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An unknown scribe

It is possible to determine where the Codex Gigas was produced based on the manuscript's content and notes. But it is harder to know who the scribe was.

A black and white photo of a man showing a giant book.

Caretaker Gustavsson with the Codex Gigas in the showroom at the National Library 1929.

Origin in what is now Czechia

The Codex Gigas was written in medieval Bohemia. We know that because the manuscript's calendar mentions Bohemian saints. In addition, the manuscript's necrology (medieval list of dates of death) contains a large number of Czech names of both well-known and obscure people. A chronicle about Bohemia further confirms the origin of the Codex Gigas.

Clues to the dating

The manuscript has been dated to 1204–1230. This conclusion is based on several different clues.

  • The Bohemian saint Prokop (Procopius), who was canonised in 1204, is listed in the calendar under 4 July. In principle, this means that the manuscript cannot have been written before that year.
  • At the same time, the manuscript must have been written after 1223, because the Bishop of Prague, Andreas (1214–1223), appears under 30 July in the necrology. He died in 1223 and is the last in a number of historically identifiable people from the end of the 10th century until the beginning of the 13th century whose names appear in the necrology.
  • However, the name of the King of Bohemia, Ottokar I of the Přemyslid dynasty, does not appear. Because he died in 1230, this would indicate that the Codex Gigas was finished sometime between 1224 and 1230.

Who wrote the Codex Gigas?

The Codex Gigas’ scribe is unknown. It has been speculated whether it could have been the monk Herman, whose name appears in the manuscript's necrology for 10 November with the designation inclusus (shut in). The term inclusus was taken to imply an association with the legend of the sinful, immured monk who, with the Devil's help, was said to have written the entirety of the Codex Gigas in a single night.

Alone and immured

The term inclusus actually denotes a person, usually affiliated with a monastery, who lives in isolation in a cell for religious reasons, or as a penitent. After a trial period lasting at least one year, such a man could be locked away in a cell by a bishop. Sometimes this cell would be walled shut, accompanied by a requiem mass sung by monks to symbolise a funeral. This way of life was not uncommon among Benedictine and Cistercian monks.

Sometimes this cell would be walled shut, accompanied by a requiem mass sung by monks to symbolise a funeral.
A page from the Codex Gigas.
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