Illuminating the Word: The Saint John’s Bible

4th Floor Gallery, extended through February 4, 2018

(downloadable program guide available here)

The Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County is thrilled to announce the opening of the largest art exhibition in its history, featuring 68 original folios of the first hand-illuminated and hand-calligraphed Bible to be commissioned by a Benedictine monastery in 500 years, The Saint John’s Bible.

The exhibition, Illuminating the Word: The Saint John’s Bible, brings those original folios from all seven volumes of The Saint John’s Bible, along with tools, sketches, materials, and rare books, to the Fargo-Moorhead community. Here they tell the story of this monumental Minnesota creation, a gift of art, history, and faith to the new millennium and a new call for our commitments to community, hospitality, justice, and transformation.

Beginning in 1995, the community of Saint John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minnesota, began planning and working on The Saint John’s Bible. The work of creating the Bible involved countless hours of meetings, artist studio time, and the financial support of over 1,400 individual donors. The project was directed by a committee of theologians, artists, and scholars known as the Committee on Illumination and Text and the actual folios were created by a team of 23 professional scribes, artists, and assistants in a scriptorium in Wales, under the artistic direction of British Royal calligrapher Donald Jackson. On May 9, 2011, the last word of the Bible was penned.

This presentation of one of the world’s great religious texts was conceived as an expression of Saint John’s Abbey’s faith directed to the modern world and now it stands as a visual record of a new generation’s artistic interpretation of an age-old historical and literary document. The project combines a centuries-old tradition of craftsmanship with the latest capabilities of digital communication and design. The words are handwritten on calfskin vellum using hand-cut quills fashioned from turkey, swan or goose feathers and ancient inks hand-ground from natural minerals and stones, including lapis lazuli, malachite, and vermillion.  The folios are illuminated with the brilliance of 24-karat gold leaf, silver leaf, and platinum. Each volume of the impressive result measures 2ft by 3ft when opened, weighing 30 to 40 pounds…

   …and it’s at the Hjemkomst Center.

The Saint John’s Bible is a monumental undertaking appealing to our communities of art, history, and faith, and we are excited to bring it to our community. If you want to book a group tour or presentation for your organization, please contact us at (218) 299-5511, ext. 6738, or

$15    Adult
$14    Senior, College Student
$10    Children (ages 5 – 17)

Group Rates**
$14.00 for a group of 10
$10.00 for a group of 20 or more

School Group Rates***
$6.00 for a reserved school group
$10.00 for a reserved college tour

Unlimited Access Pass (Illuma Pass)
$50 for 3 months, unlimited access

$40     Basic (single member)
$60     Basic+ (household)
$85     Booster
$125     Heritage
$250    Patron
$500    Benefactor
$1000    Vanguard

*Admission to Illuminating the Word:
The Saint John’s Bible includes full museum

**Per visitor; tours must be booked one week in advance (driver and tour director comped)

***Per visitor; tours must be booked one week in advance (driver and tour director comped)

****Members receive added benefits, including unlimited exhibition access all year (including Illuminating the Word:
The Saint John’s Bible)