Codex Gigas and an Unspeakable Ritual
The Codex Gigas is one of the most mysterious manuscripts from history. Written by an unknown author, the text is rife with occult legends, and the physical volume is so large that it needs to be held open by two people. It feels as though the book wasn’t fashioned for human hands, so where did the Codex Gigas come from?
Some say that the text was authored by the Devil, who even etched a self-portrait on one of the pages. Others attest that the Codex was the work of a singular monk, though many believe that he made a pact with Satan to complete his work. While the text is markedly chilling, one of the lesser-known facts about the Codex Gigas is that 10-12 of the original pages are now missing. Allegedly, these pages contain information so dangerous that they had to be destroyed for the sake of humanity.
According to legend, the Codex Gigas was created in the 13th century by Herman the Recluse, an accursed monk who made a pact with the Devil. Prior to the book’s conception, Herman had committed a great sin, and his abbot decided that he should be walled up and left to starve to death as punishment. In an effort to save his own life, the monk promised to write a massive codex that would exalt the monastery, with the catch that he would be released after the text’s completion. The abbot agreed, and Herman was given a year to carry out the task. Herman immediately got to work and toiled endlessly for months, but still, he was nowhere near done. A text this large could easily take three decades to write out by hand; one year was simply not enough time. Despondent, Herman turned to Lucifer the night before the book was supposed to be completed. The Devil agreed to help the monk finish the codex, but Herman was forced to pledge his eternal soul to Satan in exchange. A bargain was struck, the codex was completed overnight, and Herman was forgiven and granted his freedom.
The Codex Gigas contains the Vulgate translation of the Christian Bible (the principle Latin translation of the text), but that only comprises half of the massive book. While the Codex is primarily written in Latin, it also contains a plethora of other alphabets, such as Hebrew and Slavic.
The original parts of the Codex are considerably darker than these extracts; notably, there’s a treatise on confession and sin followed by full-page illustrations of Heaven and the Devil. After that comes several pages dedicated to conjurations and magic spells, which are believed to be part of an exorcism ritual. Scholars suggest that these instructionals were used to banish evil from people who were suffering from sickness.
While the Codex Gigas sits at a sprawling 310 pages, the tome originally contained somewhere between 320 and 322 pages. Interestingly, the sections that are missing from the book didn’t simply fall out, as archivists have noted that the pages were intentionally cut from the binding. This discovery has led to endless speculation about the content of the lost passages. Scholars believe that some of the pages listed the rules for the monastery where the book was originally kept, but they also note that those rules would only have comprised two pages at most. Some believe that the pages were destroyed because their content was deemed far too dangerous, while others think they were stolen for a secret, evil purpose.
The Codex Gigas didn’t live permanently in the city where it was first created. Over the years, it has been sold, loaned out, borrowed, and outright stolen. It’s estimated that the book was completed between 1223 and 1230 at a Benedictine monastery in Podlažice, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic). It didn’t stay there for long; the monastery fell on hard times and was forced to pawn the book to a monastery in Brevnov. From there, the Codex moved to Broumov, after the monks at Brevnov were forced to flee from the Hussite Wars in 1420. Rudolph II, King of Bohemia, borrowed the book from the monks in 1594. He never returned it, and instead kept it among the rest of the royal treasures he had “borrowed” over the years. Then, in 1648, it was taken by the Swedes when they sacked Prague at the end of the Thirty Years’ War. After that, it was kept in the Royal Library in Stockholm, where a massive fire displaced it for a time.
Nowadays the book is often sent out on loan for educational purposes. In 2007, the book was loaned to Prague, which allowed the Czech people to examine the text they had originally penned and owned centuries prior.