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Catholic artist aged 80 completes handwritten Bible

A page from John's Gospel.

After more than 10 years’ dedicated work, Italian-born artist Dino Mazzoli has completed his hand-written illustrated Bible.

The Bible, which is 1,473 pages long in 23 volumes, has the complete text of the Christian Community Bible handwritten in small capitals, with around 5,000 colour illustrations on its A4 pages. Some are full-page, but most are embedded in the text, in the tradition of medieval illustrated Bibles, though in a more abstract style.

Born in Terni, Italy, in 1935, Mr Mazzoli studied art in Rome before moving to Britain in 1961. He has had numerous exhibitions including in Eastbourne, where he lives, Brighton and London, and his work is displayed in collections around the world.

A devout Catholic, as he grew older he became more and more engaged in his faith, his daughter Laura Mazzoli-Smith told the Catholic Herald. He began rereading the Bible slowly from beginning to end, and found that drawing pictures was “a way of engaging with the text”.

“He was so inspired that the illustrations became as important as reading the Bible,” she said.

“I began sketching – and then, out of the blue, I took an A4 page and began writing it,” Dino Mazzoli said.

Mr Mazzoli used to paint large canvasses in oils – one was accepted by the Royal Academy – but this became too demanding as he had illness and mobility problems; now he sits rather than standing to paint, and uses mainly watercolours rather than oils, though he also enjoys mixed media, including collage, ink and wax.

There is a graphic novel, comic-book style to his work. “He is very good at cartoons and caricatures, but sees himself as an illustrator,” his daughter said. “He has a very exuberant and fun style.” Some of his paintings are a homage to other artists; Picasso was one of his great inspirations, she said.

“There’s always been something childlike and passionate about Dad’s work. He’s extremely engaged. He has a childlike view of the world, which comes out in his art,” she said. “He wants to reach out and speak to people through his art.”

A year ago Mr Mazzoli was seriously ill in hospital, and was concerned because “I haven’t finished the Bible,” his daughter said, adding that “he’s absolutely amazed” that he has reached the end. Working on the illustrated Bible was a way of “bringing together his art and his faith”.

“It’s given him an absolute purpose, because he’s been so ill and so housebound, so it’s been an enormously positive thing for him. He’s loved doing it, even with all the frustrations. This is the thing he is most proud of and thrilled with,” she said.

Pages from the Illustrated Bible can be seen at The whole Bible is available as an Apple app for the iPad and iPhone, and the family are looking into the possibilities of publishing it as an ebook, and maybe publishing parts of it in a printed version.

“I don’t want a single penny for it,” Dino Mazzoli told the Catholic Herald. Any profits from the book will go to the Claretians, translators and producers of the Christian Community Bible.

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