UVic to receive gift of rare bible

A fine-art reproduction of the only handwritten illuminated bible created since the advent of the printing press in the 15th century is being officially presented to the University of Victoria in a public event at St. Andrews Cathedral, Saturday afternoon.

The seven-volume St. John’s Bible, is a gift to UVic’s Centre for Studies in Religion and Society (CSRS) from the friends of Remi De Roo, retired Roman Catholic bishop of Victoria and one of the Centre’s founders.

The books themselves are rare works of artistic beauty and will be of interest to religious and non-religious people alike. The project took a team of six artists using feather quills and hair brushes 15 years to complete the 1,151 pages of calligraphy and modern imagery on calf-skin vellum, decorated with gold and silver.

The bible’s conception though, was thoroughly modern. It was intended as a political, social and scientific encapsulation of our time, and to celebrate the dialogue between faith and reason. Among the pages are images of the Hubble telescope, the double helix, the Twin Towers, species at risk, and greater gender and ethnic representation than any bible has ever depicted.

This illuminated manuscript of the New Revised Standard Version of the bible was an $8 million (US) project, commissioned in 1998 by St. John’s Benedictine Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minnesota. A total of 299 heritage editions were made.

When Bishop Remi De Roo first saw this bible, he was so inspired that he set out to purchase a set for CSRS. He used the occasion of his 90th birthday this year to solicit friends to donate toward the $140,000 (US) purchase to leave as part of his legacy.

“I believe that every human being benefits by beauty and goodness and truth and when we can present the message of God’s love in the context of artistic beauty, you appreciate even more the value of the Bible,” De Roo says.

After the gifting on Saturday, the books will be available for public viewing in the Special Collection library at UVic until space is made at CSRS. It will then be available to travel to guest institutions and organizations by request.

The St. John’s Bible (the third held in public collection in Canada) will serve as the first in the centre’s planned collection of modern, illuminated manuscripts of the foundational texts of the major religions, called Found in Translation.

“The larger plan,” says Paul Bramadat, CSRS director, “includes an international research project and conference around what such books mean today in a digital world and for a younger generation with rapidly changing approaches to text.”

The Centre for Studies in Religion and Society is a community of academics dedicated to the scholarly study of religion in relation to all aspects of human society, from law and politics to family and culture to history, the sciences and the arts. The centre has no affiliation with any religion and no religious agenda. Centre scholars are equally interested in Eastern, Western, ancient and contemporary religions and societies.

Watch Paul Bramadat’s Faces of Research video here.

What: Presentation of the gifting of the St. John’s Bible to UVic
Where: St. Andrew’s Cathedral, 740 View Street, Victoria
When: Saturday, September 20.
12-1 p.m.: Media opportunity to view and photograph volumes.
**Centre director Dr. Paul Bramadat and Bishop Remi De Roo are available for interviews during this time.
1-2 p.m.: Welcome, readings and music
2-3 p.m.: Public viewing of volumes

** The event is free and open to the public. It will feature readings by guests including CBC Radio’s Jo-Anne Roberts, local Victoria philanthropist Naz Rayani, Anglican Canon priest Sue House and Jewish chaplain Sharon Kobrinsky, as well as original music by composer David Haas.

Note: Photos of St. John’s Bible pages available on request

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Media contacts

>Dr. Paul Bramadat (History/Centre for Studies in Religion and Society) at 250-721-6324 or bramadat@uvic.ca

Suzanne Ahearne (University Communications + Marketing) at 250-721-6139 or sahearne@uvic.ca

In this story

Keywords: Centre for Studies in Religion and Society

People: Remi De Roo

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