Codex Gigas (Devil’s Bible)
The Codex Gigas or the Devil’s Bible is the largest extant manuscript of the Middle Ages. This grandiose hand-written folio of the beginning of XIII century was created in the Benedictine monastery in the town of Podlažice in Bohemia (today – part of the city Chrast, Czech Republic).
The so-called black monks of the Benedictine monastery wore black clothes, made a vow of celibacy and complete obedience, subjected themselves to the hard physical tests, self-flagellation and starvation. However, there were also weak in spirit people, who succumbed to various temptations. These sinners were chastised severely. Such a monk could earn different kinds of punishment – excommunication, solitary confinement, or even worse, death. So, one sinful monk was destined to be buried alive in one of the walls of the monastery. Terrified by the forthcoming fate, the monk promised to write the greatest book of that time. This tome was to contain the Bible and all knowledge about the world. Such work was to glorify the Benedictine monastery at all times. But the main condition was that the monk had to write that work in a single night. The senior monks disagreed for a long time, but still decided to give the last chance for salvation.
The poor monk wrote up to exhaustion. However, around midnight the disobedient monk realized he didn’t have time to make such a voluminous work, and called Devil for the assistance. The fallen angel responded to the request, but demanded soul of the sinner as a payment. And besides, there was another condition – the book was to include a portrait of the Devil in full growth. The monk agreed. By morning, the book was completed. There is an information that name of the monk was Herman the Recluse.
Of course, this is just a legend. However, the Devil’s picture is actually present in the book. According to scientists, the manuscript was written in about 1230. The main conclusion of the experts is that the famous folio was written and illustrated by the same person (due to the same handwriting and the same ink) who was supposed to spend for this work in the aggregate up to 30 years, or about 5 years, provided that the work was continuous. The book has a height of 90 cm, a width – 49 cm and a thickness – 22 cm. It took about 160 donkey skins to create this masterpiece. The weight of creation amounts 75 kilograms. It consists of 624 parchment pages covered with a wooden folder decorated with leather and ornate metal.
The work is written in Latin and includes Old and New Testaments (in the Vulgate version), medical prescriptions – works of Hippocrates, Theophilus, Filaret and Constantine, magic spells, 14 Latin texts, 20 books of “Etymology” of Isidore of Seville’s, Cosmas of Prague’s Chronicle of Bohemia, “The Jewish War” by Josephus Flavius, a calendar of religious holidays, “Mirror of the sinner” – a collection of parables for the preacher; a list of the names of monks of the monastery; Hebrew, Greek, and Slavic alphabets. And it’s not the full list. On page 577 of the Codex Gigas there is a picture of the Devil. Initially, the book contained 640 pages. It is noteworthy that the missing 8 pages were located after the picture and were removed, and a few pages before it were flooded with ink. The Devil’s Bible is the only book that along with the text of the Bible contains the sacred incantations for the expulsion of the devil.
Codex Gigas is the most controversial, strange and sinister book in the world. Many great people tried to take possession of it, many alchemists and sorcerers literary hunted for it. But the book brought nothing but misery for the owners. Therefore, it is also considered to be cursed.
It is worth mentioning that the Codex Gigas has really glorified the Benedictine monastery. However, some time later, due to the financial difficulties the monks had to sell the book. The Order of the White Monks from another monastery of Bohemia bought this book hoping for the same glory. After some time, the plague known as the Black Death has overtaken the order and has carried away the lives of 40 000 people. Today, this place is known as the Cemetery Church of All Saints with the Sedlec Ossuary (Czech. Kostnice v Sedlci). This Gothic chapel in a suburb of the Czech town of Kutna Hora is trimmed with thousands of human skulls and bones. For a long time the remains were kept just as piles of bones, but in 1870 a woodcarver František Rint put in order a heap of the stacked bones. The chapel is open to visitors seven days a week, from morning till evening.
Sedlec Ossuary, Kutna Hora, Czech Republic
The Devil’s Bible passed from one owner to another, however, all of them received a tragic fate along with the cursed book. Today, the Devil’s Bible is considered to be the eighth wonder of the world and is a jewel of various exhibitions. There is still no real justification, for what this book was created, by whom and how.