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Sarajevo Haggadah: Dates back to 15th century

Do you know the story of the Sarajevo Haggadah? Read more about this remarkable manuscript in this post.

The Sarajevo Haggadah
The Sarajevo Haggadah

The Sarajevo Haggadah is a Jewish manuscript illuminated codex, which originates from medieval Spain. It is considered one of the most beautiful books of its kind.

The Haggadah is a Jewish text that sets forth the order of the Passover Seder. It is about the story from the Book of Exodus, about God bringing the Jews out of slavery in Egypt.

Sarajevo Haggadah is one of the oldest Sephardic Haggadahs in the world. This book left Spain together with the Jews in the 15th century. There is information that it was still in Italy in 1609. It was created somewhere in northern Spain, in the second half of the 14th century, after 1350.

Illumination from the Sarajevo Haggadah with the story of the Exodus from Egypt
Illumination from the Sarajevo Haggadah with the story of the Exodus from Egypt

The content of the Sarajevo Haggadah was written in cursive on processed and refined leather, in a period when the paper had not yet entered mass use. This exceptional manuscript book has 142 parchment leaves, measuring 16.5 x 22.8 cm. Some of them are written in cursive, some are illuminated, and some are completely blank. They are bound in sheets of eight or twelve pages.

The Haggadah is owned by the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo. It has been in the possession of the museum since 1894, while before that it belonged to the Sarajevo Jewish Kohen family. Its monetary value is undetermined.

The Sarajevo Haggadah has survived many near-destructions. Historians believe that it was taken out of the Iberian Peninsula by Jews who were expelled by the Alhambra Decree in 1492.

Sarajevo Haggadah Vault room
Sarajevo Haggadah Vault room

During World War II, the manuscript was hidden from the Nazis by the Museum’s chief librarian, Derviš Korkut, and then director of the Museum, Jozo Petrović. They risked their life to smuggle the Haggadah out of Sarajevo. Korkut gave it to a Muslim cleric in a village on the mountain of Bjelašnica, where it was hidden in a mosque.

The manuscript was also saved during the 1992-1995 war when the National Museum was on the front line of fire.

The Sarajevo Haggadah is one of the greatest treasures kept in Bosnia and Herzegovina. If you visit Sarajevo, be sure to visit the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina. You will see many valuables, including the Sarajevo Haggadah.

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