A Trip to Minnesota

As referenced below, I was invited to the Hill Monastic Manuscript Library this past week to give a talk on my current research, on the convergence between St. George and Al-Khidr, the revered Muslim wali. The HMML is hosted by St. John’s University, which itself was founded by St. John’s Abbey, which has become one of the largest monasteries in the United States. The abbey church, at the center of the campus, is a fantastic modernist structre by Marcel Breuer.

This church was built to realize the reforms of Vatican II. As you can see, the altar is in the center of the choir, not against the east wall.

The old abbey church has been decommissioned and is now the Great Hall.

I was pleased to learn that this style was called Beuronese. But if St. John’s is known for anything artistic these days, it is for the St. John’s Bible, the first manuscript bible sponsored by Benedictine monks since the invention of printing. It has only recently been completed, but it is not yet bound. You can view four spreads of pages in the university’s Alcuin Library (no photography allowed, alas). Here is the building from the outside, also designed by Marcel Breuer:

There is also a curious sculpture on the drive in. It’s called “Lean on Me” and was constructed by a team of 300 volunteers under the direction of artist Patrick Dougherty out of willow and ironwood over a period of nineteen days in 2012. It was inspired by the Stella Maris Chapel on the far side of Lake Sagatagan, a lake in the middle of campus.

The HMML itself has recently been renovated. They set me up with a nice carrel to use while I did some research in their collection.

The HMML possesses a significant number of rare books, and microfilms of thousands more. They specialize a number of areas, especially in records relating to the Knights Hospitallers, a crusading order established in Jerusalem in the early twelfth century, and which subsequently held the island of Malta until Napoleon evicted it in 1798. This “Order of Malta” still exists as a Catholic charitable organization, which you can join if you are sponsored by members of the order.

Here are two images of my favorite saint from the HMML collection:

This fine woodcut of George engaged in his favorite activity is from Petrus de Natalibus, Catalogus sanctorum et gestorum eorum ex diversis voluminibus collectus (Lyon, 1519). Arca Artium, Kacmarcik Collection, BX4654.N3 1519.

Alas, I did not realize this picture was somewhat blurry when I took it. It is from Jan Goeree, Godtvrugtige Almanach of Lof-Gedachtenis der Heyligen (Amsterdam, 1730); Arca Artium, Kacmarcik Collection, BX4659.N4 G6 1730 and features an episode from St. George’s Passion that I have never seen depicted in art before. At one point during his interrogation and torture, George makes as though he is ready to sacrifice to pagan gods, but when he gets to the temple, he simply stamps his foot on the ground and the statues fall over and break. (Normally George is depicted slaying a dragon, or undergoing some gruesome torture.)

My talk went well, and I am indebted to Daniel Gullo, Matthew Heintzelman, Julie Dietman, William Straub, Jan Vandeburie, and Fr. Columba Stewart for their kindnesses.

3 thoughts on “A Trip to Minnesota

  1. I would like to ask your permission to use one or both of the woodcuts of St. George for a custom hymnsheet for our church. It may be used as part of a fundraiser, but would be considered non-commercial use. Thank you!

  2. Thanks for your interest, but it’s best that you go *ad fontes* for this: ask Daniel Gullo at the Hill Monastic Manuscript Library dgullo – at – hmml -dot- org.

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