Andrea Vitali's Historical Essays on the Tarot

Playing Cards and Gambling

Genera ludorum fortunae a dyabolo inventa sum


Translation revised by Michael S. Howard, Feb. 2012


This article continues the theme of gambling that started, not chronologically, with the essay The Theatre of Brains.


To understand fully the reasons for the Church's condemnation of gambling, there is nothing more exhaustive than the treatise named De Aleatoribus, from the first centuries of the Common Era, attributed for a long time to St. Cyprian, against games of chance, “It is a strange and improper thing that those hands, which have been washed in the waters of Baptism, which have been sanctified with the presence of the body of Jesus Christ, and purified by the tears of penitence; that those hands, that we raise up to the sky in our prayers, and that we need to form the sign of the cross on our forehead, those hands, I say, return to the power of the devil, and profane themselves playing games of chance. These games are an invention of the devil, are the fertile source of swearing, false witness, of calumnies, of disputes, of enmities, of the ruin of families, of infamies, of  impunity, of sacrilege, and of idolatry…draw your hands back immediately from these dangerous games, detach your heart, remove your eyes as from a thick mist…”.


Under penalty of excommunication for lay people and removal for ecclesiastics, gambling represented a true problem for everybody, also for loan sharks, whose lucrative activity of lending money for the game was deeply condemned by the Church (1). St. Francis of Sales writes in his De Devota Vita:“The games of dice, cards and the like, in which earning depends basically on chance, are not even dangerous recreations, such as dancing, but are naturally cruel and blameworthy. That is why they are prohibited by Civil and Ecclesiastical laws. You should ask: what kind of evil is it? A great one, certainly, since the profit is not made according to reason, but according to chance, and fortune befalling not by ability and work should not deserve anything. So reason is offended….And more, those games have the name of recreation, they are made for this, but they are not recreational at all, they’re just violent occupations. Would it not be a troublesome occupation keeping the soul busy and moved by perpetual restlessness, fears and anxiety?  And which attention is more melancholic, upset and sad than that of players? Thus it is not possible to talk during the game, nor laugh, or cough, or they’ll get angry. Therefore there is no good time in gambling, but winning" (2).


One of the most fervent preachers against gambling was St. Bernardino of Siena, to whom is attributed a harsh lecture in Bologna during Lent of 1423 that had as a consequence a bonfire of numerous recreational objects given by people induced to this by the convincing words of the Saint, among which were cards composed of "reges atque reginae, milites superiores et inferiores", which is to say by court figures and the four suits: "Et ut tantum bonum melius sortiatur effectum, ex gratia ab omnibus vobis pro munere peto, mihi per nuntios fidos transmitti omnia talia instrumenta consueta, ad talem fortuitum ludum: sicut sunt tabularia, taxilli et carticellae et consimilia ita ut adunata simul cum licentia Domini Episcopi mihi concessa publice comburantur. Quod qui fecerit, participem esse volo omnium missarum, quas in toto praesenti anno dicturus sum" (3). To summarize, the Saint asked people to gather games, backgammon, cards and similar games to be burnt publically with the licence of the Bishop of Bologna.

The English historian Michael Dummett writes that the Acta Sanctorum by Bollandists (4), in which three different lives of the Saint are reported, also talk about "triumphales charticellae" (5), but that the inclusion of these last would have been made only later, namely, in the life written in 1472, because they are absent in the oldest life, dated 1445 (figure 1 - Giovanni Wenzel, Sermon ofSaint Bernardino of Siena, from "The Perfect Legendary, or Lives of the Saints”, engraving, Rome, 1841).  

During his stay in Bologna, speeches were attributed to the Saint that we find again in later and hagiographical chronicles, like the following: «The inveighing that Bernardino had made in Bologna against games, if it had comforted honest souls, it had nevertheless very much afflicted a poor painter named Valesio, who by painting cards, earned money for himself and his family. So he went to the Saint and told him about his deep trouble: if the people of Bologna stopped gambling, he and his family would die of starvation. Bernardino, after listening to this complaint, and knowing the painter as a simple soul, started comforting him and said: “You won’t paint game cards anymore, since you must not contribute to the evil of others, but rather these initials of the Holy name of Jesus and you’ll see that with such work you will not see less bread”. Valesio was satisfied with the words of the Saint and the promises he made, and started painting the monogram of Jesus with the drawing he had and found many buyers, so many that he did not regret having stopped painting cards. He earned much money, because everybody wanted small cards with the initials of the name of Jesus on it» (6). 

This is the original Latin version reported in the
Acta Sanctorum in the Vita II Antiquior of St. Bernardino written by Maffeo Vegio, where the character Bernardino addresses is no longer a cards maker, but a carpenter: “Cum in quadam civitate magna tam ferventer praedicasset, ut asseres ludentium et tesseras frangerentur, et corburerentur; indignatus ille, qui eos et eas, scilicet asseres et tesseras, facere solebat, ad Sanctum venit, conquerens quod jam pauper efficeretur. Sciscitanti vero S. Bernardine si aliud officium nesciret, respondit, Non. Ad quem Sanctus ait: Dabo tibi sanum consilium: et accipiens circinum, fecit circulum rotundum, in quo solem pinxit, et in medio solis nome Jesus descripsit: quod sicut decuit in summo honore habuit…Quia hoc nomen Jesus in tali figura solari supra se apparuit, et ideo prae magna devotione hanc figuram composuit, et querelanti dixit carpentori, ut tales figuras de cetero faceret. Qui magister sive carpentarius aut artifex hoc faciens, dives effectus est, et majorem quaestum quam prius acquisivit” (7) (figure 2 - Anonymous Tuscan sculptor, Tondo with the monogram of St. Bernardino, golden papier mâché, last quarter of the XV century. Florence, Stibbert Museum. The object represents the monogram of the name of Jesus "YHS", in a frame of flowers and fruit).


Thomaso Garzoni of Bagnacavallo in his work Il Theatro de’ Cervelli (The Theatre of Brains) (8) writes in discourse LXI of the chapter De Cervellazzi dissoluti in giochi, crapule e disonestà del mondo (About brains made dissolute in games, crapulence and dishonesty in the world): "We are not talking about pleasant & civil games:  because these are an honest amusement, & a pleasure for our minds...But we talk about forbidden games, of dice, cards, and of all  games of fate [gioci da sorte], and likewise of all the joys full of lust & lasciviousness; in which the day and the hours partake of a thousand sins. Here cupidity comes in, root of every evil, also robbery, that wants to strip one's neighbour, ruthlessly taking his shirt if possible; the deception that often goes together with theft; the swearword against God, the contempt towards the Church, the corruption of one's neighbour, the sin of anger, the insult against brothers, & the rudeness;  the inobservance of festivities, & sometimes murder. Here happen oaths, perjuries, often the iniquitous witness claimed significant, the unfair desire of other people's things"  (9) (figure 3 - Frederick De Widt, Fight among card players, etching, Flanders, XVII century; figure 4 - Anonymous, Fight among card players, tapestry, France, age of Louis XIV; figure 5 - Giuseppe Maria Mitelli, Who plays for money loses by necessity, etching, Bologna, XVII century; figure 6 - Pieter Tanjé, The cardsharp, etching from a work by Caravaggio, Flanders, XVIII century).

Once again, Garzoni writes about the player who becomes “servant of the game, or rather its slave, and he cannot detach from it in any way;  he gets lost in vanity, and knows the illness of the game, and doesn't run away from it, he is damaged by it, & turns his anger against God, prefers the beloved dice to the divine praise; not to be hateful, he will be hateful. St. Bernard said this: Pro vitando otio, otia sectari, ridiculum est. Heconsumes time more precious than gold; plays the game, while walking  nevertheless to death. Whence Job said Ducunt in bonis dies suos, & in puncto to inferna descendunt. He’s not a child, but shows himself to be one on all occasions, dedicating himself to vain and childish things. Oh foolishness, oh great stupidity of gamers".

Clearly the work of dissuasion of the Church was getting its fruits, so much that the herald of the Signoria of Florence, a certain Batista or Giovan Batista dell’Ottonajo, composer of carnival songs, wrote a song of the players (Canto de’ Giuocatori) (10) that is presented as a true and proper warning against gaming, a denunciation that shows all the deficiencies which a gamer could incur in following this vice: against himself, against friends, family and finally against God. In fact the game of tarot was much too pleasant to be put aside and the allusion by Ottonajo pointing out that it was practiced even by members of religious orders: “Di questa pece è ciaschedun macchiato / D’ogni qualità, stato, e condizione; / Giuocano i marruffin co i lor cassieri, / E ogni degno Prelato / Del giuoco oggidì fa professione; / Vescovi, e Cavalieri / Seguon tal gonfalone; / E giuoca il Secolare, il Prete, e ’l Frate; / E ’nfino co’ suoi Monaci l’Abate” (Of this tar is stained everyone, / Of every grade, status, and condition; / Apprentices game with their cashiers, / And every worthy prelate / Of gaming nowadays makes his profession./ Bishops and knights / Follow the same banner. / So also the Secular, the Priest, and the Friar game / and as well the Abbot with his Monks), finds confirmation in the Answer of Vincento Imperiali to the famous Invective against the Game of Tarot by Flavio Alberto Lollio of Ferrara, where in rhyme he turns to his friend, indignant about having lost "three pairs of scudos", exhorting him instead to sing its praises and to appreciate the dignity of his gaming companions, the "Podesta [Mayor] and Cardinal Giulio" (11).

In Del Gioco (About Games), one of the many themes considered in his  Trattatelli di Vario Argomento (Treatises about Various Subjects, ca.1570), Sperone Speroni (Padua, 1500-1588), Italian writer and philosopher of the XVI century, confirms the continual condemnation of cards and the tarots: “The game of cards, whoever was the first to practice it,  was diabolic invention, not only for what the Christians justifiably say, but for what the verses write of it, and mainly Virgil, saying Tribus furiis est addita quarta.  In Latin they are called aleae, or ab alienando, since they alienate the things, the time and the brain, or ab alendo, which means to feed, since they continually give us an incessant desire to play, and a diabolic temptation in human souls. These cards in all nations are divided into four groups; for the Italians there are swords, batons, cups and coins; and for the French there are hearts, spades, diamonds, and clubs. Sometimes to these cards are added some others called tarots: whence the first definition of the cards is with tarots, or without tarots. The ones without tarots are played now with the whole or just with a part: those removed from the deck are in the game of trappola the three, the four, the five, and six. Or in the game of primero the two, the three, the four. And likewise in other games, one from the other, according to the different places extracted; then in many others no card is extracted; in some games they all enter into the game, in some, two, three, and more cards for one; in some games there are only two players, in others many players; in some it is possible to increase; in others there remains the first bet; in some games the players play for high stakes, in others for less; in some games the figures prevail, in others they are placed last. The games are rather few, or rather many, and although some of these games are less damnable, nonetheless they are all bad; in them there is the loss of goods and what is most important, time is lost, than which there is nothing more precious; neither should it be consumed in this gossip, but in situations concerning our being and our good human being" (12).

For its ingenious character, the game of triumphs was expressively omitted in the decrees against gambling issued during the XV century (13). Until tarots were used in courts, therefore by men of culture, their philosophical meanings were learnt and passed on, but when the game became a prerogative of common people it was considered just a recreational thing, and people forgot its mystical value. It was nearly the year 1500.

Really, if in origin the aim was that of approaching humanity to the knowledge of God through the concept “Ludendo intelligo” (I learn by playing), after a few time following their creation, tarots were labelled as “Opus Diaboli” by the Church itself that exiled them as gambling. An anonymous monk of the beginning of the XVI century in his work Sermo perutilis de ludo (Very useful Sermon about game) kept going at triumphs that he considered, together with cards and dices, a gambling game invented by the devil, according to the motto of St. Thomas (Genera ludorum fortunae. Que omnia secundum Thom. & c. et multos  alios a dyabolo inventa sunt). He justified his affirmation by declaring that the inventor of this game, the Devil, to drag men to vice, had deliberately used solemn figures such as the Pope, the Emperor, the Christian virtues and even God (14):

«At the time of the primitive Church in all the cities were built Bishoprics, parish Churches, Chapels and were ordained the bishop, the priests, the chaplains and the sacristans who guarded the relics of the saints, the altars, the chalices and the hosts. And all the believers went in crowds to church, especially on Christmas day. So great was the praise to God with songs, organs etc, that the whole world and the whole sky were full of these praises. And therefore the devils ran away to hell. The great Lucifer asked them why they had fled. Then a devil named Azaro got up to speak and methodically explained the reason for their flight. "But if you will pay me attention, all that they have done I will turn into offense to God and love for you". "And what you will do?” said Lucifer. "I will set up," he said, "in the cities, in the castles and in the villages a bishopric, that is, a gambling house and as bishop the keeper of a gambling house. And on Christmas Eve they will come more to our church than to that of God. Our parish churches will be the inns. The priests will be the innkeepers, and our chapels will be the shops, and the chaplains will be the storekeepers. And our sacristies will be the  butcher shops where our relics, i.e. the dice, will be the bones of our holy beasts. And the cards will be the icons. The altar will be the bank. The table will be our consecrated mass. The wine glass will be our chalice. The gold ducat will be the host. Our missal will be the dice: the pages of this missal will be the cards and the triumphs».

Despite these affirmations, the thought of some authors maintained that games that depended partly on fortune and partly on industry, as for example “the game of  Minchiate, of Tre Sette, of Piquet and others similar” (15) could not be condemned, at least among laypeople. The Church accepted such observations provided at least three conditions were observed :

- The first one was that not much time can be employed because, as St. Thomas expressed:  “Games are founded to refresh the spirit and the body from work and serious applications; and each one has to arise as much as necessary to preserve his own individual being, so that since it is possible to sin from excess in eating, drinking, and sleeping, so it is possible to be a sinner in the excess of the time spent in games  even if permissible” (16).

- The second condition was that of not using too much money, since “if in the game there can be some considerable loss,  as much to the faculty as to the players, it is no no longer a diversion but is a kind of traffic and shameful commerce that is not without sin” (17).

- The third condition concerned the company of the people with whom a person played. The mixing of the sexes was forbidden since “the familiarities usually used among people of different sexes in the game expose even the wiser people to peril ...It is necessary to be very blind and ignorant not to know what the weakness of human nature is, to defend that bad custom as permissible and innocent” (18).

On the other hand, card games were categorically forbidden for the cleric, as expressed in 1526 by the Council of Trent, by the 1567 Benevento Provincial Council (Nec talis, tesseris, pagellis pictis, & omnino alea, nec ullo praeterea vetito, aut indecoro,  ludi genere ludunt, neve eius spectatores sint), by the Synod of Nola  in 1588 (A taxillorum, tesserarum, pictarumque pagellarum luso publice, & privatim ita abstineant, ut illorum non modo factores, sed nec spectatores sint), by the Synod of Sabina called by Cardinal Tolomeo of Como who imposed on the offenders a penalty of 10 gold scudi (Lusus cartarum aut taxillorum non exerceant, nec ludentibus locum praebeant, & hoc sub paena decem aureorum pro qualibet vice) and by all the following ones. The orders emanated on the occasion of the Salisbury Provincial Council (1568), expressively approved by Gregory XIII, affirmed this: “Ne clerici in majoribus ordinibus costituti ad aleas, taxillos, & chartas, nequiam etiam in privato lucri gratia in pecunias ludunt: cui nostro statuto quispiam contrrafecerit juxta canones puniatur” (19).

This not only concerned games of fortune but whatever game was done with cards: “Now what  would St. Pier Damiani say, if he saw so many of our clerics amusing themselves almost every evening with cards, in company with laypeople and sometimes even with women? Is it perhaps a small disorder to see playing cards in the hands of ecclesiastics, instead of the sacred pages of the Divine Scriptures, and those hands that in the morning belong to the altar of Jesus Christ’s Body, being profaned in the evening  with secular games?” (20).

It is sure that many ecclesiastics didn't judge neither illicit or a drawback to play cards, from which the various calls continually promoted by Councils, Synods and Constitutions of the various Orders. Peter Martyr, who compiled the Constitutions of various Dominican orders , added to the prohibition of the game of dice (punishment the jail) (21) also that of cards (Qui ad chartas, & taxillos ludunt) while the constitutions of the Hermits Order of St. Augustine, printed in Reims in 1585, prohibited every form of card game and dice both among ecclesiastics and between them and laypeople, even if done without interest in money, condemning the transgressors of serious crimes to punishment that consisted in eating on the floor in the refectory for a determined time, receiving in public a disciplinary punishment for three days a week, not being able talk to anybody and further being considered the last of the community (22) (figure 7- Anonymous, Pleasure-loving monks, lithography and coloured piece of chalk, XIX century). 

Games that depend on fortune were always prohibited by the Church, starting from the Apostolic Canons, of which number 41 declared: "Episcopus, aut Presbyter, aut Diaconus aleae, aut ebrietati deserviens abstineat, aut certe damnetur. Subdiaconus, aut Lector, aut Cantor similia faciens, aut definat, aut communione privetur. Similiter etiam Laici ", which is to say that the bishops, priests and deacons who dedicated themselves to games of fortune or that let themselves go in drunkenness had to amend or be condemned, while the subdeacons, readers and choristers were deprived of communion. The same punishment for the seculars. And the preachers had a lot to do enforcing these prohibitions. Among many, we mention the Franciscan Giocomo da Monte Brandone who gave a series of sermons in the towns of the Marches  [a region of Italy[, as in Osimo (city of the Marches), for exampl. We are infomred of this event by Louis Martorelli  in his Historical Memoirs of the ancient and noble city of Osimo, year 1428; thus he writes, reporting an old chronicle: "The Council of Osimo, inclined toward works of devotion, and desirous of the good of its people, being aware that Brother Giocomo da Monte Brandone, Franciscan of the Minor Order, called Marked, having preached in the city of Cingoli, made known to him their desire to hear him preach for the good of their city: for which he willingly condescended to the demands of the Council. He came and preached in Osimo many days with great success,, because he managed to ban games of chance, in which blasphemies were barbarously uttered against God and his saints: thus is a summary of the Old Statutes on the back of p. 159, of my ownership, in its original form" (23) .

In the following we list some Councils and Synods, besides those quoted above,  which expressed condemnation of the games considered gambling by the Church: Yerebatan Council of the year 303; Roman Synod, under Eugene II, celebrated in 853; the Quinisextium Council that developed in Constantinople in 692;  General Lateran Council, under Pope Innocent III, in the year 1215; First Provincial Council in Milan, celebrated by St. Charles in 1575; Synod of Osimo promoted in 1593 by Cardinal Antonio Maria Galli; 1596 Aquileia Provincial Council. In subsequent periods we have to remember the ban of Clement XI (1718) that forbade every game of fortune, like bassett, pharaoh, primero and all the other games done with cards, biribisso, torretta, dice and every similar game, under punishment of jail and a fine of 100 scudi, also prohibiting besides the permitted games to minors of twenty years. The same prohibition was renewed by the Edict of Innocent XIII in 1723, by Benedict XIII the following year, by Clement XII in 1732, by Benedict XIV in 1754 and by his successor Clement VIII (24).

Apart from the penitence to be made following confession, it became essential for every good secular that money won in the card game  devolve to the poor or to the Church itself,  purifying in this way the soul from the error committed by the body. You can read about this, in the Documenta that follow, an interesting text on the procedure of confession that took place facing card players, in which are also highlighted the particular types of fraud operated by the same people around the game table.

Besides the Church, also the secular arm set forth ordinances to limit gambling, and this already in Roman epoch:  the jurisconsult Ulpian attests that the Magistrate didn’t allow that those people who had won in games of fortune and even more those who did cheat during the game, or were partners with others who did cheat, were justified in receiving unpaid gains: “Si quis eum, apud quem alea lusum esse diceretur, verberaverit, damnunve  ei dederit, sine quid eo tempore dolo eius substractum est, judicium non dabo” (25). 

The emperor Justinian even imposed that the descendants of those people who had lost games of fortune and had paid, could ask the sum back from the heirs of the winner, even after thirty years: “Victum in alea lusu non posse conveniri, et si solverit habere repetitionem, tam ipsam, quam erede eius ad versus victorem, et haeredes eius, ipse perpettuo, et etiam post triginta annos” (26). In a following law the same Emperor prohibited any game of fortune, ordering to the Governors and Presidents of the Provinces to prevent swearwords and every crime that regularly accompanied such games: “Non licite ludere ulla quavis alae specie” (27). In addition, Justinian and his successor Leo also took measures against religious men who  had been caught gambling.

In the Middle Ages this subject was mainly treated in the Statutes that regulated the life of the cities (sees in Documenta a Statute of Pistoia). In the manuscript treatise, in the leonine verses of the first half of the XIII century, De regimine et sapientia potestatis by Orfino of Lodi, we have a work that proposes to give in a few lines the image of a podestà [Mayor] who is shrewd and honest in the exercise of his magistracy (28), both in his actions and in his private life, even describing his house and his domestic habits, the apparatus of his table, of his courting and dress. In it a passage entitled “De Ludi” (reported in the Documenta) deals with various games, discussing their merits and defects. In the document there are even some verses about Fortune similar to those of the famous Carmina Burana "Oh Fortune" (O Fortuna velut luna, semper crescit et decrescit), a warning to the principal ruler not to take advantage of his political position to satisfy his own desires for glory, but to act solely for the benefit of the citizens:

De Fortuna
Hic dea fortune variatur ymagine lune,
Hec rota solatur multos, ferit illa, vagatur,
Axe premit, scandit, gloria magna cadit.




On the condemnation of gambling, here are the Statutes of the Government of Pistoia (1371), those of Saluzzo (1480), of San Marino (1600), and of some other cities, a comment from a Jesuit of the XVII century, a chronicle regarding St. Pier Damiani and the instructions that the ecclesiastics had received about how to behave toward card players on the occasion of confessions. Concerning the famous sermon by St. Bernardino in Bologna (29), we attach the chronicle of the event based upon an account of Cardinal Niccolò degli Albergati - the one who asked to the Saint to preach in the city - as reported by a theologian of the end of the XIX century.

Storia di San Bernardino da Siena e del suo tempo
History of St. Bernardino of Siena and of his time
by the Theol. Prof. Felice Alessio
Mondovì, 1899

Chapter XVII - Years 1423 - 1424

After having preached the advent [in Ferrara] he went to Bologna, at that time subjected to the holy See, where he came in the first days of January 1423. In this city another great saint was waiting anxiously for Bernardino, the blessed Niccolò degli Albergati, bishop and then cardinal with the title of holy Cross in Jerusalem. The latter, writes Vespasian (1), was of holy life and customs; he always wore the habit of Certosa (the Order he belonged to), with a cloak, just as the monks wear, to the floor; he always slept on a big sack, like the monks, dressed;  and never ate meat at any time, whether health or ill. Elected cardinal, he added the Pastoral (2), yet for humility tolerated no weapon, not even a simple dagger. He wore the cilice and rose up at midnight to pray. No more famous and sure example can be given to show how holiness of character and severe honesty of habits can pair with subtle adroitness in difficulties and serious handling of worldly politics; since Albergati was one of the most hard-working and illustrious diplomats in the Holy See in the XV century (3).

The holy bishop welcomed Bernardino with that sweet charity that only the saints know how to use. He immediately treated him as a dear friend of his, as a person known for a long time, and made him the thoughtful invitation to preach in Bologna in the next Lent, trusting him to eradicate from this city the vices that he had been able to eradicate from others. Albizzeschi accepted the invitation, as much to reciprocate the cordiality of the saint prelate, as to to praise God's glory. And since he had to go for some matters to Florence, soon he left to be able to come back in time for Lent. When he was back, before he climbed to the pulpit, Albergati invited him to insist above all that the ruinous games stop that were held in numerous gambling houses in the city, which were one of its sores because of the money wasted, the time lost, the swearwords said. He added that in vain he had already prayed and threatened the citizens with punishments; he had not attained anything.

Bernardino was taken to preach in San Petronius, where, it being already a vast church, all the listeners were not able to understand; so he left and started preaching on the steps. After various matters, he came to touch on gambling, and he castigated against it with his usual, fire, with such strong reasoning that the citizens, realizing the evil with which they operated, in countersigning the emendations made for hunger, brought him an endless number of cards, dice, chess sets, boards, etc. The Saint ordained that on the day of the octave of Easter, which in that year was on April 23rd, be made on the public square a heap of those incentives to vice; and on May 5th  they would be set on fire, exhorting again everybody to bring him every kind of game implements, and promising to those who brought them to dedicate part of the benefits from all the Masses that he would celebrate that year (4). As St. Bernardino had ordained, so was it done, to the endless joy of the good people, who well understood that the fire would light again in the fathers for the care of the family, their affection for their wives and children, and in all the men, the love of virtue and work:  no longer throwing away money and a less uncomfortable life; goods that gambling had nearly banished from Bologna.

The fires of objects fomenting or  favouring vice,  such as immodest dress. paintings, sculptures, and obscene books in use in the middle ages, were and will still be judged immoderate, rather madness, for this is how usually we judge things, and the men of that time with the ideas of the time in which we live. But if we start  to notice that those things that stung St. Bernardine and his companions for making these fire beds, as they were called, are the same that, while crying over the destruction of an obscene painting or a lascivious work, destroyed or applauded the destruction of archives, rich with rare information about the convents, dispersed the precious libraries of the monks; spoiled paintings of value, only because of religious matters; ruined convents, knocked down statues in hatred of the monks, just because precious treasures belonged to them.

Besides, as Villari observes about the fires of the vanities that were ordered by Savonarola, if the scholar can complain about the loss of some volume, if the philosopher deplores the human weakness that often fights errors with other errors, and to a fanaticism it opposes another one; history has to remember that this has always been men’s character animated by a strong and excessive zeal of religion. What, in fact, didn’t the Iconoclasts in the East or the primitives Christian in Rome destroy?Nor can we adduce against Savonarola the advanced civilization of the times; since, in the century that followed, no church and no picture withstood the fury in Germany and in Holland, otherwise indeed destroying the destroyers of the images. John Calvin, a contemporary of Leo X and Francis I, with talent doubtless cultured and of an iron mind, made himself leader of a republic, without the merit of founding it,and called himself the town crier of liberty and tolerance, yet he not only severely punished those who cursed and those who worked on Sundays, but even imprisoned women for hairstyles that showed little modesty. Wasn’t he who, in the year 1553, burned in Geneva the innocent and unhappy Serveto? In fact Burckhardt, as a Lutheran speaking of these disasters, castigates the monks just like those inexpert in historical disciplines. The most immediate consequences, he writes, that emerged, after having preached against usury, the anticipated buys and scandalous fashions, are the opening of the jails, from which really come out only the unlucky persons who were imprisoned for debts, and the destruction by fire of a quantity of luxury objects or also of simple pastimes, as for example, dice, card games, trifles of every kind, masks, implements, and music books, magic formulas, fake coiffures, etc. All of this to be sure came elegantly prepared above a stage called the marriage bed, with above it a figure of the devil, and then the fire was set (5). The purifying flame reduces all these things into a heap of ash (6).

And if among the books sought and then burnt by Bernardino there is the Hermaphrodite (L’Ermafrodito)by A. Beccadelli, called the Panormita, who can reproach him? Could a honest man, a saint, leave in the hands of Italians a book, that, in the opinion of all the judicious, was the filthiest obscenity that could be conceived? A book full of disgusting cynicism: a mix of some of the most shameless turpitudes, in which the most ignoble vices of pagan antiquity, vices that a Christian cannot pronounce, were seen openly exalted? It seems to me that, instead of blame, Albizzeschi deserves much encomium for the incessant war waged against this and other similar dirt, made to degrade humanity, not to civilize and dignify it.

Quite a lot of memories at present remain in Bologna of the preaching done here by the Saint of Siena. In St. Petronius are preserved the pulpit on which he preached and a precious shrine in the form of small pyramidal temple, in engraved leather and gilded, rich and finally done  work, which contains a letter of the Saint, and on its base it has the date XX June 1506. A chapel was erected in the area of the cell in which he lived, before St. Petronius was widened. There is even preserved one of the tablets of the Name of Jesus that Bernardino was accustomed to keep hanging on his bed. In the end the Confraternity of good Jesus, was founded for him, now destroyed. (Pages 199 - 202)

(as written by the author):

(1) Life of N. Albergati - n. I.
(2) Op. cit., - I, 200.
(3) N. Marini, L’azione diplomatica della S. Sede e il B. Niccolò Albergati (The diplomatic action of the Holy See and Blessed Niccolò Albergati) - Siene, 1887 - passim.
(4) Et ut tantum bonum melius sortiatur effectum, ex gratia ab omnibus vobis pro munere peto, mihi per nutios fidos transmitti omnia talia instrumenta consueta, ad talem fortuitum ludum: sicut sunt tabularia, taxilli et carticellae et consimilia ita ut adunata simul cum licentia Domini Episcopi mihi concessa publice comburantur. Quod qui fecerit, participem esse volo omnium missarum, quas in toto praesenti anno dicturus sum. (De Christ. Relig. Sermon XLIII, in Dom. Pass.; art. HI, Chap. III).
(5) Storia di G. Savonarola (History of G. Savonarola) - Florence, 1882 - vol. 2°, book. III, Chap. VI.
(6) Op. cit., II, 267.


De Regimine et Sapientia Potestatis  

by Orfino of Lodi 
ms. XIII century (ca.1260) 

De Ludis

Undique taupinum reddit venus, alea, vinum, (*) 
Alea vitetur quia sic de iure iubetur; 
Sepe malus ludus producit verbera, vulnus, 
Ludus scacorum variat cito corda duorum ; 
Qui nimium ludit, a se cito gaudia trudit. 
Noxius est ludus gladiorum, vanus abusus 
Torniat hic tiro, iocus asta sit ordine diro. 
Luditur in dampno pavidus gladiante tiranno, 
Non erit absurdum nocuum depellere ludum, 
Undique dampnosos pellat ab arce iocos. 
Allea, baccus, amor merretricum ledit amicum, 
Hec ferit ut cecha, dat et aufert sed sine meta; 
Hic numerus cautus par dispar multiplicatus 
Abbacus et cifra germinant cito tossica trita. 
Alea blanda placet, spoliat, iuvat et aurit et auget, 
Una manus vulnus revocat, dat munere munus, 
Et cadit inferior, qui fuit ante prior. 
Hec vacuat cellas, male dotat in urbe puellas, 
Terra fit inculta, viduatur femina nupta. 
Inde cadunt furta, geminantur prelia multa 
Femina captiva paciuntur ficus oliva.
Guerra fit activa populi per bella nociva. 
Sit tabulis ludus modice vel schacus abusus, 
Stet iocus amentis divisus ab ede potentis. 
Prospera confundit, fatuus cito noxia fundit 
Ad bravium cursus equitum………………

(*Added verses

Sepe malus ludus producit gaudia, fructus,
Sepe bonus ludus generat cito tristia, luctus;
Est tamen arcendus cito pravus ab arte movendus.
Sunt comites ludi penuria, iurgia nudi
Fraus, dolus et furta matres substantia curta;
Est pileus ludus de vertice tollere surdus,
Ne capitis macule sint sibi propatule.


From Agostinho Barbosa, Pastoralis Solicitudinis: Sive de Officio Et Potestate Parochi Tripartita Descriptio, Rome, 1621.Agostinho Barbosa (1589-1649), was a prolific Portuguese writer on canon low. 

Pars I - Cap. VI

De officio, & potestate Parochi

Ludus tamen, qui constitit in ingenio, aut virtute corporis, illis est permissus, si secretò, & in suis aedibus ludant, ut per Par. de Puteo in lud, num. 12.Costa eod. tract. n. 15. art. 2. Farin d.q.109. num. 103 & 106.Ugolin d. cap. 13. §. 25 & 26. Bellet d. §. 14, num. 8 & 9. ubi num 15. intellegit, modò non ludant in publico: dummodò etiam admixtos laïcosnon habeant, glossa in verb. Eiusdem, in cap. continetur, de homicid. ubi Host. num. I. &. Abb. num. 3. Costa d. tract. num. 14. in fin. Bellet, dist. tit. de discipl. Cleric. §. 24. num. 17. Farin. dist. p. 3. q. 19. num. 100. Garc. in sum tract. I. diffic. 2. dub. 2. a num. 6.

Unde scacchorum, sive latruncolurom ludum, non esse Clericis prohibitum resolvunt Abb. num. 14. vers. & hoc intellecto, & n. 12. Joan. Andr. n. 13. Butr. vers. ludus enim, in d. cap. pen. de vita & honest. Cler. Costa d. tract. n. 25. in fin. vers. quod autem ludus, & num. 17. ante fin. art. 2. Viv. tom. I. commun. opin. lib.3. tit. 29. n. 3. in princ. pag. 430. Farin. d. q. 109. n. 114. Ugolin. d. §. 25. in princ. Paul. Comitol. d. lib. I. q. 91. Bellet. d. §. 24. n. 7 ubi n. 10. intelligit modò ludatur causâ recreationis, & non causâ voluptatis, aut avaritiae, vel cupiditatis: & n. 15. etiam dummodo non distrahatur à Divinis, propter longum tempus quod in tali ludu conteritur. † Et quamvis huiusmodi ludus ingenio constet, ac proinde permissus censeatur, non multùm tamen literatis hominibus convenire harbitrantur, quòd mentem jam literarum studiis faticata recreare magis cessatione & quiete, quàm novo meditationis labore gravare oporteat, un benè advertit Joan. Bapt. Finus de regul. jur. homil. 22. in fine.

Trattato de' Giochi e de' Divertimenti permessi, o proibiti ai Cristiani
Essay on Games and Diversions permitted or forbidden to Christians
by Michel’Angelo Barbiellini
Rome, 1768

Chapter XVI - About the games that depend on fortune and on industry as well. Conditions and necessary circumstances to be observed so that these games are permissible. All card games are forbidden to Clerigy and members of religious orders.

The Supreme Pontiff Benedict XIV, in Notification 37, promulgated when he was Archbishop of Bologna, reports the deeds of S. Pier Damiani, who also lived in a century not too happy for the Church, from which was  extracted the nature of the discipline of that time about the subject of which we treat. The Saint travelled with the Bishop of Florence, who some believe was Pietro Mezzabarba and others Gerardo who, when made Pope, assumed the name of Niccolò II. Coming to a certain place, the Saint retired to the house of a priest, and the Bishop in spatiosa domo cum commeantium turba resedit. Damiani knew that the Bishop in the evening had played chess, so he corrected him: Recte ne, in­quam, tuique eratofficii vespere inscacchorum vanitate colludere, & manum Dominici Corporis oblatricem, linguam inter Deum & populum me­diatricem, sacrilegi ludibrii contaminatione saedare? And without wanting to allow the excuse of the Bishop, who said that chess was different from cards, imposed on him the following penance: Ut ter psalterium meditando percurreret, ac  duodecim pauperum pedes sub totidem numismatum, erogazione, eorumque recreatione, lavaret, and the penance was punctually performed by the Bishop (pages 259-260).


Interrogationi de' Mercanti

Questions of Merchants


The Observant Franciscan Beato Pacifico, from Novara (or from Cerano in the village located in this Province, approx. 1424-1482), wrote in 1475 the treatise Sum Pacifica, which expounds to clerics, among the most diverse topics, ways of confessing. Among these, a paragraph is devoted to confessions of merchants who practiced usury, not to be absolved if they did not stop practicing that sin. A fault that could be considered mortal was bargaining sinful objects, such as dice, cards and triumphs. This document is of great interest because in addition to the Ban promulgated in Assisi from 1470 (30), it appears as the second testimony of the condemnation of Triumphs by religious authorities in the XVth century.


Our edition of reference was printed in Venice for "Dominico & Gio. Battista Guerra, brothers" in 1574, but the title page bears the wording that that work had been “compoaed already for more than a hundred years" [“composta già più di cent’anni”].


The passage of interest is found under the topic "Interrogationi de 'Mercanti" in Chapter XVII, entitled Of the singular question which the confessor ought to make to Merchants, & their Procurers [Mezani], or Agents [Sensali], & companies [compagnie], & associations [socide].


"If he has so exercised in commerce that which in its nature is unlawful and bad, being made with usurious contracts, or repeatedly used with mortal sin (as in commerce of dice, cards, triumphs, frappe [lace, embroidery], fucchi [materials to produce artificial complexions], or cosmetics for painting the face, or other similar vanities, & pomp), and it does not appear that he can excuse himself from mortal sin, making, keeping, selling, or any such thing so alienating: & all those who for such reasons do such sins shall be as co-defendants, therefore these people should not be absolved, if they do not leave such commerce (p. 230).

Istruzione per i novelli Confessori
, nella quale si sminuzza tutta la Pratica del Sagramento della Penitenza
Education for new Confessors, in which is mixed the whole Practice of the Sacrament of the Penitence
Work of a Cleric who practices in the Missions

Second Part. In which the Doctrines are summarized and the Cases that can happen with every sort of person, and the different Apostolic Bulls regarding them are said.

Chapter XII - IV Paragraph:  About a Gambler

Here we talk entirely about a gamber of fortune, and about those games that the Canons and the laws in Latin call Alea, because the others are innocent, if they are not spoiled by the circumstances: thus commonly every game, si tempore, & homine dignus sit, as S. Thomas notices, 2. 2 quest. 168 art. 2, has the name and merit of virtue. Nor are games of fortune by nature vicious, except that evil is attracted more easily to them than to other games, of industry or of fortitude, and all have generally been forbidden to all Ecclesiastics, and Lay members of orders as well, in the Cap. Episcopus, dist. 35. and only for the Lay tot. tit. ff. & Cod. de’ alea usu, & aleat. The Gambler can be guilty of deadly sin for the game itself, in so far as it is forbidden, or not practiced justly, regarding which, as contracted, he remains subordinate to, and further, must be distinguished from, his Confessor.

The additions are, if on the occasion of the game swearwords are uttered against God or the Saints: if perjuries are committed: if someone near is seriously abused in deed or word: if goods are squandered with notable damage of the Family, to whom necessities for this cause are not provided, and discords and dissensions are brought into it, which vices for the most part due to the game deemed of fortune, that is cards and dice, and they bring on other things, that is, brawls, blows, revenge-taking, deaths, thefts, and sometimes abominable superstitions; and often, in order to attend to the game, Masses and Feasts, are skipped, & also the satisfaction of the person's serious other obligations, or personal state and office; and although sometimes we start to play as an honest pastime, nevertheless being a seductive thing in which it is not easy to observe the limit of virtue, sub quadam curialitatis imagine ad dissolutionis materiam devenitur. Cap. interdilectos, de excess. Prael. As  St. Cyprian justly declaims and deplores Tract. De Aleatoribus, and St. Basil in thathom. 6. in exam., and other ancient and modern writers, who say that being similar, games are the seeds of almost all the sins, especially in the young, which easily introduces the mutual communication of vices of every kind, so that the quoted Canon Inter dilectos calls these games a plague and St. Antonine part. 2.  tit.1. cap.23,  affirms that from them derive as many evils as there are points marked on dice.

Therefore the Confessor, when the player dos not explain about such things and believes to be in some part guilty, since all who play for habit, or as the Canon says deserviunt aleae, are, has to interrogate him discreetly, and if he finds, that for occasion of the game he falls in other serious sins, he has to rule with the doctrines, that are given in the next occasion, denying, or differing the absolution, according to the cases, and insisting firmly, that the root of the evil is truncated, warning, that this is for the more part always a voluntary occasion, that cannot be dissimulated, neither can be healed,  if not with the cut, which will be difficult with the one who holds hand, or it gave comfortable to play in his own house, as often make the innkeepers and landlords, being a doctrine a great deal received, that neither the Prince is also able from license to open house for similar games, that rare times are practiced without many serious sins. Diana Coord. Tom. 6. Tr. 4. Ref. 1., Besides this if this would be made with the children of family, minors, and other people, who have not the free disposition of their stuff, he sins for other title.

In the game, considered in itself in that it is forbidden, or not exercised in accordance with its rules of right contract, beyond sin, yet so often one is compelled to get restitution, as when we mark with care cards with special characteristics, to know them, while playing, from a Colluder or intelligence held by a bystander, who warns, or maliciously takes a place at the table of the game, so he can see, or to accuse falsely of points that are more then are had, with the deception of the Colluder, who too easily lets the cards be placed back in the deck without seeing them, or uses other frauds of this kind, which are unusual and are opposed to the just laws of the game, although the usual frauds are permissible, such as acting as though you have bad cards, when you have the best, so that the companion bets "a bigger part", as it is said, and others like it, which are better called the arts and cautions of gambling, of which, as Diana opportunely noted l. c. ref. 50, it is better to ask the players than someone else.

This author is seen throughout the quoted Trattato 4, which examines at length the difficulties in this matter and resolves that the professed members of religious orders can neither lose nor gain in the game, if not for that sum that their superiors allow them to handle, for which permission is not assumed to be given them for forbidden games, or for large sums; and ibi ref. 13, notes also more other things about Minors, and Children of the family, about which, the latter two, he notes that confessors have ample authority to disoblige them to pay, when they lose, and not to oblige those who have played with them, to refund if they have won, according to different doctrines governing this point; and  rif. 7. determines that Canon and Ciivil Laws, which forbid card games and dice to the Laity, have already ceased, and the precise vicious circumstances: they do not sin while playing. and much less are they required to refund any of what they won in a prohibited game, provided the rest is just and legitimate, at least in the court of conscience, before being condemned by the Judge, while all these things do not apply to members of religious orders, as stated in risol. 12, nor to Ecclesiastics (pages 207- 212).


Evangelici Concionatoris, et Novi Hominis Institutionis Ex Doctrina Verbi

by Francisco Garcia del Valle of The Company of Jesus
Lugduni, 1622 

Tomus Secundus, Discursus CXXVI: Tentamenta Daemonis

Quò vadis? proculdubio collusurus  cum amicis; ego? Absit;  iuratus enim sum chartis pictis numquam lusurum; ut plurimum videndo collusores gaudeo,  eamus contueri solùm. Hoc caput serpentis est; nam qui tantùm promiserat spectaturum, ecce iam delinitur à fortunae ludo, accumbit, ludit, iurat, periurat, perdit, blasphemat, irascitur, movet rixas, & iurgia, gladium distringit, & simul familiam, numos, vitam, animamque perdit.


Giovanni Domenico Rinaldi (Ioannis Dominici Raynaldi), Observationes Criminales, Civiles, et Mixtae (Criminal, Civil, and Mixed Observations), Libro Terzo, Roma, Ex Officina Haeredum Corbelletti, 1691. p. 130.


Capitolo XXX – Rubrica 'Dell’Uso prohibito del Giuoco'  (Rubric ‘On the Prohibited uses of Games’)


Se le porte sono chiuse, ci sarà la convinzione che si giochi a giochi proibiti (If the doors are closed, there will be the belief that prohibited games are being played).


Note, quod licet prohibitio ludendo debeat intelligi de ludo prohibito, ut est is, in quo fortunae tantum iudicium operatur, ut ex Bursatt. Farin. & Paschal. Dicit Muta loc. citat. n. 34. & sic videatur exceptus ludus schaccorum, & ut dicitur à tarocchini,  in quorum quolibet, ut dicit Muta num. 36, magnam partem habet ludentis ingenium; Nihilominus quando ludentes ad ludum tarochorum stant cum ianuis clausis praesumptio stat contra eos; quod ludant ad ludum prohibitum, nam etiam cum illis aleis malitia hominum adinvenit modum ludendi, ut dicitur à primiera, tagliata, ac alijs ludis prohibitis.


Statuta, seu Leges Pistoriensium, 1371
Specimen Statutorum Civitatis Auximatis
Ex Libro III 

De pœna Ludentium ad ludum Azardi
, sive Taxillorum, vel alias prohibitum, R. 52.

Ad ludum Azardi, vel Taxillorum, vel ad ludum tabularum, sive alearum, vel ad ludum pistarum, sive lapidum, vel cimorum laqueat....vel pilorum , vel virghentarum, vel ad alium ludum, in quo denarii, vel res aliae perderentur, vel vincerentur praeter infrascriptos casus exceptuatos ludens faciens, sive jocans in centum fol. den. pro quolibet, & vice quali ber puniatur. Tenens autem, aut receptans, aut patiens ludi, vel ludum fieri, aut lusores ad ludendum ad aliquem de praedictis ludis in domo rehabitatione, vel Possessione propria, vel conducta qualibet vice in duplum praedictae quantitatis, & paenae puniatur nisi talis in Cive loco aliquo praedictorum committerentur notificaverit nostro Potestati, vel ejus officialibus statim, &....sit expeditus, quo casu non teneatur ad paenam. Praestans vero ad aliquem ludum de praedictis aliquem denarium, vel monetam, aut pecuniam aliquam, vel aliquod pignus puniatur pro quolibet, & qualibet vice in XX. fol. den., & quod praestaverit, perdat omnino, nec super hiis audiatur in jure Tabulerium lumen taxillos, vel aliquod fimile ad aliquid praedictorum mutuans comodans, vel etiam dans per se, vel alium in XX. fol. den. pro quolibet, & vice qualibet puniatur. Excipimus a praedictis pœnis omnes, & singulas personas , quae praedicta ì, vel aliquid praedictorum commiserit in vigilia Nativitatis D. N. Jesu Christi cum tribus diebus sequentibus, in quibus Potestas, seu Vicarius possit, & valeat concederé licentiam generalem ludendi, & praedicta faciendi. Item excipimus omnino ludum scaccorum, qui ex ingenio, & non ex fortuna dependet; Item ludum tabularum de totis tabulis similiter excipimus, in quibus licite ludi praestari, & receptari possit nulla praedictarum pœnarum obstante, praeterque in taberna, vel in aliquo ubi vinum venderetur, in quo sine aliqua exceptione ex praedictis omnia, & singula, & quodlibet praedictorum fieri, vel committi prohibemus expresse sub pœnis praedictis volumus, & quod de praedictis, & quidlibet praedictorum, quibus possi: accusare, denuntiare, & referre, & si voluerit, teneatur ejus nomen secretum, & si luxerit, vel aliquid comiserit ad ipsum ludum notificatum non teneat ad aliquam pœnam, siquidem retulerit, vel notificaverit eadem die, & notitiam regiminis aliter venerit, & de talibus delictis, & quolibet eorum stetur, & credatur juramento, & dicto referentis cum uno teste fide digno, & bonae famae, & etiam libere credatur, & stetur inventioni, & relationi cujusliber ufficiali birruarij vel familiariis, & omnes , & singulae dictae poenae solvant, & exigantur de facto sine omni processu, & solemnitate juris.


Rubric 99 of the Statutes of Viterbo, dated to the XIVth century, condemned those gambling in taverns or other places where wine was sold by the glass or otherwise. The game was forbidden day and night and before night and day: i.e. always. One thing that here and in other documents is highlighted was the right to denounce those who contravened the order. The informers received 50% of the seized amount, while the rest became property of the Curia (at that time Viterbo was under the dominion of the Church).

De pena ludentium in taberna de die, vel de nocte, ante, vel post.

Nemo de die, vel de nocte ludere audeat in taberna, vel ante, vel post, vel in aliqua alia domo ubi venditur vinum minutim, vel ad numeratum, ad aleas, vel ad taxillos, vel ad aliquem alium ludum: et qui contra fecerit puniatur in LX solidis: que pena exigi possit quocunque denuntiante: cuius pene medietas sit denuntiatoris et alia curie.

On the other hand, Rubric 100 condemned the innkeepers that sold wine in the manner above described, since they not only allowed gambling, but even gambling that occurred after the first sound of the bells of the Angelus.

Quod tabernarii non permictant aliquem ludere in taberna, et quod non substineant  aliquem ludum post primama campanam. 

Tabernarii, vel qui vinum vendunt, non permictant aliquem ludere in taberna aliquo ludo unde acquiratur aliquid, vel perdatur, et post primam pulsationem campane sancti Angeli aliquem non substineant, nec permictant in tabernis suis morari, nec postea recipiant venientes ad bibendum, vel comendum.......


Statutes of Saluzzo, 1480

Caput 359: De ludentìbus ad taxillos, cartas et sautarellam


Item statutum est, quod qui luserit ad ludum taxillorum, cartarum, saltarelle, ad denarios argentum vel aurum, vel ad requìtum, in Saluciis vel posse, solvat bamnum omni vice de die solidorum viginti, et de nocte duplum; et qui mutuaverit denarios, taxillos, saltarellam vel cartusellas, solvat bamnum solidorum decem Viannensium. Salvo quod quilibet possit ludere ad ludum cartusellarum longum, clichum, triumphos seu almenez: et quilibet bone fame possit accusare et habeat terciam partem bamni: et quod nec potestas, nec clavarius, nec famuli curie dare possint licentiam ludendi aliquo tempore sub pena periurii et librarum decem pro quolibet et qualibet vice. 


In the 1483 Statutes of Crema we find (63): “Nullus ludat ad bisclaciam taxillos vel ad cartas in nundinis et si qui contrafecerit quod poena duplicetur. Ibidem. (64): Ed intelligatur bislacia ominis ludus taxillorum et cartarum: et  exceptis ludis triumphorum et schachorum", and, from the 1534 Statutes (89) of the same city, we know that the game of triumphs and those of tarot (1) and also chess were still legal: "Quilibet possit ludere ad tabulas et schacos et triumphos et tarochum de die et de nocte". 

The games of Triumphs and Tarot were then two different games. In fact in the sixteenth century Ludus Tarochorum meant the game composed of 22 triumphs and 56 regular cards (i.e. the numeral and court cards), while in the game of Triumphs just the regular cards were used.  In this game, the trump suit was chosen at random. This variant had been imported from Spain (31). 


The 1491 Statutes of Bergamo (Statuta Magnificae Civitatis Bergomi) spoke instead, in the following two chapters:  


De pena tenentis ludum, vel ludentis in domo. Cap. CLXXI - Si quis in domo, curia, horto, brolo, vel aliqua alia parte Civitatis, vel districtus Bergomi tenuerit ludum aleae, biselantiae, vel reginetae, sozi, santii, ochae, vel alterius cujusvis generis ludi, alea rum, vel cartarum ad tertiam, & quartam, fluxi, ronfae, vel crichae, aut alterius generis cartarum, exceptis triumphis, scachis, & tabulerio, cadat in penam libr. quinquaginta Impérial. Et intelligatur tenere ludum ut supra, sietiam inde fuerit publica vox, & fama: quae pena applicetur pro dimidia accusatori, & pro alia dimidia Com. Berg


De pena ludentium. Cap. CLXXII  - Nullus audeat vel presumat ludere ad azzarum, nec ad aliquem ludorum predictorum de die in Civitate, vel districtu Berg., sub poena libr. duodecim Imp; & si de nocte poena duplicetur: & intelligatur ludere, si reperti fuerint habere antè vel iuxtà se discum, taxillos, vel cartas vel aliud praeparamentum ad ludendum: salvo quòd non comprehendantur in praesenti capitulo ludentes ad triumphos, ad tabulerium, & schachos, usque ad  lib. quinque Imp., in uno die. Et quòd in praedictis, & quolibet praedictorum possit Magn. D. Potestas, & ejus Judices procedere per inquisitionem, & per praesumptiones evidentes, & urgentia indicia, & repertos culpabiles ita condemnare: quarum pœnarum medietas sit Comunis Bergomi, & alia medietas accusatoris. Et vincentes teneantur ad restitutionem pro medietate perdenti, & pro alia medietate Com. Bergomi. Et quòd Comunia, & Consules locorum, Viciniarum, & Burgorum, & Consules Vilarum, & Terrarum teneantur notificare ipsos ludentes, & praestantes domos, vel loca ad ludendum, sub pęna lib. quinque Imp. Et quòd possìnt, & debeant fieri denunciae, querellae, accusae, seù conscientiae; & formari inquisitiones de praedictis infrà unum mensem post ludum; alitèr non admittantur accusationes. 


Statutes of Argenta (Ferrara)


Statuta Terrae Argentae e veteri manuscripto codice nunc primum edita, Ferrara, Ex Thipographia Camerali, 1781. (Statutes of the territory of Argenta, gleaned from an old manuscript, now published for the first time, Ferrara, Tipography of the Chamber, 1781).


Regimini nostro Argente


In Christi nomine amen Anno eiusdem nativitatis  Millesímo Quadrigentesimo trigesimo nono Indictione secunda die VIII. menfìs novembris Retulit Laurentius de mediolano publicus bannitor communis, Argente se exequendo mandatum Dominorum de Regimine Argente publica et alta voce super predone posito, super Platea communis Argente proclamasse, et proclamationem fecisse ut infra videlicet presentibus Michaelle Zanbelo, Magnifico Ioanni de Adiolo, Otaviano de Albinis et alijs.


It is commandment by our Lord Illustrious Prince and  Exalted Lord Messer Nicolò, by the grace of God Marchese d'Este, & c., that no person, either of the place or foreigner, of any condition, dare or have the presumption to play at any game of dice or cards, such as "at thirty by strength of me and of you," and "the third and fourth", or any other game, that by common players are considered Bischiza (gambling) games, under penalty of XXV Marchesan lire, such penalty to be applied by the chamber of the prefect, our Lord, and anyone who can be a legitimate accuser will have half the sentence if he is considered credible.


Die XV. Novembris 1439. Item retulit dictus Laurentius iterum et de novo suprascriptum proclama proclamasse ut supra presentibus Bartolomeo Vanchio, Iohane Silvano, et alijs. (p. 193)


Our beloved (subjects)


The Most Excellent and Most Illustrious Prince Messer our Lord Borso Duke of Modena and Reggio, Marquis d'Este, Count of Rovigo & c. in reference to the execerable blasphemies and vilifications that every day are committed by wicked sinners in contempt of the very sacred religion and divine worship, and many other innumerable evils and most wicked sins, which by evidence and experience are known to derive from games, it is established and ordered by the prefect Cossi (name) our Illustrious Lord as part of his illustrious Lordship, do ordain to all persons, of the place and foreigners, of any condition, status, rank and role whatever, that they dare not nor presume  to play or cause the playing in public or private places or hidden places so evident in the land of Argenta and in its district, to any dice game, such as "sozo, ocha, badalasso, bolognexe” or other dice game. And also in those games of cartecelle (cards), alla terza alla quarta, alla trenta per forza, a darmene una o due, o a tre e cavallo ovvero altra carta, ai falcinelli, alla carta del duetto, alla spiciga [the third to the fourth, thirty by force, give me one or two, or three and knight, or other of cards, falcinelli, card of the duet  spiciga]" or other games that you can call beschizo (1) ( lit: they make bickering in gambling games) , that have been used by various players and cheaters in the past, and that in the future may be used through their wickedness and fraud and counterfeiting without incurring the penalties of this measure.


And likewise that no one dare or presume in any way directly or indirectly to blaspheme almighty God and His glorious Mother Holy Mary, nor any other saint. Under penalty for anyone who games, as mentioned blasphemes or God or our lady, of 12 Marchesan lire, and for each offense to Saints 6 Marchesan lire, and this punishment is given each time that the present provision is contravened.


And in addition said players are obliged to return to any person who had lost, anything that as a result of any of these games, those players had won, regardless of whether it is a small or great number of people to be reimbursed. Understanding that the refund is made to those who have lost, if they shall notify the Chamber. first and not otherwise (otherwise not). Which punishment and restitution must be made within ten days, otherwise they will be condemned. And if those players were notified through a third person, the said money lost must immediately be delivered from the person who had won to the Chamber prefect of our Lord. And if within that period this sentence is not paid, they will be forced to pay by strong action. And if those players or blasphemers are not able to pay that penalty after this deadline, they will be given three lacerations of the rope (3 floggings). And anyone accusing these players will be considered a legitimate accuser, and it will be notified that whoever will accuse these players, if the accusers had also played them, their name will be kept secret and will be condemned for no fault provided that notifications occur in the ways and at the times said, being considered that they will be deemed trustworthy witnesses who have played and who have sworn on any name and number of players who have won. And the same process will take place for each accuser of blasphemers who is believed, and his name will be kept secret , and of the penalty half will go to the middle Chamber of the prefect our Lord, and the other half to the accuser. And each person, as mentioned, who conducts someone in his own home, or in some inn or tavern or shop to play games will fall to the penalty described above, and following the way mentioned above, pay as above said. And the prefect our Lord wishes and commands that the knowledge and  jurisdiction of the proceedings and the condemnation of the aforementioned excesses rests and is the responsibility of the Vicar of this his land. And no attorney or other person may plead in favor of the accused under penalty of 20 Marchesan lire, and will be considered an infamous intervention. This decree applies notwithstanding the existence of various measures and other commandments sometimes made on this topic, which should be considered in their particulars replaced by this.

Millesimo quatercentesmo sexagesimo tertio  1463 (pp. 214-216).


(1) Beschizo = bisticcio, i.e. games that lead to bickering, quarreling.  "BESCHIZI. The offense suffered for anything, for slight reason, and showing one insulted or disgusted. The person beschiziosa would mean, maybe in the right way, annoying, fussy, irritable" (32). 


In Statuta Civitatis Ferentini (Ferentino, province of Frosinone, dated to XV Century), the Rubric CXX "Quod nullus ludat ad taxillos" (c. 24r), together with the prohibition on playing dice (Item statuimus quod nullus presumat ludere ad aliquem ludum taxillorum) or gambling games in general (ludere ad azardos pro velle sine pena) and with an absolute ban on playing in churches under penalty of twice the amount expected for the other cases (Et nulli liceat in aliqua ecclesia ludere ad taxillos ad penam dupli), but permitting, from the beginning of May to the end of September,  in streets and public places, without incurring any penalty, cards, cricca "(three of a kind"), ronfa, triumphs, etc., with the warning not to curse or blaspheme God or the Saints (1) providing in case of contravention a penalty of twice that indicated by the blasphemy rubric in general:"Adiicientes quod a kalendis mensis maii usque ad finem mensis septembris possit quilibet ludere sine pena per vias et plateas publicas ad ludum cartarum, videlicet ad criccham, ad rumpham et ad triumphos, ad spiczicum et ad ludum directum, videlicet «chi fa più giochi» tantum et non [ad alios] ludos; contrafacientes pena supradicta pu[nia]ntur. Et, quicunque maledixerit seu blasfemaverit Deo vel sanctis eius in ludo, solvat penam dupli que in statuto de blasfemationibus continetur et nihilominus solvat penam de ludo".

Blasphemies by players were one of the many reasons that led the Church to condemn card games. In many cases for the formulation of  statutes, the secular Governments used clerics, such as, for example, in Rieti, where in 1489 the City Council accepted the proposals of Friar Andrea of Faenza (the architect who collaborated on the construction of Saint Petronius in Bologna) for a series of reforms on the civil and moral life of the city, including a hard stance against those who blasphemed while playing: "Item contra ludentes ad ludos vetitos et prohibitos et vendentes et retinentes cartas et taxillos ac etiam facientes illos et blasfemantes Deum et sanctos dixit et consuluit puniendos esse secundum formam statuti et reformationum civitatis Rheate" (Rieti, Archivio di Stato, Riformanze 47, 1488-1492, c. 93). 

Statutes of San Ginesio, Sarnano Urbisaglia (Marche)

These statutes allowed, during Christmas festivities and within certain spending limits (one drink), the playing of games not allowed during the rest of the year. Gambling games were always prohibited, and players coming from other municipalities were expelled: In San Ginesio (IV.78, V.6 and 7), for example, ludus tabularum and taxillorum sive cartharum were prohibited, but one can play the former game, and no other, in the town square, which is under the control of all, Ludendo aliquem scoctum (1).


The Statutes of Sarnano (2), ludi crimen satis Deo detestabile et hominibus pernitiosum fore arbi­trantes, ex quo furta, caedes et blasfemiae quotidie exoriuntur, allowed ludi alae, azardi, taxillorum, tabularum, cartarum and all others in which the stake was a sum of money, excepto ludo scachorum, pilae, plastrellae, saltationis, iaculationis et aliis huiusmodi ludis, qui virtutis seu fortitudinis alicuius ostendendi gratia fierent (IV. 4), where one could play for 10 bolognini. However adludum tabularum et triumphorum (3) it was possible to play for something to eat and drink, as long as the game takes place publicly in the main square or in the City Hall (outside, of course) and the total amount in the game did not exceed 8 bolognini, and finally, with the condition that all participate in eating and drinking, certainly not very richly. The offenders received a 10 pounds fine and 3 days in jail.

In Statutes of Urbisaglia (I.1, III.7) among the forbidden games are listed - besides ludus azardi, taxillorum vel tabularum - ludus alearum, ciono­rum, laquearum, piolorum et virgittarum and others (games with pins, cards, dices and rods); Ludus tabularum de totis tabulis and chess, on the other hand, are allowed. All games are prohibitedin taverns and wherever wine was sold. During Christmas time, permission was granted by the Podestà [Mayor].

(1) The Statutes of San Ginesio date back to XIV century.
(2) The manuscript of the Statutes of Sarnano, which dates back to 1507, contains some sections already present in previous Statutes of the city.
(3) In our opinion this indication on Ludum Triumphorum was reported in an already existing rubric in a previous law of the city, dating back no later than to the second half of the XV century.


The Statutes of Fiume, granted to the city by Ferdinand I in 1530, were very permissive, tolerating many games condemned elsewhere: cards, dice, table games, ronfa and triumphs were allowed, with the exception, along with others, of basset: “Liceat tamen tam in terra Flùis quam in districtu ludere ad ludum tabularum seu alearum & ad ludum cartharum ac runfe & triumphorum vel ad alium similem ludum, excepto ludo bassette...".


Statutes of San Marino (1600) "Leges Statutae Reipubblicae Sancti Marini"
Published in Rimini "ex officina Johannis Simbenii"

Written in Latin in six books, these "Leges Statutae" represent the seventh and last of the municipal statutes adopted in San Marino from the twelfth century. The rules regarding gambling are in the Third Book, entitled Maleficiorum, which, divided into 74 sections, govern criminal law. We do not find in them substantial differences from the standards promulgated by other Italian states:  games of dice and cards  are prohibited, and any other game based on chance that involves money. Excluded from this list are tarot cards, chess and table games, which, being also based on talent, were somewhat tolerated.
                                                               Statuti San Marino


De poena ludentium ad aleas, vel taxillos

Rubrica LXVIII

NEMO audeat, vel praesumat in Terra Sancti Marini, vel eius curia, et districtu, vel prope confines dictae Terrae per unum milliare ludere ad aleas, seu cartas, nec ad aliquem ludum taxillorum in quo perdatur, vel vincatur pecunia, aut alia res, praeterquam ad taroccos, tabulas, vel scaccos, sub poena solidorum viginti pro quolibet, et qualibet vice, et eadem poena puniatur, qui ludum in domo sua acceptaverit, vel ad ludum mutuaverit aleas, taxillos, vel pecunias, vel alium pro eo sive sui nomine ludere fecerit. Et quilibet possit accusare contrafacientem, et  teneatur secreto, et habeat tertiam partem poenae, et ei credatur cum iuramento, et uno teste fidedigno.

From the Act of Constitution of the Monte di Pieta of Bovolone
The Act, dated Saturday, August 24, 1538, is in the State Archive of Verona, Mensa Vescovile, roll no. 16

Item che non sai persona alcuna.... che ardisca o presumi zugar né far zugar né in in publico né in secreto a carte terochi o dadi de sorte alcuna...(Item: that nobody .... dare or presume to play or to let others play in public or in secret at tarot or dice of any sort...)


Statutes from 17th Century Piedmont


A rule that was established from the first moment when the cards appeared, was prohibition of playing in front of churches and convents, as well as in front of houses of monks or priests. In this prohibition were also included many other games as we understand, from 17th century Piedmont, the Editti Antichi, e Nuovi dei Sovrani Principi della Real Casa di Savoia(Ancient and New Edicts of the Sovereign Princes of the Royal House of Savoy), Turino, Bartolomeo Zappata 1681, p. 262.


Part Three - Book I


"In addition we forbid any person, of any state, grade, condition whatever, to serenade, say dishonest words, dance, play on any kind of instrument, sing, swear, play carte (cards), tarocchi (tarot), dice, balla (ball), ballone (big ball), paramigli (?), marbles, rubattine (related to rubare, to steal?), palletti (little balls), or any other game not mentioned here, in front of the Church and the houses of the herein mentioned monasteries, etc.". Dato (Issued) in Rivoli, July 4, 1654. C. Emanuel (Carlo Emmanuele II).


16th century Statutes in Calamecca, Crespole, Lanciole and Piteglio 


Roberto Barducci (ed.), La vita nei Castelli. Gli Statuti del XVI secolo di Calamecca, Crespole, Lanciole e Piteglio (Life in the Castles. Sixteenth century statutes in Calamecca, Crespole, and Piteglio Lanciole) Volume 3 of the Collana di studi sulla montagna pistoiese, Comune di Piteglio (Series of studies on the mountains of Pistoia, City of Piteglio), 2001.


"No one of any rank or condition, as much as place, as foreigners, may dare to play cards or dice within the walls of our land, including taverns as much as private houses, even in the streets or in other place, within a perimeter of five hundred yards from the border of our land "(p. 42).


"And that none of the inhabitants of the City of Lanciole may play cards, or any other game, under any roof of this castle, under the penalty of five pounds each, and every single time half of the fine will go to the City and the other half to the accuser, except three days before and three after our feast of St. Bartolomeo" (p. 48).


The Statute of the Island of Giglio of the year 1558


Silvio Pucci (ed.), Lo Statuto dell’Isola del Giglio dell’anno 1558 (The Statute of the Island of Giglio of the year 1558)Volume 30 of Documentazione di storia, Dipartimento di scienze storiche, giuridiche, politiche e sociali dell'Università degli studi di Siena, 1999 (Volume 30 of Documentation of history, Department of historical, legal, political and social sciences, University of Siena, 1999).


 C. XXIIII - Dela pena di chi ioca a zara = On for the penalty to be imposed on anyone who plays zara [a game with three dice].


"Therefore we establish and ordain that no person can or should play zara or any other game of dice or cards [carte]. And whoever contravenes, pay as penalty, for each time, XX soldi. And whoever accomodates those games in their home, pay for each time double that penalty, and anyone may accuse him .... " (p. XLII).



- See about this, St. Ambrosius, De Tobia, chap. II.
2 - Part 3, chap. 32.
3 - Quadragesimale de Christiana religione S. Bernardini Senensis, Opera Omnia, Sermo XLII, art. III, chap. III. 
4 - Tome XVI (May, Vol. V). Antwerp, 1685, to May 20th
5 - Ibid., p. 267, col. 1.
6 - Felice Alessio, Storia di San Bernardino da Siena e del suo tempo (History of St. Bernardine and his time),Mondovì, 1899, pages 203-204.  
7 - Maphaeo Veghio Laudensi, Vita II Antiquior in "Acta Sanctorum", Maii, Tomus V, Paris and Rome, 1861. Chap. II: Fructus Concionum ejus, emendandis moribus, haereticis coercendis, sedantis contentionibus relati, col. 2, page 137.  
8 - The first edition was printed in Venice in 1585.
9 - About the lives and characters of gamblers, see also Giulio Cesare Croce e i Tarocchi, the verses of the "Alfabeto de Giuocatori in Ottava Rima, Opera Morale" (Alphabet of Gamers in Octave, Moral Work).  
10 - The text in Anton Francesco Grazzini, Tutti i Trionfi, Carri, Mascherate, o Canti carnascialeschi, andati per Firenze dal tempo del Magnifico Lorenzo vecchio de' Medici, quando egli ebbero prima cominciamento, per infino a questo presente anno 1559 (All the Triumphs, Wagon, Masquerade or Carnival Songs, presented in Florence from the time of Lorenzo the Magnificent, of the old De’ Medici, when they started until this present year 1559), Florence, 1750, p. 407.
11 - Lollio - Imperiali, Invettiva di F. Alberto Lollio accademico Philareto contra il giuoco del tarocco e Risposta di M. Vincenzo Imperiali (Invective of F. Alberto Lollio academic Philareto against the game of tarot and Answer of  M. Vincenzo Imperiali), ms. 257,Ferrara, Biblioteca Ariostea, ca. 1550.
12 - Opere di Sperone Speroni degli Alvarotti tratte da Mss. originali (Works by Sperone Speroni degli Alvarotti taken from original Mss.), Tome V,  Venice, 1740, pages 441-442.
13 - In this regard see note 4 to the essay St. Bernardino and the Playing Cards. We find isolated cases of condemnation of the game of Triumphs in Assisi, with a public announcement dated to 1470 and in Padua with a sermon that the preacher Roberto Caracciolo of Lecce gave in 1455.
14 - The manuscript called Sermo perutilis de ludo was published by Robert Steele in «Archaeology or Miscellaneous tracts relating to antiquity», London, Second series, vol. VII, 1900, pp. 185 - 200.
15 - Michel’Angelo Barbiellini, Trattato de’ Giochi e de’Divertimenti permessi, o proibiti ai Cristiani (Treatise of Games and Diversions permitted or forbidden to Christians), Rome, 1768, page 242.
16 - Quaestiones, 2. 2., 168, art.2.
17 - Michel’Angelo Barbiellini, op. cit., page 246.
18 - Michel’Angelo Barbiellini, op. cit., pages 252-253.
19 - Constit., 27,
De Alea.
20 - Michel’Angelo Barbiellini, op. cit., page 260-261.
21 - Ex Summ. constit. Petr. Mart., chap. 24, page 4.
22 - Part 6, chap. 13. 
23 - Luigi Martorelli, Memorie Historiche dell’antichissima, e nobile città d’Osimo (Historical memories of the ancient and noble city of Osimo), Capitolo III, Venezia, Andrea Poletti, 1705, p. 244.
24 - Further documents about gambling and tarots are quoted in the essay Il Gioco dei Tarocchi fra Cultura di Corte e Cultura Popolare (The game of tarot in Court and Popular Culture) by Franco Cardini (Section "Guest Essays").
25 - De Aleatoris, Liber I, D. l. II, tit. 5.
26 - De Aleat, Cod. l, 3, L. Victum I.
27 - Ibidem, L. Non licere.
28 - The most famous work on the subject is the Trattato dell' Ufficio del Podestà (Treatise on the Office of the Podestà) by Brunetto Latini, finished in 1283 and included in Book III of his Tesoretto (Treasure).
29 - On the thought of St. Bernardino concerning cards  and gambling in general, read the sermon Contra alearum ludos in "Quadragesimale de christiana religione Sancti Bernardini Senensis, Opera Omnia"  at the link: 
31 - On this subject, read our discussion in the Triumphs, Trionfini and Trionfetti.  
32 - Piero Monti, Vocabolario dei dialetti della città e diocesi di Como, con esempi e riscontri di lingue antiche e moderne (Vocabulary of the dialects of the city and diocese of Como, with examples and evidence from the ancient and modern languages), Milan, Typographical Society of Italian Classics, 1845, p. 2.

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