The Codex Gigas: The Devil’s Bible or Legendary Creation?

# The Codex Gigas: The Devil’s Bible or Legendary Creation?

The Codex Gigas, also known as the Devil’s Bible, is a medieval manuscript that has intrigued scholars, historians, and the public alike for centuries. Its immense size, mysterious origins, and unique content have spawned numerous legends and theories about its creation. In this article, we will delve into the history, features, and enduring mysteries of the Codex Gigas.

## What is the Codex Gigas?

### A Brief Overview

The Codex Gigas is the largest extant medieval illuminated manuscript in the world, renowned for its size and its unique inclusion of the Vulgate Bible as well as other historical texts. It was created in the early 13th century in the Benedictine monastery of Podlažice in Bohemia, which is now the Czech Republic. The codex is bound in a wooden folder covered with leather and ornate metal cornering.

### Dimensions and Structure

The Codex measures approximately 36 inches tall, 20 inches wide, and nearly 9 inches thick, weighing roughly 165 pounds. It contains 310 leaves made from vellum, which would have been obtained from the skins of approximately 160 donkeys. The manuscript’s pages are elaborately decorated, with the text primarily written in Latin.

## Content of the Codex

### The Vulgate Bible and Additional Texts

The Codex Gigas contains a complete version of the Vulgate Bible, which was the Catholic Church’s Latin translation of the Christian holy scriptures. Additionally, it contains a collection of many other documents including the Old and New Testaments, two works of Josephus Flavius, Isidore of Seville’s encyclopedia “Etymologiae,” a collection of medical works, some shorter texts, and a calendar with necrologium. It is the inclusion of these texts along with the Bible that has contributed to its nickname “the Devil’s Bible.”

### The Notorious Devil’s Portrait

Among the most striking features of the Codex Gigas is a full-page, vividly colored portrait of the Devil. The image portrays a large, malevolent figure with small, red eyes, two horns, a green face, and claws, and is situated opposite a page depicting the heavenly city. This juxtaposition of the devil and the kingdom of heaven is one of the enigmatic features that have fueled speculation and legends about the book’s origins.

## Legends and Theories About Its Creation

### The Myth of a Condemned Monk

One of the most popular legends surrounding the Codex Gigas involves a monk who supposedly broke his monastic vows and was sentenced to be walled up alive. To avoid this terrible punishment, the monk promised to create, in a single night, a book that contained all human knowledge and would glorify the monastery forever. As midnight approached and the task proved impossible, the monk called upon the Devil to help him finish the book in exchange for his soul. The sinister image of the Devil is said to have been added in gratitude for the Devil’s assistance.

### Historical Perspectives

Though the legend is compelling, it is most likely a myth. Historically, it’s believed that the Codex would have taken twenty years or more to complete, requiring the dedicated work of numerous scribes and artists. While the reason for the inclusion of the Devil’s portrait remains a toLPARAM_HIDDEN_STARTic of debate, some suggest that it may have served as a moral warning to the monks or as a symbol of evil being kept in check by the power of God and the Church.

## Preservation and Access

Today, the Codex Gigas is preserved at the National Library of Sweden in Stockholm. Due to its fragile state, access to the original document is severely restricted. However, the library has digitized the entire manuscript, making it accessible for global audiences to view online.

# FAQs About the Codex Gigas

## Q: Why is the Codex Gigas also called the Devil’s Bible?
A: The Codex Gigas is sometimes called the Devil’s Bible primarily because of the large portrait of the Devil contained within its pages. The sinister image has captured the public’s imagination and led to various legends about the book’s creation.

## Q: Can I read the Codex Gigas?
A: While you may not be able to handle the physical manuscript due to its delicate condition, the National Library of Sweden has digitized the Codex Gigas, allowing anyone to view the pages online.

## Q: What makes the Codex Gigas so unique?
A: The Codex Gigas is unique for its massive size, the wide range of texts it contains, the inclusion of both the Old and New Testaments as well as the infamous full-page portrait of the Devil. These features have cemented its status as one of the most fascinating and mysterious medieval manuscripts.

## Q: Where is the Codex Gigas kept?
A: The Codex Gigas is kept in the National Library of Sweden in Stockholm.

## Q: Who created the Codex Gigas?
A: The exact creator(s) of the Codex Gigas is unknown, although it is believed to have been crafted by a team of scribes and artists in the Benedictine monastery of Podlažice.

The Codex Gigas continues to fascinate and perplex researchers and the public alike. Despite its dark nickname, the Devil’s Bible remains an incredible artifact of medieval times, representing a vast wealth of knowledge and the extraordinary lengths to which scribes and artists would go to preserve literature and religious texts. Its legends, artwork, and sheer scale ensure that the Codex Gigas will remain a subject of study and intrigue for generations to come.

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