Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Wednesday Weird: The Codex Gigas

The largest known ancient manuscript is the Codex Gigas, more famously called “the Devil’s Bible” due to a full-page illustration of the Devil himself and the legends that swirl around the book.

The book is made of more than 160 animal skins and is so huge that it takes 2 people to lift it. It was written in the 13th century A.D., and it currently resides in the National Library in Stockholm, Sweden.

Legend has it that the Codex Gigas was written by a monk. The monk supposedly made a deal with the Devil after being sentenced to death by being walled in alive. The monk wrote the book in a single night (and, of course, the portrait was painted by the Devil himself).

In actuality, though, it would take five years of nonstop labor to write so much and most scholars think it took closer to 30 years.

The contents of the book are as strange as the book itself. It has a full Latin Vulgate Bible, interspaced with several other books, including Antiquities of the Jews by Flavius Josephus, a collection of medical works by Hippocrates and Theophilus, The Chronicle of Bohemia by Cosmas of Prague, the Encyclopedia Etymologiae by Isidore of Seville, and other, smaller texts. It also has a text on exorcism, magical formulas, and an illustration of the heavenly city.

No one really knows who wrote the book, or where it came from.

Thoughts or theories?


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That is quite the eclectic mix. After all that work, you think someone would've wanted to claim it. Or perhaps it was a joint effort.

Maria Zannini said...

Or, the picture of the devil served as a warning or a contrast to the picture on the opposite page, which I think is supposed to be heaven.

Either way, it was done by someone with a lot of time on his hands.

Matthew MacNish said...


Rena said...

I totally buy that the devil himself was like "dude, I totally have time for a wicked self portrait... but you know what, I think I'll do it in kid font, because, after being alive for hundreds and hundreds of years, I have never once illustrated or rendered my image with any depth. The flatness of my visage adds to the scariness of me."

I think this might be one of those "did you see Brother Kaleb?"
"Yes, and I recommend we not interrupt him in his fits." moments. As in, they had a genius, but he seemed possessed, so they let him have at it. In short, it was therapy. (and to think, all that work and it never went bestseler!)

Leandra Wallace said...

Whoa, it's enormous! The devil kind of reminds me of an illustration for a picture book. I mean because of the quirkiness, lol!

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