The Secret Story of Sarajevo Haggadah

Originating in Northern Spain in the second half of the 14th century, the “Sarajevo Haggadah” is a valuable manuscript written on parchment, with superb illuminations. Its origin and journey to Sarajevo, where it has been housed by the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina since the end of the 19th century, are still shrouded in mystery.

Proclaimed a movable national monument by Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2003, it was registered by UNESCO as documentary heritage to the Memory of the World Register in 2017, providing recognition to its importance worldwide. Described by Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, as a silent witness to history and survivor of the many turbulent moments in the story of the region, Europe and the world, the “Sarajevo Haggadah” is a true cultural treasure illustrating Jewish heritage and medieval art in Europe.

The National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina edited a new reprint of the “Sarajevo Haggadah” and presented it to the public on 1st February 2019, during the exhibition titled “The Three Lives of Sarajevo Haggadah”, organised on the occasion of the 131st Anniversary of the museum, with the support of UNESCO and the United States Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Inaugurated in Sarajevo, the exhibition curated by Aleksandra Bunčić and Mirsad Sijarić follows the story and journey of the manuscript from the medieval Kingdom of Aragon all the way to Sarajevo, where the manuscript has been safeguarded by the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina since the end of the 19th century.

Considering the challenges the world is facing today, we need to recall the courage of the people who, even in the darkest of times during World War II, appreciated its importance to Jewish Heritage, as well as its embodiment of diversity and intercultural harmony depicted in its illustration. Regardless of their own religious beliefs, they risked their lives and did all in their power to safeguard the Haggadah for future generations. Its destruction would be a loss for humanity. Protecting it is a symbol of the values which we hold dear.

The new edition of the artefact contains a universal message of equality and respect for every culture and every individual, a message that can inspire humanity today.

The exhibition aims to raise awareness about the “Sarajevo Haggadah” around the world, so that its incredible story, which confirms the importance of cultural and religious harmony for the preservation of peace, can continue inspiring us to safeguard humanity’s rich cultural diversity

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