The Codex Gigas, or Devil’s Bible

The Codex Gigas is the largest surviving medieval manuscript in the world. It was created by Benedictine monks in the 13th century, and now resides at the National Library of Sweden in Stockholm. The Codex weighs nearly 165 pounds, and requires two librarians to lift it. It has become known as the Devil’s Bible because of the large illustration of a demon on the inside cover.

The pages of the codex are contained within a wooden folder, embellished with leather and metal. It stands 3 feet tall and almost 20 inches wide, but is only 8.6 inches thick. Originally it contained 320 pages, though eight pages were removed later for unknown reasons. The pages may have contained the monastic rules which the Benedictines must obey, though this is just speculation.

The Codex was written in a Benedictine monasteries which was destroyed in the 15th century. The records in the Codex and in the year 1229. From 1477 to 1593 the Codex was kept in the library of another monastery before being taken to Prague in 1594. There, it was to become part of a private collection.

In 1648, the collection was taken as plunder by the Swedish Army. The codex was kept in Stockholm’s Swedish Royal library for the next 359 years.

In September 2007,the Codex Gigas was returned to Prague, where it will stay until its return in January 2008.

The codex contains more than just the Bible. It contains numerous encyclopedias and chronicles; tracts on history, etymology, and physiology; magical formula; even a list of brothers from the monasteries. The entire codex is written in Latin.Red, blue, green, yellow and gold illuminate the pages. Capital letters are often elaborately eliminated, as our drawings.

Through out the codex, the writing looks remarkably similar, unchanged by mood, age, or injury. Because of this, some people believe that the whole book was written in a short time. Legend states that a monk, sentenced to death, wanted to create a book in one night to glorify human knowledge and the monastery itself. By midnight, certain that he could not complete the task, he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for assistance. After the Devil finished the codex, a monk added the Devil’s picture out of gratitude.

Despite this legend, the codex has been studied by many scholars throughout the ages. Further, reading the codex was not forbidden by the Inquisition.

The codex is richly illuminated throughout. Courtesy Wikipedia.
Illustration of the devil, page 290. Legend has it the codex was created by a monk who sold his soul to the devil. Courtesy Wikipedia.