Fiat Lux “Let there be light”. 

The Saint John’s Bible is the first hand-written, hand-illuminated Bible since the late medieval times. It was commissioned in 1998 by Saint John’s Abbey and University as a profound way to mark the millennium. Calligrapher Donald Jackson, scribe to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, was the artistic director of this endeavour that spanned over a decade in creation. Traditional tools and materials were skillfully employed to recreate the medieval manuscript style to engage a contemporary audience.   

St. Mary’s University was the first in Western Canada to own the complete seven volume set Heritage Edition, an artistic masterpiece, currently housed in The Gerry and Anna Maier Special Collections Reading Room at the Library.   

In these uncertain times, The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition is a source of enlightenment and celebration that can be experienced and studied through the complimentary online course offered by the University of Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life. Along with the Institute, instructors from the Theology Department, the Program of Liberal Studies and The Hesburgh Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections are featured.  

 The course encourages participants to focus on specific illuminations to discover the artistic, educational, and spiritual elements of each entry. The intersection of faith and science along with structure, order, and discipline are stressed as an important foundation of this guided experience. This well planned, engaging six-unit course incorporates the illuminations of The Saint John’s Bible as the basis for visio and lectio divina. 

Unit One: Scriptural Art: The Beauty of Illuminated Manuscripts 

Unit Two: The Creation 

Unit Three: The Ten Commandments 

Unit Four: The Psalms  

Unit Five: Wisdom’s Feast 

Unit Six: The World Made Flesh 

Historical details, scholarly references, and fascinating images are intertwined with contemporary life experience to speak with relevancy to the learner. It is noteworthy, that Dr. Duggan, Professor Emeritus, St. Mary’s University, is quoted in Unit 2, Lesson 2, Understanding the First Creation Account exegesis for his scholarly contributions to scripture 

Donald Jackson with contributions from Chris Tomlin. Genesis Frontispiece: Creation. (Genesis 1:1-1:25) The Saint John’s Bible, Pentateuch, Vol. 1. 2020 © The Saint John’s Bible. All Rights Reserved. 

To embark upon this online journey led by McGrath Institute scholars sign up through the link below. 

Please note, the online course, launched Ash Wednesday is available through the Lenten season until Pentecost Sunday, May 31, 2020.


Duggan, Michael W. The Consuming Fire: a Christian Guide to the Old Testament. Updated and rev. ed., Our Sunday Visitor, 2010. 

Jackson, Donald, et al. The Saint John’s Bible. Heritage ed., 2007. 

The Saint John’s Bible, 2020, . Accessed 30 March, 2020.

Blog Post Written By: Catherine Carlyle, Library Services Specialist

Catherine joined the StMU Library team in April 2018. Prior to joining StMU she managed physical and electronic collections for libraries and cultural institutions in Canada and England. Notably, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives, and Harrow Libraries, London, England. Her interests lie in living cultural heritage, preservation of collections, and art history.

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