Codex Gigas The Devil's Bible

The Codex Gigas (means ‘giant book’) is the largest extant medieval manuscript in the world. The 310 parchment leaves (620 pages) of the Devil’s Bible are made of vellum, from the processed skins of 160 animals, most probably donkeys. Some pages of the Devil’s Bible are thought to have been removed, and no one knows what happened to them. It is also known as the Devil's Bible because of a large illustration of the devil on the inside and the legend surrounding its creation. It is thought to have been created in the early 13th century in the Benedictine monastery of Podlažice in Bohemia (modern Czech Republic). It contains the Vulgate Bible as well as many historical documents all written in Latin and the calligraphy is lavishly luminated throughout. During the Thirty Years' War in 1648, the entire collection was stolen by the Swedish army as plunder, and now it is preserved at the National Library of Sweden in Stockholm, on display for the general public.  
Codex Gigas
The Codex Gigas or the Devil’s Bible is famous for two features. First, it is reputed to be the biggest surviving European manuscript. Secondly, it's included the picture of the devil, and contain detailed instructions for the exorcism of demons or evil from people and objects. The origin of the Codex Gigas is unknown. A note written in the manuscript states that it was pawned in the monastery at Sedlec by its owners, the monks of Podlažice, in 1295. In 1594 Rudolf II removed the Codex Gigas to his castle in Prague where it remained until it was taken during the Thirty Years War, with many other treasures, by the army of Sweden to Stockholm. It then entered the collection of Queen Christina of Sweden and put into the royal library in the castle at Stockholm. There it remained until 1877 when it entered the newly built National Library of Sweden in Stockholm.

According to one version of a legend that was already recorded in the Middle Ages, the scribe was a monk who broke his monastic vows and was sentenced to be walled up alive. In order to forbear this harsh penalty he promised to create in one single night a book to glorify the monastery forever, including all human knowledge. Near midnight he became sure that he could not complete this task alone, so he made a special prayer, not addressed to God but to the fallen angel Lucifer, asking him to help him finish the book in exchange for his soul. The devil completed the manuscript and the monk added the devil's picture out of gratitude for his aid. In tests to recreate the work, it is estimated that reproducing only the calligraphy, without the illustrations or embellishments, would have taken 5 years of non-stop writing.

The Codex Gigas contains five long texts as well as a complete Bible. The manuscript begins with the Old Testament, and it is followed by two historical works by Flavius Josephus who lived in the first century AD. These are The Antiquities and The Jewish War. After Josephus is the most popular Encyclopaedia of the middle ages, by Isidore, who lived in the sixth century in Spain. This is followed by a collection of medical works, and these are followed by the New Testament. The last of the long works is a Chronicle of Bohemia by Cosmas from Prague (ca 1045-1125). This is the first history of Bohemia and important work.

There are also some short texts in the manuscript. The first, before the picture of the Heavenly City, is a work on penitence. The second, after the Devil portrait, is on exorcising evil spirits. The last important short work is a Calendar, containing a list of saints and local Bohemian persons on the days on which they were commemorated. There is also one lost work, on leaves that have been cut out of the manuscript, the Rule of St Benedict, the essential guide to monastic life written in the sixth century.


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