MARY ALICE WILLIAMS: Now, a look at a one-of-a-kind work in progress: the first hand-written, hand illuminated Bible in 400 years. It's a collaboration between Benedictine monks in Minnesota and a team of scribes in Wales. The monks are raising the several millions of dollars the project will cost, the scribes are doing the writing and illuminating.
Fred de Sam Lazaro talked with both the monks and the scribe who leads the project.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: In the rarified world of calligraphy, it doesn't get much better than being Donald Jackson, a scribe to the Queen of England -- a man whose work graces royal proclamations.
But from his scriptorium in Wales, a team led by Jackson has taken on what he calls their Sistine Chapel project: a handwritten, illuminated Bible. There's been nothing like it since Michelangelo's time.
It will have 160 illuminations, using handmade inks and gold leaf to illustrate significant events and passages -- 1,150 pages in all, on parchment made from calfskin, as in medieval times.
DONALD JACKSON: What you're seeing is just the tip of the iceberg. What goes on underneath is all these different ideas, thoughts, decorative images. So there's enormous varieties. I work to a brief, I work to a brief that's sent to me from St. John's.
DE SAM LAZARO: The monks at St John's Abbey and University in Minnesota are custodians of a 1,500-year-old Benedictine tradition. Handwritten scripture is part of that heritage. But they switched to Gutenberg printers long ago and never looked back -- not even when Donald Jackson first asked them to sponsor his $4 million idea.
Brother DIETRICH REINHARDT: I thought, "I need this like a hole in the head." I'm trying to balance the budget, trying to hire new faculty, trying to raise funds for facilities. But then I started to laugh and thought, "Wouldn't it be wondrous?" It kindled all the romantic parts of my life that 30 years of monastic life still has not wiped out!
DE SAM LAZARO: Many monks shared Brother Dietrich Reinhardt's misgivings. Was this elitist? An expensive anachronism? But in the end, the concerns helped make the case for the Bible. Also to shape it, says Abbot John Klassen.
Abbot JOHN KLASSEN: We wanted to have a work that would really affect our awareness of this global civilization -- an awareness of the peoples of the earth and an awareness of how those stories can be texts of liberation, texts of hope, texts of meaning across the face of the earth.
DE SAM LAZARO: In other words, a departure from the Eurocentric Christian tradition. This theme is evident in illuminations such as this "Genealogy of Christ," shaped like a menorah.
Mr. JACKSON: It represents a tree of life. And within this tree of life, I've also used fragments of a Buddhist mandala with cosmic symbols. I've also interwoven with this fragments of the DNA design, because as I did this, what came out most forcefully to me was, what could have been a boring family tree, I realized was everybody's family tree -- yours and mine. We are all connected. So at one point here, I just added the name of Hagar, the handmaiden of Abraham, whose son Ishmael was the ancestor of Mohammed. So I put her name in Arabic.