10 Things You Need to Know about the Sarajevo Haggadah

Passover is just around the corner, so on March 26, 2018, I published the following post on Book Riot.

10 Things You Need to Know about the Sarajevo Haggadah

Sarajevo Haggadah_Wikipedia

Page from the Sarajevo Haggadah. Notice the wine stains and handwritten doodles, which indicate that this haggadah has been in extensive use throughout the years. (Source: Wikipedia)

Every year on Passover Jewish families all over the world gather ’round to celebrate and commemorate the Exodus from Egypt. At the center of this annual celebration is taking turns reading from a book called a haggadah. The word haggadah comes from the Hebrew root HGD, which means “to tell,” which is exactly the purpose of the Passover celebration–to tell the story of the Jews’ liberation from slavery in Egypt, also known as the Exodus.

Because haggadot are not considered holy texts, but rather instruction materials, over time they have developed into beautiful artifacts of book art. And nowhere were such beautiful haggadots made as in the Spanish city of Barcelona during the Middle Ages. And of these Barcelona haggadots, few can compare to the wonder and splendor of a book today known as the Sarajevo Haggadah.

Here are ten things you need to know about the Sarajevo Haggadah.

If you wish to read the post in its entirety, please click here.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

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10 Things You Need to Know about Megilat Ester

On February 26, 2018 I published the following post on Book Riot.

10 Things You Need to Know about Megillat Ester.

Megilat Ester_BL Or 1047

Megilat Ester (BL Or. 1047)

Happy Purim!

Purim is a Jewish holiday based on the events in the biblical Book of Esther, which tells the story of how the Jewish woman Esther saved her people from extinction in the ancient Persian Empire. The exact age of this particular holiday is not known, but Purim has been celebrated since at least the second century C.E.

The Book of Esther is also known as Megilat Ester, which is Hebrew for the Scroll of Esther. Because of the importance of Esther’s story in the celebrations of Purim, the Book of Esther is written on a separate scroll which is read out loud as part of the Purim celebrations. The tradition to write the Book of Esther on a scroll dates back to c. 500 C.E.

If you wish to read the post in its entirety, please click here.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

10 Things You Need to Know about the Yonah Pentateuch

On February 6, 2018, I published the following post on Book Riot.

10 Things You Need to Know about the Yonah Pentateuch

The Yonah Pentateuch is an elaborately decorated Jewish manuscript from northern Europe, using the art form of micrography.

Micrography are images that you can read.

Knight approaching a castle_Yonah Pentateuch_BL Add MS 21160_f 201 v

If you wish to read the post in its entirety, please click here.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

100 Must-Read Books about the Middle Ages

On January 4, 2018, I published the following post on Book Riot.

100 Must-Read Books about the Middle Ages

The ideas we tend to have about the Middle Ages are mostly based on how the time period has been interpreted through fantasy fiction and games, and the romanticizing of the era by intellectuals, scholars, politicians, and artists in the nineteenth century.

These interpretations have given rise to of a view of the Middle Ages as an entirely Christian society in western Europe, populated only by white people, and with few influences coming from outside.

This view is inaccurate.

If you want to read the post in its entirety, please click here.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

Catherine Jagiellon, Queen of Sweden

This is the portrait of Catherine Jagiellon, daughter of Sigismund I of Poland-Lithuania, born in 1526 in Kraków, Poland.

Katarina Jagellonica

Catherine Jagiellon (1526–1583). Source: Wikipedia.

Catherine Jagiellon married Duke Johan of Sweden in 1562. She a Catholic, he a Lutheran, and son of Gustav I Vasa (r. 1523–1560) who brought the Reformation to Sweden. In 1568, Catherine became queen of Sweden after Duke Johan ousted his brother, Erik XIV (r. 1560–1568), and took power for himself as Johan III.

Together, Catherine and Johan had three children–Elisabeth (1564–1566), Sigismund (1566–1632), and Anna (1568–1625). Sigismund became the legitimate Catholic heir to both Sweden and Poland-Lithuania. Needless to say, the complicated situation in the Baltic involving Sweden, Poland-Lithuania, and Muscovy became even more entangled because of this.

In the end, Sigismund was ousted from the Swedish throne by his Protestant uncle, Charles IX (1599/1604–1611). He never gave up his claim as king of Sweden. The schism within the Vasa-Jagiellon dynasty wasn’t solved until the death of Sigismund in 1632, incidentally the same year as his cousin, Gustavus Adolfus (r. 1611–1632).

Catherine Jagiellon died in 1583. She lies buried in Uppsala, Sweden.

Katarina Jagellonica

The tomb of Catherine Jagiellon, the Uppsala Dome, Sweden. Photo: E.H. Kern.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

The Stockholm Bloodbath

On the upcoming anniversary of the Stockholm Bloodbath, a public mass execution of members of the nobility and clergy in the middle of Stockholm on November 7-9 in 1520, a portrait of the man held responsible for it all. Kristian II, in Sweden nicknamed Kristian the Tyrant, the last reigning king of the Union of Calmar.

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The last reigning king of the Union of Calmar, Kristian II (r. Denmark and Norway 1513–1523, r. Sweden 1520–1521). Source: Historiska Museet.

100 noblemen and clergymen were executed for having been in opposition to the King or for being perceived as threats to his reign.

The executions took place at Stortorget (Main Square) in Stockholm. I took this picture of the square when I was there this summer.

Stortorget_2

Stortorget, Gamla stan, Stockholm. The location where the Stockholm Bloodbath took place. The building on the left is the Nobel Museum. Photo: E.H. Kern.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

The Life and Work of Christine de Pizan, Feminist Writer of the Middle Ages

On August 15, 2017, I published the following post on Book Riot.

The Life and Work of Christine de Pizan, Feminist Writer of the Middle Ages

(British Library, Harvey MS 4431 f. 4).

Women during the Middle Ages tend to be seen as oppressed, robbed of all agency, and constantly under the guardianship of a man. Even though the lives of women during the Middle Ages were more circumvented than the lives of women living in Europe and the United States today, the idea that they lacked control is not entirely true.

Nor is it entirely true that medieval women were prevented from expressing their views in public, or that they were prevented from pursuing artistic careers because of the burdens laid upon them as mothers, wives, and daughters.

In fact, during the Middle Ages there were plenty of women who led independent lives, excelling as politicians, artists, and writers. One of these women was Christine de Pizan, a French renaissance poet who is the first woman in France known to have made her living solely from writing. Christine is also known as one of the earliest feminist writers, publishing protest poems, utopian fiction about a city inhabited only by women, and a celebration of the achievements of Joan of Arc.

If you would like to read the post in its entirety, please click here.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.