Codex Gigas

Codex Gigas

Someone close to me, living abroad, mentioned she’d been listening to a podcast on the Codex Gigas. The Codex Gigas? I asked. The Devil’s Bible. No, I admitted, I hadn’t heard of it.

 

What the devil are… the Dearest Devil’s Ten Commandments? She laughed. No, it’s not that sort of transcript. How disappointing, I concluded. Now, if I were the Devil, what would my commandments be, it got me thinking…mmmm…

 

She went on to explain the reason it had been termed the Devil’s Bible because of a full-size portrait of the devil in its centre. It became famous because it’s the largest medieval book in the world.

 

According to one of many legends, recorded in the Middle Ages, the scribe was a monk who broke his monastic vows and was sentenced to Immurement. To avoid such harsh infliction, he traded his soul to the Prince of Darkness to create in one night a book to glorify the monastery forever, including all human knowledge. The devil completed the manuscript and the monk added the devil’s picture out of gratitude for his aid.

 

It contains the Christian Bible, The Antiquities of the Jews by Flavius Josephus (37–100 C.E.), an encyclopaedia by St. Isidor of Seville (560–636), and The Chronicle of a Bohemia monk written by Cosmas (1045–1125). In addition to these texts, there are several shorter texts included, e.g. on medical practices, penitence and exorcism.

 

Such a pity it wasn’t a more elaborate account from Le Diable et les Dix Commandements / The Devil and the Ten Commandments, the 1963 French comedy-drama film portraying what would happen when the Ten Commandments were broken. Or the Devil’s Commandments, apparently found in a medieval hunting treatise:

 

1 ~ Here is my first Commandment: swear upon God’s name as often as you can.

2 ~ Grant your body with as much delights as possible; there isn’t any other heaven.

3 ~ Come by my house anytime: it is the pub and the brothel.

4 ~ If you wish me to remember you, cover yourself with vain glory.

5 ~ Despise all poor people and love nothing but gold and silver.

6 ~ If you have nothing for yourself, take it from another, and give nothing back.

7 ~ Should your father argue with you make him fear you.

8 ~ Use wine for gambling instead of holy mass.

9 ~ Believe and witchcraft and violence: your will shall be fulfilled.

10 ~ Would you be short of money you shall take if from the Church.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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