Sarajevo Haggadah

Sarajevo Haggadah Facsimile Edition

Kingdom of Aragon, probably Barcelona (Spain) — Around 1350

With wine stains from use at countless Passover Seders over the centuries: one of the oldest Sephardic Haggadot in the world

  1. Created in Barcelona ca. 1350 and added to UNESCO's Memory of the World Register in 2017

  2. Illuminated in copper and gold with 69 miniatures as well as decorative initials and incipits

  3. It was hidden from the Nazis in World War II and survived the Siege of Sarajevo (1992–96)

Sarajevo Haggadah

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (2)
Description
Sarajevo Haggadah

The Sarajevo Haggadah is one of the oldest Sephardic Haggadot in the world, originating in Barcelona ca. 1350. It was created using bleached calfskin and was illuminated with copper and gold including 69 miniatures as well as numerous decorative initials and incipits. The first 34 pages of the book present biblical scenes from Creation through the death of Moses, but the last four miniatures are secular in nature, which is exceptional. Wine stains on the pages indicate that it was actually used at numerous Passover Seders. The manuscript has had a tumultuous history, having been nearly destroyed on several occasions, but has thankfully survived to the present and was added to UNESCO's Memory of the World Register in 2017.

Sarajevo Haggadah

Among the precious artifacts of medieval Judaica that have survived to the present, the Sarajevo Haggadah is one of the oldest and most beautiful. Created by Sephardic Jews living in Barcelona ca. 1350, the manuscript has had a tumultuous history, a long road that eventually led to the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was created using the finest calfskin and the 69 miniatures of the work, many of which have finely patterned backgrounds, are illuminated with gold and copper. Aside from telling the Passover narrative along with other Old Testament stories, it also offers precious glimpses of Jewish life in 14th century Spain.

Many Close Calls with Destruction

The Sarajevo Haggadah was presumably taken out of Spain in the aftermath of the Alhambra Decree, which expelled practicing Jews from the Crowns of Castile and Aragon in 1492. Marginal notes indicate that it was in Italy during the 16th century and the manuscript was sold to the National Museum in Sarajevo in 1894 by a certain Joseph Kohen. During World War II, the Museum's chief librarian, Derviš Korkut (1888–1969), risked his own life in order to hide it from the Nazis, who were in the process of pillaging art from across Europe. Korkut entrusted a Muslim cleric in a mountain village where it was hidden in a mosque. The manuscript survived another conflict decades later – the Bosnian War. After a museum heist in 1992, it was discovered by the police lying on the floor. Thankfully, the burglars did not recognize the value of the precious codex and left it behind. During the Siege of Sarajevo by Serb forces, it was safely stored in an underground bank vault. Restoration work on the manuscript began in 2001 and in 2002, a special vault room was dedicated to the Haggadah, where it occupies a central space surrounded by other important documents from the Orthodox, Catholic, and Muslim faiths. The Sarajevo Haggadah was added to the UNESCO Memory of the World Register in 2017.

Codicology

Size / Format
328 pages / 22.8 × 16.5 cm
Origin
Spain
Date
Around 1350
Language
Script
Sephardi square script
Illustrations
69 miniatures
Previous Owners
Sarajevan Sephardic family Koen
A mosque in a village on Mount Bjelašnica (during the II World War)

Available facsimile editions:
Sarajevo Haggadah – Zemaljski Muzej Bosne i Hercegovine (Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina) Facsimile Edition
Sarajevo Svjetlost – Sarajevo, 1983

Sarajevo Haggadah – Zemaljski Muzej Bosne i Hercegovine (Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina) Facsimile Edition
Jugoslavija – Belgrade, 1973
Detail Picture

Sarajevo Haggadah

The Finding of Moses

At the end of chapter 1 in the Book of Exodus, Pharoah orders that every newborn Hebrew boy is to be thrown into the Nile and chapter 2 tells the story of how Moses was hidden among the reeds by his mother and later discovered by Pharoah’s daughter, who eventually adopts him. Rather than being depicted in a basket, Moses is exposed by the open lid of a box-like ark. The Egyptian princess, crowned and dressed in red, gestures towards the Hebrew woman that has been brought by her servant and offers to pay her to breastfeed and conceal the boy.

The Sarajevo Haggadah
Single Page

Sarajevo Haggadah

Gamaliel the Elder

In the Jewish tradition, Rabban Gamaliel, a Pharisee and leading authority in the Sanhedrin during the 1st century, is considered to be to be one of the greatest teachers in the history of Judaism and is remembered by Christians for his leniency towards the Apostles. Furthermore, the Book of Acts also claims that Paul the Apostle was educated by Gamaliel before his conversion, although the influence of his teachings on Christian theology remains unclear.

Framed with an incipit panel and a patterned red background, three students, two male and one female with a covered head, follow the teachings of their master and have their eyes fixed upon him. He is seated in a high-backed wooden chair gesturing rhetorically with one hand and holding a small multi-tailed whip with the other. This detail has led some to speculate that this is actually a miniature of his grandson, Rabban Gamliel II, who unlike his grandfather, was known for his severity.

The Sarajevo Haggadah
Facsimile Editions

#1 The Sarajevo Haggadah

Sarajevo Svjetlost – Sarajevo, 1983

Publisher: Sarajevo Svjetlost – Sarajevo, 1983
Commentary: 1 volume by Eugen Werber
Language: English
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Regular price without login (like new)490 
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#2 The Sarajevo Haggadah

Jugoslavija – Belgrade, 1973

Publisher: Jugoslavija – Belgrade, 1973
Commentary: 1 volume by Cecil Roth
Language: Hebrew
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: € (under 1,000€)
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