Friday, August 6, 2010

Mysterious Book: Codex Gigas

A huge mysterious medieval book, penned by a Benedictine monk on animal skin with bizarre devilish illustration and incantation. But who has the missing pages, and why?

Codex Gigas – literally translated means “Giant Book”, photograph below, with a box of matches resting on it, gives an idea of the scale of the almost metre long text, it takes two people to lift it, which makes it the largest medieval manuscript in the world.

The book can be found in the National library in Stockholm – it has 600 pages – all made from animal (donkey) skin, the front and back page have been constructed from leather bound wood, adorned with carved metal.

In terms of intrinsic value, when the book was last moved, it was insured for over £ 15 million.

Author of the Codex Gigas

The book was thought to have been in the early 13th century in the Bohemian Benedictine monastery near Chrudim – in the Czech Republic.  The identity of the author remains a mystery.  Handwriting tests however, reveal that the entire book has a consistency of lettering and illustration which confirm that one single author – showing no signs of fatigue or even mood change (which is unusual) wrote/drew the entire main body of text.

Contents of the Codex Gigas

The book is written in Latin and contains a full version of both the Old and New Testaments (Excluding the Book of Acts and Revelation).

Along-side the bible, is a transcript of Isodore of Seville’e encyclopaedia “Etymologiae”– a summary of universal knowledge which contained some ground-breaking (but not widely accepted) information – including his idea that the world was a round, rather than a flat disc.

The book also contains a copy of the “Antiquities of the Jews” and “The Jewish Wars” – originally written by Flavius Josephus in around 93AD – and is a slightly amended version of the Hebrew Bible Books.
There is a copy of the “Chronicle of Bohemia” written by the Cosmas of Prague, who was a Bohemian Priest who lived between 1045BC and 1125BC

Along with these texts were lists of people and dates, a calendar and inserts by various owners of the book.
Mystery and Legend

The legend surrounding the Codex is that one of the monks from the Bohemian Benedictine Monastery had committed a terrible sin and was facing the ultimate punishment from the monastery...... to be walled up alive in is cell. To redeem himself from a terrible slow death, the monk offered a deal to the monastery leaders.....if he were to write the biggest book that the world had ever seen, in one single night, then he should be allowed to live.

The deal was agreed and the monk set to work, at about midnight, the monk realised that he could not achieve his goal, and in desperation, he summoned the devil to assist him, the devil agreed and the monk included an illustration of the devil within the codex in appreciation.

The largest book the world had ever seen was completed in one night and the monk was allowed to live, however, the legend reveals that the monks life thereafter was plagued with misfortune and unhappiness.
It is also worthy of note that seven (or eight according to some sources) of the pages of the book are missing, removed to retain an ancient secret.

Many texts reveal that the Codex Gigas is reputed to be cursed and bring death or great misfortune to those who own it (let us hope that the National library in Stockholm carries a good insurance policy).

Depictions of Heaven and Hell: "The Devil's Bible"


It is mainly because of the illustration, pictured above, that Codex Gigas was given the name – “The Devils Bible”.  Preceding the image of the beast is a “conjuration” – a spell which when uttered can enable the speaker to command spirits, demonic entities.

The horned beast is shown crouching in a void between two towers, two serpents (forked tongue) emerging from his mouth, wearing a loincloth of ermine – a fabric traditionally worn by royalty.....he is therefore referred to as...“the Prince of Darkness”

Like most people, when I hear/see “two towers”, the tragic, evil event of the demolition of the world trade centre twin towers springs to mind – the famous photograph above is of one of the many evil, devilish faces which appeared and were photographed in smoke billowing from the burning buildings prior to the collapse......perhaps a supernatural apparition summoned by an evil act...hell on earth.

On the opposite page to the devil is a depiction of heaven, the heavenly city – not an image of clouds and angels, but is shown as two towers, with ten tiers in-between, indicative of levels of spiritual ascent leading up to heaven.

This image is reminiscent of that found on the unusual carvings on a set of seven ancient megaliths found in Axum, Ethiopia – erected approximately 2000 years ago.  I wrote about these in an article - Five Mysterious Ancient Megalithswhere their appearance was described as that of a modern tiered tower-block, (which seemed odd and unlikely) however, a tiered heavenly city, akin to the illustration in the Codex Gigas (both depicting ten tiers) would be a far more logical explanation of the rational for these ancient monuments – but one that I could not find in any text regarding the Axum site.

The “Jacobs ladder ” imagery is derived from the Old Testament – Genesis 28:11-19

“Jacob left Beersheba, and went toward Haran. He came to the place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it!”

The concept of a tower reaching towards heaven could also have relevance in respect of the Old Testament story of the Tower of Babel - the tower being a metaphor for an unknown method of raising the individual to a heavenly plane.
Genesis 11:4
“And they said, Go to, let us build a city and a tower, whose top may reach into heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole Earth”
The Codex Gigas is certainly an interesting and intriguing book but the title – “The Devils Bible” conjures up ideas of an occult, unholy book - this seems very unfair based purely upon the odd illustration and incantations (after all, many modern priests are involved in exorcisms) – when in fact the illustrations could have deep spiritual significance.

There are many ways to view the illustrations....If you view the void between the two towers as the human mind or soul, when it is empty and devoid of any attempt of spiritual attainment, evil may reside, however, with spiritual achievement, and positive human experience, the soul can be raised up to a heavenly plane.
Equally, the tiers may represent human society, rather than the individual, and the ascent could represent the advancement of human knowledge, technology, collective spirituality or even physiological and cognitive evolution – eventually achieving a heavenly plane on earth. Unfortunately, if this is the case, perhaps the photograph of the demon in the smoke of the twin towers more accurately reflects where our society is headed (being led).

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