Episcopal Church.
"The most powerful thing for me is seeing come up to this Bible and just gasp," said parishioner Linda Page.
Page has been helping to share this Bible with groups all over southern Colorado. She's captivated by the thought and detail that went into each page.
"(Jackson) made sure facing pages were done by the same calligrapher so that if there were little differences you wouldn’t ever notice it," Page said.
Holcombe says what moves each person seeing this Bible for the first time is different.
"The thing about this Bible is it is amazing to look at, but what struck me more than the looks of it is how it was made was that there was a whole community of people that created it," said parishioner Mary Hattick. "We are so divided now, and it’s a symbol of how we can work together, and what we can do when we work together."
A sacred work of art now bringing a community together.
"I remember the first time i saw The Saint John Bible and it didn’t seem real, it didn’t seem it was something that could actually be as beautiful and life-changing as it has been," Holcombe said. "It’s the only time as a priest that I’ve ever seen people approach the Bible and be speechless.
If you or your community group would like to see The Saint John Bible Heritage Edition in person click here.
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