Tuesday, July 18, 2023

The Borgia Codex

 With Nancy J. Farrier

Remember those days studying history in school, when all the dates seemed to jumble in your mind along with the events ascribed to those dates? Maybe you wished history books came in comic book format so you only had to look at the pictures to understand. I know that was me. (I’m not sure my history teachers would believe I now write historical books and enjoy history.) 

Plate 1: 1st page of 
260 day calendar
In doing some research, I discovered the Borgia Codex, which is almost like a history tome in graphic novel format, except there are no words. You have to decipher the meaning from the pictures because there is no one left to interpret the accurate meanings. Still, this is a fascinating book and many interpretations have been made.


The Borgia Codex comes from Mexico before the time of Cortez and the Spanish invasion in the early 1500’s. The belief is that Aztec priests made this Codex to show happenings and predictions of what was to come. The Codex is not a book like we have with pages to turn but more of an accordion file that unfolds and shows the pictures inside.


Plate 10: Page 2 of Deities
Most of the Aztec and other cultures in that area had their writings destroyed by the Spanish invaders or by priests trying to rid a culture of paganism. Somehow the Borgia Codex made its way to Italy where it was acquired by Cardinal Stefano Borgia. Borgia left the Codex to the church upon his death in 1804. Thus, the name Borgia Codex. The original is still in the Vatican Library in Rome.


The Codex images are painted on a deer skin, prepared and covered with a foundation similar to gesso or stucco to show a better image. When unfolded, the Codex is 34 feet long. There are 39 sections and when folded up, the Codex is about 10.6 inches square. Each page is painted on both sides except for the end pages, so there are 76 pages of images. Most of the Codex remains in good shape even after all these years.


Plate 25: Five directions

Those who have studied the Codex believe it is tonal√°matl, an almanac of destiny. It contains such information as when to plant and harvest, good omens, bad omens, medical prescriptions, and details about sacred places. Most of the deities are shown in detail.


There are other codices that are similar in style and time period, but they are rare. Codex Rios, also referred to as Codex Vaticanus A, is considered a “rosetta stone” for deciphering the Borgia Codex and others like it. Codex Rios is also found in the Vatican Library.


Plate 50: Page 2 of five
directional trees: North

The Borgia Codex gives historians a rare glimpse into civilizations that were nearly wiped out. The artwork in the Codex is phenomenal and the artistic value is immense. Almost all of the images for the Codex can be found and studied online.

Because I'm a history nerd and love to study the mesoamerican cultures, I have a copy of the contemporary book, Codex Borgia. It is fascintating with more information that I could possibly put in this post. The first plates show the calendar they used, followed by plates that show the 20 Deities from the 20 Names Days. Their calendar was a 260 day calendar and many of the predictions are based on that. 

Plate 71: Sun, moon
and 13 birds.

There are plates on marriage, life and death, supernatural beings, and nature. All of the symbols have a meaning and there is a chart in the book I have to show which symbols represent what day on the calendar. The drawings are intricate and detailed, difficult to take in and understand because the images have such meaning. 


Have you ever seen any of these images or heard of the Borgia Codex? How would you like learning history from an image? I’d love to hear from you. 


Today is my birthday. I would like to do a giveaway of one of my books. Please respond to this post by 11:50 PM PT today and I will put your name in a drawing. Please be sure to include your email so I can contact you. I will let you choose the book you want after you win. You can see the list of my books on my website


Nancy J Farrier is an award-winning, best-selling author who lives in Southern Arizona in the Sonoran Desert. She loves the Southwest with its interesting historical past. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needlecraft, play with her cats and dog, and spend time with her family. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website: nancyjfarrier.com.


  1. Happy birthday! I'm not familiar with the Codex. It looks fascinating. Thanks for sharing.

  2. cindyhuff11 at gmail dot com
    Happy Birthday Nancy. I was in Mexico a few years ago and toured Chicha Nica ( not sure I spelled that right). This is an intact Mayan pyramid. Noone can tour the inside anymore because of its age. But there were many similar symbols all over it. The calendar, even the structure were used to mark the seasons and chart the stars. The Mayans are trying to recapture as much of their history as they can. The whole tour was fascinating. Our guide was a history professor. He gave me a better look at what the natives life was truly like. They were a very intelligent people and what our history books mention of their culture is so wrong. I've never heard of the Bogis Codex but I'm sure it would be interesting to study. Cindy Huff

    1. Cindy, I would love to tour those ancient remains. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Happy Birthday. Not familiar with the Codex. cheetahthecat1982ATgmailDOTcom

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Happy Birthday! Thanks for posting on such an interesting subject. I am so glad it has been carefully taken care of so that it is available to be studied today. bcrug2020ATgmailDOTcom

    2. Thank you, Connie. I'm glad it has been preserved too.

  5. Nancy, I've never heard of the Borgia Codex, but I find these ancient codices fascinating--such as the Book of Kells and other Medieval texts. Many of them are religious/biblical in nature like the Borgia Codex with such beautiful artistry to tell the tales. I have a contemporary suspense concept for a missing text. Maybe I should write it... Thanks for sharing about this particular codex!

  6. Thank you, Donna. Maybe you should write that book. :)