Immersive Experience Brings to Light The Saint John’s Bible

The Immersive Theater in Marist School’s Goizueta Center for Immersive Experience and Design continues to be a place to engage students with a variety of activities that complement and enhance their classroom learning.
From January 23-February 3, the space was transformed into an immersive exhibit focused on The Saint John’s Bible, a hand-written, hand-illuminated Bible created jointly by the Benedictine monks of Saint John’s Abbey in Minnesota, British calligrapher Donald Jackson, and his team of artists and scribes. Commissioned by Saint John’s Abbey and University to unite the ancient Benedictine tradition of calligraphy with the technology and vision of modern times, the Bible spotlights the sacred text for a new millennium. Marist Theology teacher Mrs. Betsy Holcomb worked with Fine Arts teacher Mrs. Jillian Bauersfeld and Director of Global & Humane Studies Mrs. Kelly Mandy ’96 to bring Marist students the experience of both creating the unique Bible and viewing its exquisite pages.

Upon entering the theater holding electronic candles, small groups of students from Hebrew Scriptures, Christian Scriptures, and Church History classes split among three stations. “I personally liked working in a group more than working alone throughout the experience of learning to read and interpret The Saint John’s Bible,” shared Caroline Glenn ’26. “My group members allowed me to enjoy the experience even more yet learn at the same time.”

In one area of the theater, students practiced writing calligraphy by candlelight, tracing a word from the Bible and interacting with a digital version to experience what Benedictine monks likely saw and felt in the dim monasteries where they practiced the art of calligraphy. The purpose of this station was for students to explore the benefits and challenges of creating a handwritten Bible.

In another corner of the theater, students donned virtual reality headsets and self-guided through a tour of Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota featuring footage captured by Mrs. Holcomb, who received her dual Master of Arts and Theology from Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary. Students virtually toured the school’s campus and The Saint John’s Bible Gallery to explore how the geography, architecture, sacred spaces, and campus life influenced the content of the Bible.

The third and final station welcomed students behind a red veil into a peaceful space where they sat at individual stations and used acrylic markers to color a portion of an illumination from the Bible. Surrounding them in sound, recorded audio voiced the biblical text that inspired their illuminations, adding to the richness of this activity. When the students finished coloring their portions of the illumination, they placed the pieces together until the artwork was made whole. This part of the experience asked them to reflect on the relationship between the illuminations and the sacred text. To round out this activity, students hung their completed artwork on the outside of the theater’s glass walls for passersby to view.

The design of the Saint John’s Bible immersive experience was intentional, according to Mrs. Holcomb. She explained, “In the exhibit, the lighting is low. It is meant to simulate that medieval scriptorium candlelit experience and contrast that with the intense virtual reality experience. The way the experience combines technology with the ancient practice of calligraphy is such a cool way to celebrate the creation of The Saint John’s Bible, which is already a celebration of what is old and new.”

To view photos from The Saint John’s Bible immersive exhibit, click here.

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Marist School

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An Independent Catholic School of the Marist Fathers and Brothers