Codex Gigas: the mysterious Devil's Bible 

Codex Gigas

I’ve covered a few codices on the site including Codex Seraphinianus, Codex Argenteus, and Codex Regius. But there’s a giant one with a sinister edge: Codex Gigas.

What is Codex Gigas?

Codex Gigas is a medieval manuscript from the 13th century, written by a monk from Bohemia (now part of modern Czechia/Czech Republic). The name literally means “giant book” but the “sinister edge” refers to the Devil drawn on one of the pages:

“If the scribe worked for six hours a day and wrote six days a week this means that the manuscript could have taken about five years to complete. If the scribe was a monk he may only have been able to work for about three hours a day, and this means that the manuscript could have taken ten years to write. As the scribe may also have ruled the lines to guide the writing before he began to write (it probably took several hours to rule one leaf), this extends the period it took to complete the manuscript. The scribe also decorated the manuscript, so this all means that the manuscript probably took at least 20 years to finish, and could even have taken 30.”

These elements alone are enough to qualify the stunning manuscript as a wonder of the world. Yet the most bewitching element of the Codex Gigas is a single page of illumination that defies explanation, tucked away within the tome. Spanning nearly the entire face of a page is a full-color rendering of the Dark Lord himself.

via Atlas Obscura

What is it about?

The book contains:

And that drawing of The Devil.

Who wrote it?

An anonymous monk wrote Codex Gigas but we know that he wrote the book in Bohemia and alone.

Where is it located?

Codex Gigas can be found in the National Library of Sweden, located behind a glass box on the second floor. The room is kept dark to avoid damage from the light.

Facts about Codex Gigas

Book Riot wrote an article on 10 facts about the book in 2015. Here’s are a couple of them:

7) In 1594, The Devil’s Bible was brought to Prague from the Broumov monastery, where it had been kept since the year 1420. King Rudolph II (1576–1612) asked to borrow The Devil’s Bible. He promised the monks that when he was finished with the book, he would return it. Which he of course never did.

8) The Devil’s Bible has been given its name because of a full-size portrait of the Devil. Portraits of the Devil were common during the Middle Ages but this particular portrait is unique. Here, the Devil is portrayed alone on the page. The image is very big—nineteen inches tall. The Devil is crouching and facing forward. He is naked apart from an ermine loincloth. Ermine is worn as a sign of royalty. It is believed that the Devil wears ermine in this image to demonstrate that he is the Prince of Darkness.

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