Monday, 17 December 2012
The Codex Gigas (English: Giant Book) is the largest extant medieval manuscript in the world. It is also known as the Devil's Bible because of a large illustration of the devil on the inside and the legend surrounding its creation. It is thought to have been created by a single scribe in the early 13th century in the Benedictine monastery of Podlažice in Bohemia (modern Czech Republic). It contains the Vulgate Bible as well as many historical documents all written in Latin. During the Thirty Years' War in 1648, the entire collection was taken by the Swedish army as plunder, and now it is preserved at the National Library of Sweden in Stockholm, though it is not normally on display. Just the writing alone, not counting the illustrations, would have taken five years of constant writing to complete.
The codex is bound in a wooden folder covered with leather and ornate metal. At 92 cm (36.2in.) tall, 50 cm (19.7in.) wide and 22 cm (8.6in.) thick it is the largest known medieval manuscript. Weighing 74.8 kg (165 pounds), Codex Gigas is composed of 310 leaves of parchment allegedly made from the skins of 160 donkeys or perhaps calfskin. It is thought that there were originally 320 leaves, the missing ones perhaps containing the rules of the Benedictines.
The legend goes that it was written by Herman the Recluse a monk who broke his monastic vows and was sentenced to be walled up alive. In order to forbear this harsh penalty he promised to create in one single night a book to glorify the monastery forever, including 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 him finish the book in exchange for his soul. The devil completed the manuscript and the monk added the devil's picture out of gratitude for his aid.
The devil's picture seen here in a facsimile of the Codex.
Posted by John Edwards at 06:47
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