Placed in the National Library of Sweden in Stockholm, a mysterious religious text with an evil reputation. It is believed that Codex Gigas is the largest preserved medieval manuscript in the world. There are many Christian writings in his pages, including the full version of the Vulgate Bible, which later became the official Latin translation of the Catholic churches.
Nevertheless, the most intriguing books are a formidable full-color illustration of the devil. It was this drawing that earned the text with its moniker of the Devil’s Bible and convinced many that his pages were cursed by the sinister power of the dark prince.
Historians believe that the text originated in the Benedictine monastery of Podleys, Czech Republic in the early 13th century. It measures 36 inches in height by 20 inches wide and is almost 9 inches thick, requiring two people to lift all 165 pounds of its leather binding, metal trim and glove pages. Its name means “The Giant Book” in Latin, but most of the mystery manuscripts lie in the legend of its creation.
An ancient fairy tale tells of a monk from the Middle Ages who, violating his monastic vows, was sentenced to especially cruel death from custody. In a desperate attempt to avoid his severe punishment, the monk promised to write a book that glorified the monastery and contained all human knowledge overnight.
The monastic order agreed with his entreaty. But as the midnight approached, the doomed monk knew that he could not complete the book without help from outside. So he bowed in prayer and asked for help.
However, instead of turning to God, he turned his eyes down to the fallen angel Lucifer, offering his soul in exchange for a finished book.
The dark prince heard the prayer of the monks and gladly accepted his offer; With the click of his clawed fingers, a massive text was made. The monk added a full-page portrait of the Devil as a token of his gratitude, other versions say that Lucifer himself signed his work, adding a self-portrait.
An extensive analysis of the handwriting shows that one scribe really made up the entire manuscript. Historians point to the signature in the text of hermann inclusis (Herman the Recluse) as evidence of their single author. Tests to recreate the calligraphy of the Devil’s Bible, suggest that it will take five years of continuous writing to create it, and this does not include intricate illustrations and rich illuminations found on its pages.
It is clear that the author of this massive volume was obsessed with something to create such skill. Whether this is the power of light or darkness is lost in time.
Photo: Kungl.biblioteket / Wikimedia Commons; National Library of Sweden