The Devil’s Bible or Codex Gigas has been housed since 1649 in the Kungliga Biblioteket or the National Library of Sweden. The Codex Gigas was taken as booty by the Swedish Army from Prague during the Thirty Years War and has belonged to the library’s collection ever since.
Image of Codex Gigas provided courtesy The National Library of Sweden.
The Codex Gigas, which translates to ‘Giant Book’ was bound in a wooden folder covered with leather and ornate metal. The book measured ninety-two centimetres by fifty, and weighed about seventy-five kilograms. Composed of 310 leaves of vellum allegedly made from the skins of 160 donkeys and calves, it is the largest medieval manuscript known in existence.
According to legend, a Benedictine monk—Herman the Recluse—from the Podlažice Monastery in today’s Czech Republic was condemned to death. He offered to write a book containing all the knowledge in the world in one night to escape his sentence. Realising his task was impossible, at midnight, he made a pact for the Devil to finish the gargantuan book in exchange for his soul. The Devil completed the manuscript and the monk added the Devil’s picture on the 209th page out of gratitude for his aid.
Image provided courtesy The National Library of Sweden.
Through analysing the handwriting and style, experts concurred that the Devil’s Bible was written and illustrated by the same person and that it would have taken approximately twenty years working all day every day to complete the task. Experts concurred that, mysteriously, the writing and illustrations showed no signs of the author aging and that there were no mistakes in the entire book. No other work of this author had been identified and where he was trained was unknown.
Unfortunately during my trip the Stockholm, the Codex Gigas was in storage awaiting its new climate controlled room to be built. The National Library of Sweden (pictured below) graciously sent their original tif files and permitted use of these.
And so I ventured out into one of my favourite cities in Europe, Stockholm. Sadly much has changed for the worse. The main train station had numerous signs and warnings of pickpockets and there were beggars at every pillar and street corner. At night, near each church steps and near the subway stations you would find beggars or homeless camped.
Nevertheless, if you can look beyond this, Stockholm is incredibly beautiful and Swedes are just awesome. On my first night, I visited Norrmalm, the area near the National Library, and the upcoming Eurovision contest was advertised.
Of course, when you think Sweden, Eurovision and music, there is no band as famous as Abba. The Abba Museum is well worth a visit but it does not accept cash, not even Swedish Krona. It was Bjorn’s wish to create a cashless society and so you need to take a credit card. I had to pay someone in cash to buy me a ticket on their credit card. If you are game, you can even experience the ultimate Karaoke experience and get yourself recorded singing your favourite Abba track.
There is plenty to see in Stockholm. Strandvagen (pictured below and in the blog avatar) is perhaps one of the most recognisable sights, with it’s amazing architecture overlooking the waterfront.
Well worth a visit is Gamlastan pictured below too.
A short distance away is the Vasa Museum, which has an intact 17th Century warship. The warship (The Vasa) sank on her maiden voyage and was salvaged. The ship was built with a high centre of gravity as it entered the choppy waters of the open seas, the canons rolled to one side and toppled the ship over.
The Stockholm Town Hall pictured below is where the Nobel Prize is presented each year. The building is constructed of 8 million bricks.
During the day you can look across the water to see Riddarholme pictured below. There are plenty of boat tours and these are definitely worth taking to get an overview of the city.
In Search of ‘The Devil’s Prayer’
In 2015, I visited Stockholm whilst conducting research for my book, The Devil’s Prayer.
There are twelve missing pages in the Devil’s Bible and these pages are rumoured to contain an apocalyptic text called “The Devil’s Prayer”. The Devil’s Prayer is available world-wide on amazon, ibooks, google play and kobo.
Sweden is expensive. Get a 72 hour ticket for all the city transport when you arrive at Arlanda or at the Central Station. This is really good value and the public transport system is very good. Have a look at the location of metro stations and get a hotel close to the inner city metro stations. I found OdenPlan and Galmastan to be very good destinations where hotels were far more reasonably priced.
If you drink, buy some duty free alcohol and bring it in. Alcohol is expensive.