The Codex Gigas, also known as the Devil’s Bible, is the biggest book in the world.
Made at the start of the 13th century in a Bohemian monastery,
it was one of the country’s most prized works of art. In medieval times,
its uniqueness was even put on a par with the wonders of the world. . . .
Why, how and by whom the Devil’s Bible was made has remained a mystery
until this day. But legend has it that the book was written by a monk, who
faced being walled up alive for breaching a monastic code, and promised to
create the biggest manuscript in the world in just one night in return for
being spared from punishment. But when he realised that he would not be
able to deliver on his promise, he asked the devil for help and his prayer
was answered. The devil, to which the monk sold his soul, is depicted in
the Penitential – a chapter that takes the form of a handbook for priests,
listing various sins and the corresponding forms of repentance.
"The book contains the Old Testament, the New Testament, a necrology
of the Podlazice monastery, a list of Podlazice fraternity members, a
script on natural history, the oldest Czech Latin chronicle – there are
eleven contents items in all.
It is estimated that skin from some 160 donkeys had to be used to provide
sufficient writing material for the book. Written in Latin, it also
includes mystical medical formulae to treat epilepsy and fever but also
solve unusual problems like finding a thief, for example. One of the most
valuable chapters is the Chronica Bohemorum – a copy of the Bohemian
Chronicle, drawn up from 1045 to 1125, that is considered one of the
oldest and best transcripts of the Chronicle. The very end of the codex
includes a list of the days on which Easter falls in the coming years.