They don't make Bibles the way they used to. Or, as Tim Ternes, director of The Saint John's Bible Project at Saint John's Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minn., said, "It is the same beautiful, sacred words, but so much more than the Bible you find in a hotel drawer."
As the first handwritten, illuminated Bible commissioned by a Benedictine monastery in the modern years, the new Saint John's Bible contains 1,127 pages and more than 160 artworks using gold, silver and platinum to create a play of light as pages are turned.
The illuminations are designed to be visual, spiritual meditation, Mr. Ternes said. "They are not pictures."
Too massive for a standard size book, Saint John's Bible is spread over seven volumes, each of which, when open, measures 2 feet by 3 feet.
At 7 p.m. Tuesday, a high-quality copy of two of the seven volumes can be viewed during "From Inspiration to Illumination: An Introduction to the Saint John's Bible," hosted by Seton Hill University's National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education.
The free presentation will be held in Cecilian Hall in the Administration Building, One Seton Hill Drive, Greensburg.
Conducted by Mr. Ternes, the program will include videos and discussion.
A free exhibit of 17 reproduction prints showcasing some artworks is on display through next Thursday in Reeves Memorial Library on campus. The original Saint John's Bible was completed in 2011and is permanently housed in the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library at the abbey.
Each of the 299 high-quality copies, called the Heritage edition, sells for $155,000.
Commissioned in 1995 by the abbey and university, the Bible was created over 15 years through the collaboration of a theological team at the abbey and an artistic team headquartered in Wales.
"The monks studied the text and provided theological briefs and ideas for the artists," Mr. Ternes said.
The Saint John's Bible uses the New Revised Standard Version Bible translation and is written on vellum using quills, natural handmade inks and hand-ground pigments as was done by medieval artists.
"Traditional materials and methodology were used because those have proven to last over the centuries," Mr. Ternes said.
Among the artworks within 160 Bible passages is a seven-panel Story of Creation. The first panel shows darkness and chaos with a burst of light; the third features a satellite image of earth with a hint of vegetation; the last depicts a day of rest and order.
"It weaves in modern science and values to tell the story of how we see creation today," Mr. Ternes noted.
He said one of the best things about the Saint John's Bible is that it is meant to be shared.
"This is not a book you crawl in bed with," he said. "Just the size says, 'come on, people, gather around.' "
Reservations are required for Tuesday's program; visit www.setonhill.edu/tickets or call 724-552-2929.
To purchase a standard-size Saint John's Bible for $60 to $80, visit: www.saintjohnsbible.org. The exhibit runs through regular library hours: from 8 a.m. to 10:50 p.m. Monday-Thursday; from 8 a.m. to 4:50 p.m. Friday; from 9 a.m. to 4:50 p.m. Saturday; and from 1 to 10:50 p.m. Sunday.
Margaret Smykla, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.