Zeitgeist #2: Am Reading The Codex Gigas: The Devil’s Bible

I never went to the National Library of Sweden where it is held, even if I did, the book is not on display, every page from the Codex Gigas is available as high-res scans online,

the digital restoration of many of Codex Gigas’s pages – an antithetical treatment that surely conflicts with the esoteric vibe of the “Devil’s Bible”.

but the Codex is not exhibited likely due to its sheer size and out of a desire to preserve the text.

The real Codex preserved

The entire document is written in Latin; in addition, it contains Hebrew, Greek, and Slavic alphabets (Cyrillic and Glagolitic). But I have it in English in PDF version in my phone. And I have read it. The book is absolutely perfect with no flaws of any kind. It is beautiful and exquisite, frightening and alluring.

This massive and mysterious text from the Middle Ages is believed by many to have been conjured by the Devil himself.

So I don’t know if I just infringed on the Devil’s copyright by reading it on PDF.

Once, the Codex Gigas was the eighth wonder of the world; the book weighs a hundred and sixty five pounds, that’s around 78.4 kgs. At 92 cm (36 in) tall, 50 cm (20 in) wide and 22 cm (8.7 in) thick,
The pages from the largest and most mysterious medieval manuscript are made from the skins of 160 donkeys. The Codex Gigas (Latin for “Giant Book”) is the largest existing text in the world. It is so large that two librarians are needed to lift it all 165 pounds its leather binding, metal trim and vellum pages.

The codex is contained in a wooden folder, covered with leather and ornamented with metal

If anything, it’s a Swiss army knife of texts for monks living within the monastery at Podlazice. One of the mysteries of the Codex Gigas legend is who wrote it. Many would say that it is impossible that one man could have written the complete text alone. Yet, recently an investigation team of scholars, sponsored by National Geographic, findings support the story that the Codex is the work of one man.

What The Experts Found

During the study, of the manuscript’s text, invetigators noted that the book uses only one type of ink; which was made from crushed insect nests. The style and font of the calligraphy is consistent throughout, leading the investigators to believe that the manuscript is the work of one scribe rather than many and only written in a short time. The experts estimate that “The Devil’s Bible” would have taken a minimum of 25-30 years to complete if written continuously including the drawings. Which only makes the Legend behind the book to be true. That it was in fact written by the Devil.

Its not that I love Satan, but mystique and alchemy intrigue me, so I don’t care if anyone thinks that the Codex and its Faustian lore is a farce or a mislabeled text.
I hate spoilers, people who will watch a movie, let’s say finding Dory before you then come start telling you the core snippets.
I just love the thrill, you know, the mystery, the forbidden.
I don’t wanna know the actor’s personal life beyond the movie cast, it’s like the way Chris Pratt acted so Badass in Jurassic world, that perception of him in one’s head stuck, controlling the raptors, running with them in the Costa Rican jungle at night like they are puppies, I wouldn’t want to know any other version of him. Like to know that he is just a normal vegan jamaa who fears spiders, come on, haven’t all my childhood icons been iconoclasted enough already? The Santa Claus, tooth fairy myth busting?

Let the Codex Gigas legend flow as it is.

The people who found it believed that it was written by a condemned monk who had sold his soul to the devil. The monk was said to have been from a monastery in Bohemia. They said the monk was in jail and sentenced to death. The monk pleaded for his life and attempted to bargain with those who wished to put him to death. Monks lived by very strict codes of conduct. They practiced horrible self abusive activities and would often deprive themselves of food or sleep. Punishments were even worse. A guilty monk could be placed in solitary confinement and starved to death. Herman did not want to die, so he negotiated a deal with the elders. He promised that he would write a book. A book that contained the entire Bible and the whole of Human knowledge. He swore he would do it in just one night and if not successful they could kill him. The elders thought this would be impossible so they accepted the deal, allowing Herman to live another day. According to the legend, Herman was set to be walled up, meaning buried alive inside a wall, if he did not complete his task. He worked feverishly until his hands were bleeding and it was becoming late into the night. He believed that he could not carry on. He gave up, could not do it and asked for help from none other than Satan. Satan answered by guiding Herman’s hand leading to the completion of the Devil’s Bible, by just one man in just one night. Making this the only book in history written by the devil. This is the legend of how the Codex came to be.

According to the National Geographic , it would take one person working continuously, day and night, for five years to recreate the contents of Codex Gigas by hand (excluding the illustrations). Therefore, realistically it would have taken at least 25 years for the scribe to create the codex from scratch. Yet, all this time, the writing retained an incredible uniformity from start to finish. This may be the source of the legend which says that the monk wrote it in just one day.

The ancient tale tells of a monk from the Middle Ages who, after breaking his monastic vows, was sentenced to the particularly cruel death of being walled up alive. In a desperate attempt to avoid his harsh punishment, the monk promised to write – in a single night – a book that glorified the monastery and contained all human knowledge.
The monastic order agreed to his plea. Yet as midnight approached, the doomed monk knew he would not be able to complete the book unaided. So he bowed in prayer and begged for help.
Instead of addressing God, however, he turned his eyes downward to fallen angel Lucifer, offering his soul in exchange for a finished book.
The dark prince heard the monk’s prayer and gladly accepted his offer; with a snap of his clawed fingers, the massive text was done. The monk added the full-page portrait of the Devil as a token of his gratitude – other versions suggest that Lucifer himself signed his work by adding the self-portrait.
Extensive handwriting analysis indicates that one scribe did indeed compose the entire manuscript. Historians point to a signature within the text – “hermann inclusis” (“Herman the Recluse”) – as evidence of its solitary author. Tests to recreate the calligraphy of the Devil’s Bible suggest it would take five years of nonstop writing to create it – and that’s not including the intricate illustrations and ornate illuminations found throughout its pages.
Clearly, the author of this massive tome was possessed by something to create such a masterwork. Whether it was the power of light or darkness, is lost to time.

An artist's perception

Stories and legends say that the Codex Gigas brought disaster or illness on whoever possessed it during its history. Fortunately, the National Library in Stockholm, where it is currently housed, appears immune to the curse of the codex!
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 (1 st century AD; ‘ two works of Josephus Flavius, Isidore of Seville´s Etymologies , the standard textbook for teaching medicine in the Middle Ages known as
Ars medicinae (The art of medicine)
Encyclopedia Etymologiae ’ by Isidore of Seville (6 th century AD); a collection of medical works of Hippocrates, Theophilus, Philaretus, and Constantinus. ; the New Testament; and ‘The Chronicle of Bohemia’ by Cosmas of Prague (1050 AD), and a calendar.
Smaller texts are also included in the manuscript with the most famous ones including: text on exorcism, magic formulas, a picture of the Heavenly City, and a full page illustration of the Devil. The illustration is the reason why legend says the codex was written with the devil’s help.

It has a Penitential – a manual for  priests with a list of sins and appropriate ways of atonement.

Of special interest are the sections that testify to the Bohemian origin of the manuscript and its eventful history. At the end of the 16th century, the Codex was incorporated into the collections of Habsburg ruler Rudolph II. During the Swedish siege of Prague at the end of the Thirty Years’ War (1648), the manuscript was taken as war booty and transferred to Stockholm

It has the full Latin Vulgate Bible; They are in the order: Genesis–Ruth; Isaiah–Daniel; Hosea–Malachi; Job; Samuel and Kings; Psalms–Song of Solomon; Wisdom of Solomon; Wisdom of Jesus; Esdras; Tobit; Judith; Esther; and Maccabees. The entire New and Old Testament of the Holy Bible are contained in the pages of this book along with all manner of incantations, spells and many other things that would otherwise never appear in the same text as the Holy Bible. This is quite an amazing book that has brought forth so many questions and much mystery.
Passages in the book contain herbals, history books, cures for dangerous illnesses, texts regarding caring for the soul, medical formulas for treating illnesses and diseases, spells, and even solutions to problems (such as finding a thief).

It initially contained 320 sheets, though some of these were subsequently removed. It is unknown who removed the pages or for what purpose but it seems likely that they contained the monastic rules of the Benedictines.

On Friday, 7 May 1697, a fierce fire broke out at the royal castle in Stockholm, and the Royal Library suffered very badly. The codex was rescued from the flames by being thrown out of a window. The codex apparently injured a bystander and some of its leaves fluttered away. the twelve missing pages of the Codex Gigas are rumoured to contain an apocalyptic text called “The Devil’s Prayer”.

The book’s most intriguing entry, however, is a menacing full-page color illustration of the Devil. It is this drawing that earned the text its nickname of the Devil’s Bible – and convinced many that its pages are cursed by the sinister power of the dark prince.

Folio 290 recto

It obvious now, how the text got its nickname. It is the only bible to have a large image of the devil. A devil that is pictured half-clothed in royal ermine; he is half man, half beast; with claws, cloven hooves, and a huge snake-like red tongue. The drawing shows Satan walled up in a cell alone rather than with his subjects in Hell. The page directly across from the devil’s image is a portrait of the Kingdom of Heaven, creating a possible message.

After the image of the Devil is a page devoted to warding off evil spirits and sickness. On this page are three conjurations and two spells, likely intended as protection from the devil and not an invocation due to their juxtapositioning with the previous page. There is an image of the Heavenly City placed before the demon and the spells.

Twitter: @mighty_leny


8 thoughts on “Zeitgeist #2: Am Reading The Codex Gigas: The Devil’s Bible

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