Shortly after releasing the Codex Gigas collaboration t-shirt with Brooklyn tattoo artist Jim Gentry I received a lot of messages wondering, "What is the Codex Gigas?" The name also baffled Sleep Terror Co. friends Beth and DJ of the Untrained Eye Podcast.
It's the largest and one of the most mysterious medieval manuscripts in history. It's known as the Codex Gigas, also known as "The Devil's Bible."
The Devil's Bible became famous for it's immense size and it's depiction of the Devil. It became known as the Codex Gigas, which translated to 'giant book' in Latin. The book is so enormous it is comprised of more than 160 animal skins and is so heavy that two people are required to lift it. It measures 20 inches wide, 36 inches tall, 9 inches thick and weighs 165 lbs.
The origin of the book is somewhat unclear, but according to legend the Codex Gigas was the work of a single monk who made a pact with the Devil. Known only as Herman the Recluse, he was sentenced to immurement (entombed alive) for breaking his monastic vows. As a last resort for survival he made a deal with the monastery to create a book containing the world's knowledge in exchange for his life. The monastery accepted on the basis that Herman complete the book in one night.
Desperate to complete the task Herman the Recluse sought the help of the Devil. In doing so he made another deal, the Devil helped him complete the book in exchange for his soul. After selling his soul, the scribe was able to complete the Codex Gigas and reclaim his freedom.
According to National Geographic, analysis of the penmanship indicates uniformity throughout the Latin text that suggests it was written by a single scribe. Although it may not have been Herman the Recluse, it was likely a 13th century monk who lived in Bohemia.
Given the enormous size of the Codex Gigas the sole creator would have to work day and night for five years in order to recreate the text featured in the manuscript and this does not include all the illustrations. One thing is for certain, it took a very long time to complete the Codex Gigas and one mystery remains, how was the scribe able to maintain the incredible uniformity of penmanship from start to finish?
World Of Knowledge: Inside The Codex Gigas
The giant book contains a complete vulgate Latin translation of the Bible as well as major texts, such as the Old and New Testament, Antiquities of the Jews by Flavius Josephus, Encyclopedia Etmologiae by Isidore of Seville, medical writings from Hippocrates, Theophilus and others, and The Chronicle of Bhemia by Cosmas of Prague. The Codex Gigas also contains occult writings such as exorcism rituals, magic formulas, and writings on alchemy.
There are illustrations and decorations throughout the manuscript. Many of the drawings are stunning and impressively done. The most famous piece of art within the Codex Gigas is the full page portrait of the Devil, and second being the painting of the Heavenly City on the previous page.
The painting of the Devil has become synonymous with the Codex Gigas, it adds to the mystery and bolsters the myth of the manuscript being The Devil's Bible. The Devil is portrayed as a large figure that consumes nearly the entire 36 inch page. He is shown with large claws at the tips of outstretched arms, red horns, a green face, and two red tongues. He appears naked with the exception of a ermine loin cloth. This material was used by royalty; historians believe this detail is to acknowledge the Devil as the King of Hell or Prince of Darkness.
In contrast a painting of the Heavenly City lies on the page across from the Devil. The city is depicted as tiers of buildings and towers with evenly spaced walls. People believe this page is meant to inspire hope and salvation in contrast to the evil nature of the Devil on the next page. Although the illustration of duality was most likely medieval religious propaganda to support the existence of heaven and God.
It's pretty clear which page Sleep Terror Co. has chosen. We're here to do the Devil's work.