The Codex Gigas (English: Giant Book) is the largest extant medieval manuscript in the world.
It’s a mysterious book that in its day was believed to contain all human knowledge. But why did medieval people believe that the author sold his soul to the devil to be able to write it?
The “Devil’s Bible,” a behemoth volume weighing in at 165 pounds, believed to have been produced by a single monk over the course of decades in the 13th Century, is the focus of a documentary that was featured on the National Geographic Channel.
A complete Old Testament and New Testament, and a collection of a number of secular works besides, the Devil’s Bible is an encyclopedia of medieval knowledge. But it has also been haunted by dark speculation, including that its writing was guided by the devil’s hand.
It got its name “Devil’s Bible” from the illustration of the devil on page 290 (in the photo above). It is believed to be the only bible of its era that depicts Satan. There the devil is, looking more like a cartoon character in an ermine diaper, rather than evil incarnate.
Devil’s Bible facts:
The 310 parchment leaves (620 pages) of the Devil’s Bible are made of vellum, from the processed skins of 160 animals, most probably donkeys. Some pages of the Devil’s Bible are thought to have been removed, and no one knows what happened to them.
The entire Devil’s Bible is written in Latin. The calligraphy is lavishly luminated throughout.
Including its wooden case, which is ornamented with metal, the Devil’s Bible is so heavy (about 165 pounds) that it requires at least two adults to carry it.
The portrait of the devil faces a picture of the “City of Heaven,” the only other image in the Devil’s Bible. Some scholars believe that the picture of Heaven negates the portrait of the devil. Others have noted that no people can be seen in the City of Heaven.
Also in the Devil’s Bible is the “encyclopedia” by St. Isidore, who, more than a millennium after he lived, is regarded as the patron saint of the Internet. Isidore’s Etymologiae was an attempt to record all universal knowledge of his time, the 7th Century.