Codex Gigas: The Devil’s Bible

Codex Gigas
(Photo Credit © MPH / NGC)

The largest medieval manuscript in the world, Codex Gigas, or the Devil’s Bible, is a source of very mixed feelings – it possesses a certain charm but, at the same time, the grim illustrations look creepy, even scary.

It is believed that the book’s pages are made from donkey skin. It weighs a mighty 75 kilograms (165 pounds). The covers are made from wood, lined with leather and overlaid with iron ornaments. Half the texts are from the Vulgate (a canonical translation of the Bible from the 4th century). Some of the themes include:  grammar, rhetoric, knowledge of the Universe, construction, warfare, shipbuilding, animals, plants, medicine, hierarchy among saints and angels, and many others.

codex gigas

There are different medicinal texts from Hippocrates and other important ancient figures, as well as encyclopedia texts, a calendar, and different healing spells. There is also a text on exorcism.

Most of the Devil’s bible is written in Latin, but there are texts in Hebrew, Greek and Slavic as well. There are many different illustrations, like the one of the kingdom of Heaven, but the most interesting of all is the one of the devil that is 48 centimeters (19 inches) in length.

The-Author-of-the-Codex-Gigas

The author of the mystical book is unknown, but it is suggested that it was Herman the Recluse, who lived in the Benedictine monastery in the Czech Republic. One of the most popular legends claims that the monk was sentenced to death, because he had not fulfilled his vows. He made a deal with the Devil and wrote the book in one night to prove that he was worthy of being a monk.

What’s interesting is that there is not one spelling mistake in the entire book. Studies show that it was written by one person and the consistency of the ink remains the same from beginning to end, which is quite intriguing because at that time ink was made from insects, and two generations of insects are never identical so the book had to be written very fast.

It has been calculated that if a single person really did write the entire book, it would have taken 25-30 years to finish it. In addition, some experts believe that more than 160 donkey skins would be needed in order to make all the paper for the book.

Many people find it strange that there are no people present in the illustration of the Kingdom of Heaven. And what’s more – the pages around the illustration of the devil are considerably darker than the rest. Representatives of the Catholic Church deny having any sort of information in their archives pertaining to the spells and rituals described in the Codex Gigas.

Author: ČTK
Author: ČTK

Also, about 10 pages are missing from the book and, although there is no concrete explanation, some believe that the pages were removed by someone who was worried that they contained knowledge dangerous for the common man. There is also a theory that the pages were removed during a specific period in history because they contradicted the views of that time. And another theory is that they were just stolen by collectors of antiquities.

There are many legends that describe the book as cursed. Anyone who once possessed the Devil’s bible was doomed to a life of misery and misfortune. A monastery in which the book stayed for some time suffered one of the worst Bubonic plagues.

According to other legends, a castle in Sweden burned to the ground immediately after housing the Codex Gigas, which did not burn only because it was thrown out of a window. It has been said that the book hit a person who was passing by and several pages flew into the air, which is a very convenient explanation for the missing pages in the original book.

The Devil’s bible is now located in the National Library of Sweden in Stockholm, and nothing out of the ordinary has been reported at this time.

Full book HERE.