The cover of this issue offers a detail from the page of The Saint John’s Bible on which the Beatitudes according to Saint Matthew are illuminated. The detail is taken from the “fractured blesseds” on the right hand side. The full image is reproduced here, below, along with the text. Some information about The Saint John’s Bible in general and this page in particular can also be found below.
- Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
- Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
- Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
- Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
- Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
- Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
- Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
(Matthew 5:3–12, NRSV)
About The Saint John’s Bible
The Saint John’s Bible, commissioned by St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville Minnesota in 1995, is the first completely handwritten and hand illuminated manuscript of the Bible commissioned by a Benedictine Abbey since the invention of the printing press. The Bible, written on vellum, measures two feet tall by three feet wide when open. There are seven volumes, containing a total of 160 illuminations.
The work, produced by several artists and calligraphers, was overseen and carried out by master calligrapher Donald Jackson, in Wales. It was advised by a theological Committee on Illumination and Text. Michael Patella OSB, chair of this committee, commented: “The illuminations are not illustrations. They are spiritual meditations on a text.”
About this Page
The website of The Saint John’s Bible describes this particular page as follows:
. . . Artist Thomas Ingmire gives special attention to the Beatitudes, writing them with a style and movement that allows the words to become the art itself. The color and electricity of the page catches the eye; however, it is always the text and its challenging meaning that reaches us.
You see two sides in this special treatment. The right side is a repetitive, jagged, and colorful treatment of the word blessed. The letters are scattered randomly in a multicolored pattern, here and there coming together to form the word. The overall effect recalls mosaic decoration, a traditional artistic medium dating to the pre-classical times in the Near East. It was widely used in early Christian churches for both decorations and narrative scenes. It also reminds many people of the glass windows in Saint John’s Abbey Church.
Although readers notice the gold lettering first, with closer observation they discover fractured blesseds on the right side. Together they express Jesus’ rich teaching in the Beatitudes.