The National Library of Sweden has a rare manuscript by the name Codex Gigas. It is a compilation of texts including those of both Old and New Testaments, a medical book, chants etc. One curious thing about the book is that it has, towards the end, a full-page illustration of the devil! The manuscript is said to have been made by a Benedictine monk of Bohemia in the 13th century. There are some legends that are not in good taste, concerning the creation of the manuscript. One would like to know what the take of Catholic Church is, on the realities and stories involving Codex Gigas.

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What is the take of Catholic Church on Codex Gigas?

The Codex Gigas is I believe the largest extant medieval illuminated manuscript in the world. This manuscript is also known as the ”Devil's Bible” due to its highly unusual full-page portrait of Satan, and the legend surrounding the book's creation. But the legend is just that a folk legend with little credibility.

Wikipedia has the following to say about the Codex Gigas

According to legend, the codex was created by Herman the Recluse in the Benedictine monastery of Podlažice near Chrudim in the Czech Republic which was destroyed in the 15th century during the Hussite Revolution, but is now marked by a maquette in the town museum of Chrast. Records in the codex end in the year 1222. Shortly after it was written, it was pawned by the Benedictines to the Cistercian monks of the Sedlec Monastery, where it remained for 70 years. The Benedictine monastery in Břevnov reclaimed the bible around the end of the 13th Century. From 1477 it was in the library of a monastery in Broumov, until in 1594 it was taken to Prague into the collection of Emperor Rudolf II.


According to one version of a legend already recorded in the Middle Ages, the scribe was a monk who broke his monastic vows and was sentenced to be walled up alive. To escape death, he promised to create, in one night, a book to glorify the monastery forever, including all human knowledge. Near midnight, he became so desperate that he prayed to Lucifer to help him finish the book in exchange for his soul. The devil completed the manuscript, and the monk added the devil's picture as a tribute. In tests to recreate the work, it is estimated that reproducing only the calligraphy, without the illustrations or embellishments, would have taken twenty years of non-stop writing.

This however is where the Catholic Church parts with Wikipedia!

Catholic Online explains it somewhat differently!

The Devil's Bible is formally titled the Codex Gigas.

Europe's largest surviving manuscript, the Codex Gigas, is commonly referred to as "The Devil's Bible” by many who are left baffled by the mysterious text.

The manuscript, held in the National Library of Sweden in Stockholm, is nearly nine inches thick, 36 inches tall and weighs around 165 lbs, requiring two people to move it, according to the Daily Mail.

It is believed have taken 160 animal skins to complete.

"Inside is a menacing full-page color image of the Devil, leading many to believe the pages themselves are cursed," states the Daily Mail.

No one knows exactly how this bewildering text was created. However, legend says a monk from the Middle Ages was sentenced to extreme punishment, walled up alive for breaking the monastic vows. "To avoid punishment, the monk promised to write, in a single night, a book containing all human knowledge," according to the Daily Mail. The monk is said to have become desperate as the night passed, and turned to Lucifer for help.

He would sign over his soul, if Lucifer would finish the book. Lucifer agreed and added his own signature to the piece by creating the self-portrait of himself.

"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," stated The Line Up.

However, some researchers believe the mix-up and creation of the punished monk myth derives from a "misunderstanding in the signature of the book which reads Hermanus inclusus." "Inclusus" is a Latin word thought to signify horrific punishment; the word's real meaning is more similar to "recluse."

Which means this book could have been created by "a solitary monk who chose to shut out the outside world and dedicate his life to the Codex Gigas," according to the Daily Mail.

According to Michael Gullick, at the National Library of Sweden, one person composed the entire book. The handwriting appears to be created by a single author, and the ink is made of crushed insect nests.

Attempts to recreate the Devil' Bible assume it would have taken five years of non-stop writing for anyone to create such a large manuscript.

Within the Codex Gigas are five long texts and the complete Bible.

Source: The mystery behind 'the Devil's Bible': Europe's largest surviving manuscript

The Codex Gigas was called The Devil’s Bible simply because of its full-page illustration of the devil that can be found within its pages.

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The Devil’s Bible: What was the Codex Gigas?

  • Thanks, Ken Graham. The literal translation of Codex Gigas is ' Giant Book ' . The unfortunate inclusion of the devil's caricature may have led to its being nicknamed ' Devil's Bible ' . Yet another example of things being viewed out of context. There is another Bible print nicknamed the ' Adulterer' s Bible ' which happens to contain some printing errors , the most prominent being over the Sixth Commandment. Oct 10 at 8:49

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