MINIATURIST, Bohemian
(active 1204-1230 in Bohemia)

Codex Gigas

1204-30
Manuscript
Konigliga Biblioteket, Stockholm

The origin of the codex in not known but it certainly was produced in one of the monasteries in Bohemia. It contains five long texts as well as a complete Bible. The manuscript begins with the Old Testament, and it is followed by two historical works by Flavius Josephus, then by the Encyclopedia of Isidore and a collection of medical works. Next comes the New Testament and the last of the long works, a Chronicle of Bohemia by Cosmas from Prague (c. 1045-1125). This is the first history of Bohemia.

The Codex Gigas is famous for two features. First, it is reputed to be the biggest surviving European manuscript. (Codex Gigas means 'giant book'.) Secondly, it contains a large, full page portrait of the Devil.

The portrait of the Devil on folio 290r is the most famous image in the Codex Gigas, and it is the cause of the book's nickname, the Devil's Bible. The Devil is shown alone, in an empty landscape, within a frame formed by two large towers. He is crouching with his arms held up (he has only four fingers and toes) and wears an ermine loin cloth. Ermine is usually associated with royalty, and its use here is to emphasise the position of the Devil as the prince of darkness.