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The Mystery of the Devil’s Bible

codex gigas
March 26th, 2015

Numerous scholars have analyzed the Devil’s Bible, a book that measures 20 inches in width, 36 inches in height, and nine inches in thickness. Its pages are made of either calf or donkey skin and it weighs over 160 pounds. Codex Gigas, Latin for “big book,” currently holds the distinction of being the largest known medieval manuscript in existence.

The book started from a 13th century legend in what is now the Czech Republic where a monk condemned to death produced the manuscript in just one night with the help of the devil. It contains the Old and New Testaments, some medical texts, a calendar, and parts of an ancient encyclopedia. It also has a rather large illustration of what looks like the devil. Reportedly, possession of the Codex Gigas brings illness or disaster.




Not Written in One Day

While it may be possible for an individual to recreate the Devil’s Bible’s contents, it would take five years to complete it, with the scribe working night and day continuously, with the exclusion of the illustrations. According to the National Geographic, it would take 25 years at least to create such this codex from scratch, contrary to what has been said about it being created in only one night.


Codex Gigas Examined
Scholars Examine The Massive Codex Gigas

The Devil’s Bible remained in the possession of local monasteries after the 13th century. It was added to the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II’s library and stayed there at the end of the Thirty Years’ War in 1648 when the Swedes took it to Stockholm as a spoil of the war they had won. The Codex Gigas was thrown out of a window on the upper story of the Swedish Royal Library when fire broke out in 1697.

Inside the Devil’s Bible

A summary of the Latin Vulgate Bible as it was called at that time, a few spells, a comparative alphabet, contemporary histories, a calendar and medical texts as mentioned earlier, are found in the Devil’s Bible. The Old and New Testaments are in an unusual order and separated by several other works – such as the 1st century history of the Jews by Flavius Josephus — between them.

Each page of the Codex Gigas is handwritten, likely by one solitary scribe. Ten pages – believed to be those that weren’t recovered during the 1697 fire – are missing, likely the set of rules which the monks had to comply with. Yet the book is most renowned for the devil’s portrait.


Codex Gigas Devil
The Devil’s Portrait

Dare to View the Devil’s Bible?

According to Sweden’s national library, the Kungliga Biblioteket, the illustration is distinctive for that particular era because it took up one whole page, it shows the devil in solitary, and it has the devil in an ermine loincloth, ermine which was reserved only for royalty during that time. There is some confusion with the entire book because while there is the devil’s portrait, its opposite page has paradise painted on it.

The ink used came from crushed insects and has 320 pages of parchment leaves. Its cover is wood with leather-bound metal ornaments. Displayed today at the Kungliga Biblioteket, the Devil’s Bible can also be viewed digitally there. And it’s quite safe to read the Codex Gigas. Nobody in Sweden’s National Library has been reported to have become ill or died. Not yet anyway.


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