The Temptation of St. Anthony by Salvator Rosa
Ambrogio Lorenzetti:(1290 – 1348)
Allegory of Bad Government (detail) , Fresco, Palazzo Pubblico, Siena, 1338-1340
The Codex Gigas is the largest extant medieval manuscript in the world. It is also known as the Devil’s Bible because of a large illustration of the devil on the inside and the legend surrounding its creation. It is thought to have been created in the early 13th century in the Benedictine monastery of Podlažice in Bohemia. It contains the Vulgate Bible as well as many historical documents all written in Latin. The codex is bound in a wooden folder covered with leather and ornate metal. At 92 cm tall, 50 cm wide and 22 cm thick it is the largest known medieval manuscript. At 74.8 kg, Codex Gigas is composed of 310 leaves of parchment allegedly made from the skins of 160 donkeys or perhaps calfskin. The Codex Gigas is also the most mysterious medieval manuscript. It initially contained 320 sheets, though some of these were subsequently removed. The codex has a unified look as the nature of the writing is unchanged throughout, showing no signs of age, disease or mood on the part of the scribe. This may have led to the belief that the whole book was written in a very short time. It includes a unique picture of the devil, about 50 cm tall. According to one version of a legend that is already recorded in the Middle Ages the scribe was a monk who broke his monastic vows and was sentenced to be walled up alive. In order to forbear this harsh penalty he promised to create in one single night a book to glorify the monastery forever, including all human knowledge. Near midnight he became sure that he could not complete this task alone, so he made a special prayer, not addressed to God but to the fallen angel Lucifer, asking him to help him finish the book in exchange for his soul. The devil completed the manuscript and the monk added the devil’s picture out of gratitude for his aid. In tests to recreate the work, it is estimated that in order to reproduce only the calligraphy, without the illustrations or embellishments, would have taken 20 years of non-stop writing.