Incunabula Printed by Anton Koberger and A Soon-to-Be Second-Class Relic Are Just Up the Street

Stained glass window in the Saint Rose of Lima Chapel, Pontifical College Josephinum

While we’ve enjoyed attending concerts in the Pontifical College Josephinum’s Saint Turibius chapel, we’ve never had an opportunity to explore the main buildings of the seminary. We had our chance today, during the Josephinum’s spring open house.

Seminarians Will and Joaquin (who first sported a cappello romano, then changed into a biretta) took us on a tour of the pontifical institution that prepares men for the ordained priesthood.  We began our tour by learning about Msgr. Joseph Jessing, the German war veteran from Westphalia who wrote and published the Ohio Waisenfreund (Orphan’s Friend), a German-language newspaper, to fund his orphanage in Pomeroy, Ohio.  Jessing relocated the orphanage to Columbus in 1877; in 1888, he began offering academic classes for young men who wanted to study for the priesthood.

Page from "On the Skill of Hearing Confessions," A.T. Wehrle Memorial Library, Pontifical College Josephinum

As we made our way through the structure built in 1931, the seminarians pointed out woodwork, stained glass, terrazzo floors and other lovely features. After stopping in the auditorium, Saint Turibius Chapel and Saint Rose of Lima Chapel, we arrived in the A.T. Wehrle Memorial Library. There, another seminarian invited us to look at some of the Josephinum’s collection of incunabula (books printed from moveable type during the 15th century), including De arte audiendi confessiones (“On the Skill of Hearing Confessions”), a work printed in Nuremberg in 1478 that was intended for newly ordained priests. Two books printed by Anton Koberger of Nuremberg, one of the most prominent printers of his time, were also on display. Koberger’s Biblia Germanica (German Bible) from 1483 was opened to the Book of Revelation, showing two hand-colored woodcuts portraying apocalyptic scenes. One illustrates the Woman and the Dragon; the other shows Michael the Archangel and other angels battling a dragon, Satan and the devil. Nicholas of Lyra’s Biblia Latina, also printed by Koberger in 1493, features the Biblical text printed in the center of the page, with Nicholas’s commentary surrounding it.

Michael the Archangel and other angels battling a dragon, Satan and the devil, "Biblia Germanica," A.T. Wehrle Memorial Library, Pontifical College Josephinum

Saying hello to more seminarians headed out for a hike, we visited the Saint Joseph Oratory, a chapel featuring painted wall murals and stained-glass windows depicting the life of Christ.  We ended our tour with cookies in the Josephinum’s board room, where more interesting artifacts were on display, including a letter from Mother Teresa and an amice worn by Pope John Paul II (soon to become a second-class relic!). 

Amice worn by Pope John Paul II, Pontifical College Josephinum

The Josephinum is a great Columbus treasure, and it’s just up the street!

Letter from Mother Teresa, Pontifical College Josephinum

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