It’s not the 320 pages, each three-feet in size that makes it remarkable; it’s the devil it contains. In its entirety, the Codex Gigas contains the Old and New Testament, the Chronicle of Bohemia by Cosmas, exorcism, some medical texts, and a collection of shorter works.

It is also believed to have once contained the Rule of St Benedict, but that work has since been lost. Not only is Codex Gigas famous for being the largest medieval book in the world, but it is also known as The Devil’s Bible.

Codex Gigas: Portrait of the Devil himself
The portrait of the Devil credit: Wikimedia commons

The massive leather-bound book currently resides behind glass in a room on the second floor of the King’s Library(also called the National Library of Sweden) in Hymlegarden. The devils’ Bible is the largest surviving European manuscript in the world, written by a monk in the early 13th century.

After the thirty-year war ended the Swedish Army looted the city of Prague and among the treasures, they found a book called Codex Gigas. The Devil’s bible is 36 inches tall (3 foot), 20 inches wide, and 8.7 inches thick.

How much did it take to complete Codex Gigas?

Based on the amount of text and details of the illumination, it has been estimated that it took as long as thirty-years to finish the book. In other words, an anonymous scribe seems to have dedicated the most part of his life creating The Devil’s Bible.

If the scribe worked for six hours daily and wrote six days a week taking a day off. It would take him about 5 to six years to complete the manuscript. It the scribe was a monk then he would have 3 hours to work on the manuscript, this would extend the time to finish it in ten years and the manuscript was also decorated so it would have taken him around 20 – 30 years.

Devil's bible page
Devil’s Bible (Codex Gigas) manuscript © MHP

However, the legend goes that it only took a night to complete by a monk known as Herman the Recluse. Though he was sentenced to death by being walled up after breaking the monastic vows. In an attempt to save his own life, he made a deal that he would wite a book complete with all of the world’s human knowledge in exchange for his freedom. The catch was that he had only one night to finish it.


This seemed like an impossible task so, the monk decided to call the Devil for help. The devil will help him complete the book by the morning and he can have his soul in exchange. As the deal made with Satan, the book was completed by the morning and the real large Satan’s portrait was included in the middle of the book as a tribute to its true author.

The Devil Himself

The most striking piece about the manuscript is the Devil himself, the large and terrifying portrait of the devil. The size of the devil is striking as he takes up the entirety of Hell. Large claws, red-tipped horns, a green head, small eyes with rep pupils, and two red tongues coming out from each side of its mouth.

Devil on the one side and the heavenly side on the other. Youtube

On the opposite page of the portrait of the Devil is an image of the Heavenly City. It was common in the middle ages to leave the book spreads on display to convey a message to those who saw it. It is believed that the message is to show the rewards of a God-fearing life on one page and the horrors of a sinful life on the other.

In 1594, The Devil’s Bible was brought to Prague from the Broumov monastery, where it had been kept since the year 1420. King Rudolph II asked to borrow the boo from the monks and promised them that he would return the book once he is finished with the book which he never did.

Made from Donkey’s Vellum

The Devil’s Bible weighs 165 lbs and contains 310 pages made from vellum (membrane) of donkeys. At some point in time, 10 pages were removed from the book, as it contained 320 pages in the beginnings.

Although the actual author of the book may never be known, the unique portrait has been drawing everyone’s attention since its creation over seven hundred years ago.

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