Barcelona Haggadah, Catalonia, Spain, 14th century. Mnemonic for Passover
Stunningly illustrated with people, flowers, birds and imaginary creatures, this prayer book for the festival of Passover is one of the most richly pictorial of all Jewish texts. Meant to accompany the Passover eve service and festive meal, it was also a status symbol for its owner in 14th-century Spain.
Unlike other Spanish Haggadah manuscripts, the Barcelona Haggadah lacks the characteristic cycle of full-page Biblical narratives that normally prefaces the main text. By contrast, nearly all its folios are filled with miniatures depicting Passover rituals, Biblical and Midrashic episodes, and symbolic foods.
Particularly stunning are the tooled Gothic word panels and the lush marginal foliage scrolls interwoven with human figures, birds, hybrids, grotesques and fabulous animals, as this opening shows. Occasionally, animals are portrayed performing human activities, a humorous element probably borrowed from Latin codices.
The lower panel on this page contains a mnemonic sign (memory aid) of the rituals that should be performed if Passover falls at the close of the Sabbath.