Sarajevo Haggadah

Sarajevo Haggadah

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

Sarajevo Haggadah

  1. Description
  2. 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
164 folios / 22.8 × 16.5 cm
Origin
Spain
Date
Around 1350
Language
Illustrations
69 miniatures
Previous Owners
Sarajevan Sephardic family Koen
A mosque in a village on Mount Bjelašnica (during the II World War)
Facsimile Editions

#1 The Sarajevo Haggadah

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.

#2 The Sarajevo Haggadah

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.
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