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Sunday, September 20, 2020

Decoding Codex Gigas

The Codex Gigas is an artifact subject to a variety of mysteries regarding its nature and origins. The author of this giant book is still unknown to this day and one of the most notable cases of prolific writing in history dedicated to only one masterwork. Historical accounts often point a Bohemian Monk named Herman the Recluse who spent roughly 2 decades of his life writing an omnibus that contains several religious, historical, and occult works such as the Old and New Testament of the Bible, texts on exorcism, and the lost text called the Devil's Prayer. The most menacing feature of the book would be the imposing image of Satan in the middle of the book.

Codex Gigas, Bible, Devil, Satan, Book
Image: Prague Post

There are urban legends surrounding the Codex Gigas that the unnamed monk's case can be described as a case of automatic writing or psychography. According to an urban legend, Herman the Recluse was imprisoned and begged for his life to continue his masterwork. A Faustian pact was made between Herman and Satan to write the collective knowledge of mankind at that time.  

Herman the Recluse of PodlaĹžice, Bohemia wrote the Codex Gigas, 2 centuries before the proliferation of the Gutenberg Press and the wider use of books became more accessible in the clergy, academe, and the nobility.  They often attribute the colossal size of the book to the limited knowledge of publishing practices. The Codex Gigas is roughly a meter, half a meter in width, and weighs approx. 75 kilograms, the largest manuscript written in the Middle Ages. 

The way Herman the Recluse arranged the texts is what caught the attention of researchers and people who try to decipher the messages of this 620-page book. The Codex Gigas can be considered as an omnibus containing several works during the Antiquity up to the early Middle Ages. Some of these works are treatises written by historians such as Isidore Seville, Josephus, Cosmas, and Constantine. The move to include several other texts in between the Old and New Testaments of the Vulgate Latin translation can be considered as a heresy during the time it was written. 

Herman the Recluse wrote all these historical accounts by hand and it would take at least 2 decades to transcribe all the texts. What is strange is the uniformity and the consistency of the texts, fonts, and illustrations including the infamous illustration of the Prince of Darkness himself. There are no signs of alterations and changes in handwriting cover to cover. This level of consistency led many to believe that the legend of the Faustian pact between Herman and Satan has a little shed of truth. These speculations became a subject of a National Geographic Channel documentary. 

The book was moved from one kingdom to another for centuries. King Rudolf II's army took this monumental work as a war loot during the 30 Years War and was once sheltered in the personal library of the King. The book was nearly incinerated along with other priceless artifacts when the fire broke out at Stockholm Royal Castle on May 7, 1697. The transfers or relocations of the Codex Gigas from one place to another might be responsible for the ten missing pages. Some people believe say that these missing pages held the Devil's Prayer. 

Codex Gigas, Bible, The Devil, Satan
Image: AgAu News

For a short time, the book was on display at the National Library of a Czech Republic from September 2007 to January 2008. The book currently in the stewardship of the National Library of Sweden. Back then the book was viewable online, but after a site update; they discontinued the online viewing.  The mystery of Codex Gigas will remain for the years to come.

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