Allegedly made from the skins of 160 donkeys (and weighing 165 pounds), the Codex Gigas is the world’s largest and most mysterious medieval manuscript. It’s known as “the Devil’s Bible” due to a large illustration of the devil and because of the stories surrounding it.
National Geographic explores the history and legend behind this Bible:
The legend is as follows:
The scribe was 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.
In tests to recreate the work, it is estimated that in order to reproduce only the calligraphy, without the illustrations or embellishments, would have taken 5 years of non-stop writing.
The book contains:
About half of the Codex consists of the entire Latin Bible in the Vulgate version, except for the books of Acts and Revelation, which are from apre-Vulgate version. 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. Between the Testaments are Josephus‘ Antiquities of the Jews and Wars of the Jews, as well as Isidore of Seville‘s encyclopedia Etymologiae and medical works of Hippocrates, Theophilus, Philaretus, and Constantinus. Following a blank page, the New Testament commences with Matthew-Acts, James-Revelation, and Romans-Hebrews. Following the picture of the devil, Cosmas of Prague‘s Chronicle of Bohemia, a list of brothers in the Podlažice monastery, and a calendar with necrologium, magic formulae and other local records round out the codex.