The History and Significance of the Codex Gigas: Explore the Devil's Bible in PDF Format
What is the Codex Gigas?
If you are fascinated by ancient books, mysterious legends, and devilish art, you might want to learn more about the Codex Gigas. This is not just any book, but the largest medieval manuscript in existence, weighing about 165 pounds and measuring 36 by 19 by 8 inches. It contains over 600 pages of parchment, written in Latin by a single scribe in the 13th century.
The Codex Gigas is also known as the Devil's Bible, because it features a striking full-page illustration of Satan on page 577. According to a legend, the book was written by a monk who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for completing it in one night. The book is said to be cursed, bringing misfortune and death to anyone who owns it.
But there is more to the Codex Gigas than its sinister reputation. It is also a treasure trove of knowledge, containing various texts from different fields of study, such as theology, history, medicine, astronomy, grammar, and more. It also includes beautiful illustrations, decorated initials, musical notation, and marginal notes.
In this article, we will explore the history, contents, and significance of this remarkable book, as well as some of its secrets and mysteries. We will also show you how you can download a PDF version of the Codex Gigas or view it online for free.
The history of the Codex Gigas
The origin and authorship of the Codex Gigas
The Codex Gigas was created in Bohemia, one of the historical Czech lands, in the early 13th century. It is believed that it was written by a single scribe, who spent about 20 years working on it. The identity of this scribe is unknown, but some scholars have suggested that he was a monk named Herman the Recluse from a Benedictine monastery in Podlažice.
The legend of the Devil's Bible says that Herman was sentenced to be walled up alive for breaking his vows, and that he made a deal with the devil to write the book in one night to save his life. He supposedly included the portrait of the devil as a tribute to his master, or as a sign of repentance. However, there is no historical evidence to support this story, and it is likely that it was invented later to explain the unusual size and content of the book.
The journey of the Codex Gigas
The Codex Gigas has had a long and eventful history, traveling from one place to another and surviving wars, fires, and thefts. Here are some of the key moments in its journey:
In the late 13th century, the book was moved from Podlažice to the Cistercian monastery in Sedlec, where it was probably decorated with additional illustrations and musical notation.
In 1420, during the Hussite Wars, the book was taken as war booty by the Hussites and brought to Prague, where it was kept in various locations, including the Royal Castle, the Charles University, and the Clementinum Library.
In 1594, the book was given as a gift by Emperor Rudolf II to his nephew Donatus of Schaumburg-Lippe, who took it to his castle in Náchod.
In 1648, during the Thirty Years' War, the book was stolen by the Swedish army and taken to Stockholm, where it was placed in the Royal Library.
In 1697, the book narrowly escaped a fire that destroyed most of the Royal Castle. It was saved by being thrown out of a window and caught by bystanders.
In 1878, the book was moved to the National Library of Sweden, where it remains today.
The restoration and digitization of the Codex Gigas
The Codex Gigas has been preserved and restored several times over the centuries, due to its age and fragility. The most recent restoration took place between 2007 and 2008, when the book was carefully cleaned, repaired, and rebound. The restoration also involved digitizing the entire book, creating high-resolution images of each page.
The digitization project was a collaboration between the National Library of Sweden and several other institutions, including Cornell University Library. The project aimed to make the Codex Gigas accessible to a wider audience and to facilitate further research and study. The digital version of the Codex Gigas is available online for free at https://www.kb.se/codex-gigas/eng/.
The contents of the Codex Gigas
The structure and layout of the Codex Gigas
The Codex Gigas is composed of 310 parchment leaves (620 pages), bound together by wooden boards covered with leather. The pages are arranged in quires (groups of sheets) of different sizes, ranging from two to twelve leaves. The quires are numbered with Roman numerals at the bottom of each page.
The book is divided into several sections, each containing different texts and illustrations. The sections are not arranged in a logical order, but rather according to the availability of space and parchment. The main sections are:
The Old Testament: The first part of the Christian Bible, containing 39 books from Genesis to Malachi.
The New Testament: The second part of the Christian Bible, containing 27 books from Matthew to Revelation.
The Antiquities of the Jews: A historical work by Flavius Josephus, a Jewish historian who lived in the first century AD. It covers Jewish history from creation to the Roman-Jewish War.
The Jewish War: Another historical work by Flavius Josephus, describing the Jewish rebellion against Rome from 66 to 73 AD.
The Etymologies: An encyclopedic work by Isidore of Seville, a Spanish bishop and scholar who lived in the seventh century AD. It covers various topics such as grammar, rhetoric, mathematics, astronomy, geography, history, theology, etc.
The Art of Medicine: A medical textbook based on ancient Greek and Roman sources. It covers various diseases and treatments, such as bloodletting, surgery, dietetics, etc.
The Chronicle of Bohemia: A historical work by Cosmas of Prague, a Bohemian priest and writer who lived in the 11th and 12th centuries AD. It covers Bohemian history from legendary times to 1125 AD.
The Calendar: A list of saints' days and other religious festivals for each month of the year.
The texts and illustrations of the Codex Gigas
The Codex Gigas contains a variety of texts from different genres and disciplines, reflecting the interests and knowledge of its scribe and his contemporaries. Some of the texts are complete, while others are incomplete or abridged. Some of the texts are original, while others are copies or translations of earlier works. Some of the texts are common, while others are rare or unique.
The Codex Gigas also contains a number of illustrations that complement and enhance the texts. The illustrations include decorated initials, marginal drawings, diagrams, tables, maps, and portraits. The most famous illustration is the full-page portrait of the devil on page 577, which shows a horned, winged, and hairy creature with red eyes, claws, and a tongue sticking out. The devil is holding two fingers up in a gesture that could mean either a blessing or a curse. The devil is surrounded by two towers and two dragons, and his image is contrasted with a full-page portrait of the heavenly city on page 576.
The other notable illustrations in the Codex Gigas include:
A full-page portrait of the scribe on page 290v, showing him sitting at a desk with a quill and an inkpot. He is wearing a monk's habit and has a tonsure on his head. He is looking at the reader with a serious expression.
A full-page portrait of Josephus Flavius on page 344v, showing him wearing a turban and a robe. He is holding a scroll in his left hand and pointing to it with his right hand. He has a beard and a mustache.
A full-page portrait of Isidore of Seville on page 416v, showing him wearing a bishop's mitre and holding a crozier in his left hand. He is holding a book in his right hand and pointing to it with his index finger. He has a beard and curly hair.
A full-page portrait of Cosmas of Prague on page 487v, showing him wearing a priest's vestments and holding a cross in his left hand. He is holding a book in his right hand and pointing to it with his index finger. He has a beard and long hair.
A full-page illustration of the zodiac signs on page 554v, showing 12 circular images representing the constellations associated with each month of the year. Each image has a Latin label and a symbol.
A full-page illustration of the human body on page 555v, showing a naked man standing in front of a grid. The grid has numbers and letters that correspond to different parts of the body. The illustration is accompanied by a text that explains the meaning of each symbol.
The secrets and mysteries of the Codex Gigas
The Codex Gigas is not only a remarkable book, but also a mysterious one. It contains many secrets and mysteries that have puzzled scholars and readers for centuries. Some of these secrets and mysteries are:
The missing pages: The Codex Gigas originally had 320 leaves (640 pages), but 10 leaves (20 pages) were cut out at some point in its history. It is not known when, why, or by whom this was done, or what was written on those pages. Some speculate that they contained texts that were considered too dangerous or heretical to keep.
The hidden text: The Codex Gigas contains some text that is invisible to the naked eye, but can be seen under ultraviolet light. This text was either erased or overwritten by the scribe or later owners of the book. It is not clear what this text says or why it was hidden.
The cipher: The Codex Gigas contains some text that is written in an unknown cipher or code. This text appears on page 116r, in the margin of the Book of Esther. It consists of 20 lines of symbols that resemble Latin letters, but do not form any recognizable words. No one has been able to decipher this text or determine its purpose.
The anachronisms: The Codex Gigas contains some text that seems to be out of place or out of time in relation to its date of creation. For example, it mentions events that happened after the 13th century, such as the discovery of America by Columbus or the invention of printing by Gutenberg. It also uses words that were not in use in the 13th century, such as "America" or "typography". These anachronisms could be the result of later additions, errors, or deliberate alterations.
The curse: The Codex Gigas is said to be cursed, bringing bad luck and misfortune to anyone who owns it or comes in contact with it. Some of the evidence for this curse includes the legend of the devil's pact, the fire that almost destroyed the book, the wars and conflicts that accompanied its transfer, and the deaths and illnesses of some of its owners and researchers. However, there is no scientific proof for this curse, and some people consider it a superstition or a coincidence.
The significance of the Codex Gigas
The cultural and historical value of the Codex Gigas
The Codex Gigas is a valuable source of information and insight for scholars and researchers who study various aspects of medieval culture and history. The book provides:
A witness to the literary, artistic, and intellectual achievements of the 13th century.
A record of the religious, political, and social developments of Bohemia and Europe.
A collection of texts that reflect the diversity and complexity of medieval knowledge and thought.
A document that reveals the personal and professional motivations and challenges of its scribe and his contemporaries.
A testimony to the transmission, preservation, and transformation of ancient and medieval texts and traditions.
The artistic and aesthetic appeal of the Codex Gigas
The Codex Gigas is also a masterpiece of art and craftsmanship that attracts and impresses many people who appreciate its beauty and style. The book displays:
A remarkable feat of engineering and design, considering its size, weight, and durability.
A stunning example of calligraphy and illumination, showing skill, creativity, and attention to detail.
A rich variety of colors, shapes, patterns, and symbols, creating visual harmony and contrast.
A powerful expression of emotion and imagination, evoking awe, curiosity, fear, and wonder.
A unique blend of realism and fantasy, depicting both natural and supernatural phenomena.
The spiritual and supernatural influence of the Codex Gigas
The Codex Gigas is also a book that affects people's beliefs and emotions in different ways. Depending on their perspective and background, some people may see the book as:
A sacred object that contains the word of God and inspires faith and devotion.
A profane object that contains the image of Satan and provokes horror and repulsion.
A magical object that contains hidden secrets and mysteries and arouses curiosity and fascination.
A cursed object that contains evil forces and causes misfortune and disaster.
A neutral object that contains historical documents and invites analysis and interpretation.
The Codex Gigas is a book that defies easy categorization. It is a book that contains many books. It is a book that spans many centuries. It is a book that appeals to many senses. It is a book that elicits many reactions. It is a book that deserves to be explored and appreciated by anyone who loves books.
If you are interested in learning more about the Codex Gigas or seeing it for yourself, you have two options:
You can download a PDF version of the Codex Gigas from this link: https://www.kb.se/codex-gigas/eng/download.html. The PDF file is about 600 MB in size and contains all 620 pages of the book in high resolution. You can view it on your computer or print it out if you have enough paper.
You can view the Codex Gigas online at this link: https://www.kb.se/codex-gigas/eng/long/index.html. The online version allows you to browse through the pages of the book using a zoom function. You can also access additional information about each page, such as translations, transcriptions, annotations, etc.
Whichever option you choose, we hope you enjoy your encounter with the Codex Gigas!
Q: How long did it take to write the Codex Gigas?
A: It is estimated that it took about 20 years for one scribe to write the Codex Gigas in the 13th century. However, some parts of the book may have been added or modified later by other scribes or owners.
Q: How much does the Codex Gigas weigh?
A: The Codex Gigas weighs about 165 pounds (75 kg). It is the largest medieval manuscript in existence.
Q: Where is the Codex Gigas now?
A: The Codex Gigas is currently kept at the National Library of Sweden in Stockholm. It has been there since 1648, when it was taken by the Swedish army from Prague during the Thirty Years' War.
Q: Is the Codex Gigas really cursed?
A: There is no scientific evidence to prove or disprove that the Codex Gigas is cursed. However, some people believe that the book brings bad luck and misfortune to anyone who owns it or comes in contact with it. This belief may be based on the legend of the devil's pact, the fire that almost destroyed the book, the wars and conflicts that accompanied its transfer, and the deaths and illnesses of some of its owners and researchers.
Q: What is the meaning of the devil's gesture in the Codex Gigas?
A: The devil in the Codex Gigas is shown holding two fingers up in a gesture that could mean either a blessing or a curse. Some scholars have suggested that this gesture is a sign of irony or mockery, implying that the devil is pretending to be holy or benevolent. Others have suggested that this gesture is a sign of power or authority, indicating that the devil is claiming dominion over the world or over the book.