The Codex Gigas.
Also known as the Devil’s Bible, due to the large illustration of the devil on the inside of the giant book, it is also connected to the legend surrounding its creation.
It is largely thought to have been created in the early 12th century in the Benedictine monastery of Podlažice in Bohemia.
According to legend, the Codex was created by a character known as Herman the Recluse in the Benedictine monastery near Chrudim in the Czech Republic. The monastery was destroyed sometime in the 15th century during the Hussite Revolution. The codex was thankfully rescued and taken to the Benedictine monastery in Břevnov.
From 1477 to 1593, it was kept in the library of a monastery in Broumov until it was taken to Prague in 1594 to form a part of the collections of the Emperor Rudolf II.
In 1648, it was taken as war booty by the Swedish army. In 1697 it would escape destruction again when a fierce fire broke out at the royal castle in Stockholm, subsequently destroying the Royal Library.
The codex was rescued from the flames by being thrown from a window. The event damaged the binding and knocked loose some pages which are still missing to this day. According to the vicar Johann Erichsons, the codex landed on a bystander injuring them quite badly. In September 2007, after 359 years of changing hands in numerous ways, the Codex Gigas was returned to the National Library in Stockholm .
But what makes the codex particularly special and worthy of further investigation, are the characteristics within the writings of this enormous book, which astonishingly, support the story of it being created in just one sitting.
A National Geographic documentary included interviews with manuscript experts who argued that certain evidence, in particular the handwriting analysis and the long standing credit to Hermann Inclusus AKA Herman the Recluse” indicates the manuscript was indeed somehow, the work of just one scribe.
According to the historical legend, which was already academically recorded by the Middle Age: The scribe was a monk who broke his monastic vows and was sentenced to be walled up alive.
In order to avoid this harsh penalty, he promised to create, in one night, a book to glorify the monastery forever. This book would include all human knowledge.
Near midnight, he became sure that he could not complete this task alone so he made a special prayer, not addressed to God but to the fallen angel Lucifer, asking him to help finish the book in exchange for the monks soul. The devil would accept this deal, completing the rest of the manuscript, the monk would add the devil’s picture out of gratitude for his help.
Many specialists within the area of writing, forensic analysis and also numerous replication attempts, have indicated that the level of uniformity within the writings lean towards the impossible, not only does it strongly indicate that the book was created in just one sitting, but is perfectly scribed throughout, a feat considered to be beyond that of human capabilities.
The analysis also shown that the writings alone, if written by one person, would take over 5 years to complete, with the additional illustrations adding another 20. Yet it must be noted, it has been concluded on many occasions that no mere mortal is capable of such uniform writings within this time period, there would have inevitably been some form of evolution within the style.
The Codex Gigas contains a complete vulgate Latin translation of the Bible as well as five other major texts. It begins with the Old Testament and continues with ‘Antiquities of the Jews’ by Flavius Josephus, the Encyclopedia Etymologiae, by Isidore of Seville, a collection of medical works of Hippocrates, Theophilus among others; the New Testament; and ‘The Chronicle of Bohemia’ by Cosmas of Prague. All the texts within the book are well over a thousand years old.
Smaller texts are also included in the manuscript with the most famous ones including texts on exorcism, magic formulas, a picture of the Heavenly City, and the full-page illustration of the Devil.
Of course it must be remembered, although there is a highly compelling story attached to the origins of this giant book, its creation still largely remains a mystery, how big would you have to be for it to comfortably rest in ones lap?
What sort of person, if of course it was a person, could have written the codex gigas? And how did they write it?
It is most certainly one of the world’s most mysterious books.