St. John’s University

Saint John’s University (SJU) was founded in 1857 by the Benedictine monks of Saint John’s Abbey, having emigrated from Bavaria. The campus is located on several thousand acres of forests, prairies, and lakes, and the school is also known for producing its own coarse-grained bread, known as “Johnnie Bread”, the proceeds of which have been used to fund numerous projects at the school, including the Abbey Church.

Marcel Breuer, the renowned Hungarian Brutalist architect and furniture designer, designed several buildings on the Saint John’s campus in the 1960s, including the Abbey Church, the Alcuin Library (below), the Ecumenical Institute, an addition to the monastic enclosure, a science center, and four residence halls. Together, these comprise the largest collection of Breuer-designed buildings in North America. Breuer’s design for the church incorporated the traditional axis of baptistery, nave, and altar in a modern concrete structure which was designed so that the entire community was able to feel intimately involved in the liturgy. Perhaps the most striking part, however, the facade and bell tower (above), which itself is shaped like a large bell, rises 112 feet in front of the church. The north facade contains a wall of stained glass, made up of 430 colorful hexagons of abstract design, which is actually the largest wall of stained glass in the world.

Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) began in January 1967, when KSJR signed on from the Saint John’s campus. The university saw the promise of FM radio, a relatively new technology at the time, which was seen as an appropriate extension of Saint John’s culture and arts to the community. However, since St. Cloud and surrounding Stearns County didn’t have enough listeners for the station to be viable, the network eventually moved its operations from Collegeville to St. Paul in 1971, funded in part with a grant from the Corpora-tion for Public Broadcasting. In the same year, MPR also helped lay the groundwork for National Public Radio (NPR) as a charter member of the organization.

The nearby women’s College of Saint Benedict (CSB), located in St. Joseph, has a coordinate relationship with Saint John’s University, meaning that students of the two colleges have a shared curriculum and access to the resources of both campuses.

SJU also houses the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library, which contains the world’s largest collection of manuscript images. This, in turn, is home to The Saint John’s Bible, the first completely handwritten and illuminated Bible since the invention of the printing press (see the example below, known as “Creation”). The book is made of vellum, is divided into seven volumes containing a total of 160 illuminations, and is 2′ tall by 3′ wide when open. A copy has been presented to the Pope at the Vatican in several volumes, with the final one being presented in 2015.

  • Visited: 2012
  • National Register of Historic Places: 1979 (St. John’s Abbey & Univ. Historic Dist.)

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