Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Codex Gigas, The Devil's Bible--Not...

I stumbled on the legend of the so-called "Devil's Bible," Codex Gigas, currently housed and on display at the National Library of Sweden.

By legend, a monk had broken his vows and was condemned to be walled up alive. Here's the point where discriminating listeners would balk, knowing that such things weren't actually done. People went in and out of religious orders all the time.

At any rate, by legend, the condemned monk pleaded for leniency if he could produce, in one night, a copy of the entire Bible. When, in the middle of the night, he realized there was no way to meet this mark, he reportedly made a pact with the Devil, in exchange for his soul, to complete the task. 

In point of fact, the manuscript is a remarkable achievement, penned by one hand, attributed to a monk named Herman the Recluse.

The manuscript was produced in the 13th century in Bohemia, and brought to Sweden after the Thirty Years War by marauding Swedes. 

The legend of the diabolical origin of the work may have
evolved from the presence of this prominent illustration of the Devil the pages of the manuscript.

It's sad that the the salacious legend is even still in circulation. This book was undoubtedly the product of a deeply committed and meticulous individual. And I'll say that the sheer scale of his product was the result of a supernatural strength. But let's attribute the source where it certainly belongs. The man who painstakingly produced this extraordinary relic produced it likely over decades of work. And in between his long sessions of studied copying, he was strengthened by the regular prayer life of his monastery in Bohemia.

Hermann Incluse, ora pro nobis...