Andrea Vitali's Historical Essays on the Tarot

El Bagatella which is the symbol of sin

Regarding the Bagatto as the first card of the Triumphs


Copyright  by Andrea Vitali © All rights reserved 2012


Translation from the Italian by Michael S. Howard, April 2013

(The original texts not included in the body of the essay can be found before the notes)

As we pointed out in our iconological essay The Magician (The Bagatto), the image on this card presents a prestidigitator [the English from presti, quick, and digit, finger; the Italian prestigiatore from presti, quick, and giatore, player] intent on his work. Bagatto is a word derived from the word bagatella, a term which "appears in the vulgar Italian written in the late 15th century, spreading during the 16th in an area stretching from Northern Italy to the Campania of Masuccio of Salerno, anchored mainly in the north-central area” (1). In fact, the first document on the tarot that shows this term is the manuscript Sermo perutilis de ludo by an anonymous monk, dating to the late 15th-early 16th century. In documents on the tarot of the 16th century we see it called Bagatella, the Bagattella, Bagatello, the Bagatino, the Gabbattèlla, Bagato (2). Bagato, trasformed into Bagatto, later becomes the most used term.


Although the etymology of Bagatelle is still under investigation, the most important etymological dictionaries and other sources (3) derive it from the Low Latin Baga, burden, stuff, baggage, and, in another hypothesis, from Bagattino or Bagatino, a kind of a Venetian small coin of minimum value minted in 1371, from the Latin Bàca, berry, and, figuratively, a small round object " that  is literally of little value for anyone to possess; stuff of nothing" (4). Vincenzo Coronelli and Gilles Ménage identify it with the Latin noun Nugae (Res levis pretii ac momenti, that is, something of little value and consideration); the Georges-Calonghi-Badellino Latin Dictionary explains: trifles, nonsense, empty words, futility, and in modified form, person of nothing, without a brain, light, frivolous. The same is found in the Glossarium manuale ad scriptores mediae et infimae latinitatis, where  the word Bagattare (5) can be seen in a passage by Paolo Scordilla cited by Muratori: "Bagattare, Nugari, tricari [the latter from trĭcæ = nonsense, foolishness] Apud Murator, vol. 2, p. 214, col. 2. “Cognomine vocatus el Bagatella, propter ejus cavillationes umbratiles & pueriles, vel quod illam artem noverit Bagattandi” [He was called by the name Bagatella because of his touchy and childish quibbles, or because he knew the art of Bagattare] (6).


In its Italian and foreign diffusion are distinguishable three main areas: the first means 'small thing of little value', the second 'sleight of hand or skill' and the third 'fraudulent actions, fraud'. We will see below how these three meanings are linked to the concept of bagatella.


We will give some examples concerning the meaning of Bagatella as a thing of little value. In all of the following article we will leave the term bagatella and its derived words in Italian.


Vasari (1511-1574), referring to Giovannantonio, the painter called "The Sodom of Verzelli", also Mattaccio, says of him: "But he always had the spirit of foolishness and worked at his whim, caring for nothing more than dressing pompously, wearing doublets of brocade, cloaks all ornamented with gold cloth, the richest caps, necklaces, and other similar bagatelle and things of buffoons [buffoni] and charlatans [ciarlatani]" (7) (Text 1)


So Erasmus of Rotterdam on the fair sex: “Iisdem ferme de causis hoc hominum genere mulieres gaudere solent impensius, utpote ad voluptatem & nugas natura propensiores. Proinde quicquid cum huiusmodi factitarint, etiamsi nonnumquam serium nimis, illae tamen jocum ac lusum interpretantur, ut est ingeniosus, praesertim ad praetexenda commissa sua, sexus ille” (And it's more or less for the same reasons that women, as they are more prone by nature to fun and bagatelle[nugas], usually are so comfortable with this kind of men [fools]. Therefore any action they are at - although sometimes it is all too serious - women interpret as a game and entertainment, so ingenious is their sex above all in hiding their misdeeds) (8).


Let us move on to Agnolo Firenzuola (1493-1545) for the meaning of Bagatella as 'sleight of hand or skill’, citing a passage in the translation, which he adapted, of' the Golden Ass of Apuleius:


Book One


"I saw in Siena, in the piazza that is called il Campo, on a horse a player of  bagatelle [circulator] swallow for the sake of a few coins a very sharp sword, and plunge into his body a hog spear, with that part downward which has the point" (9). (Text 2)


In the Morgante of Pulci (1432-1484) are two examples of  'fraudulent action, cunning, deceit': the first when Gano di Maganza "did the sad-sack and the cur as usual, / And let himself fall like a rascal. / See if he can still do the bagatella ... " (Text 3), that is, if, as is usual, he behaves like a coward hiding his cowardice with a cunning fiction (10), and, still with reference to Gano: "Think, Reader, if the traitor put in order / All his bagatelle and lies, / And his mandrakes (poison) and snakes (envy) and dice-shakers (deceptions) / And showed his dust and bags and tricks / And showed them to all..." (11) (Text 4)


We have a similar meaning in the Novellino of Masuccio Salernitano (of Salerno) (c. 1410-1475)  (Novella XX), where a gentleman of Salerno, madly in love with a widow, was finally punished, he who "never was punished for any of those tricks and bagatelle that he had all employed all his life" (12). (Text 5)


Continuing, so Macchiavelli (1469-1527) in Clizia, where Nicomachus, an old man, in love with Clizia, responds to Sophronia (Act II - Scene III):


Nicomachus: You threaten me with your chatter; don’t make me say it. Do you think perhaps that I am blind and I do not know the games (the plots) of these your bagatelle? I indeed knew that mothers cared for their children, but I did not think they wanted to support their children in their dishonest actions” (Text 6)


Pietro Aretino  (1492-1556) in a dialogue between two servants Cappa and Rosso in La Cortigiana (The Courtesan) (Act One - Scene XX):


Cappa. You are very cheerful, Rosso, you're laughing to yourself: what does that mean?
Rosso: I’m laughing because of a plot that has been made so skillfully that the master of bagatelle will not notice it, and I will tell you more at my leisure. (Text 7)


Ludovico Ariosto ( 1474-1533) in the Cassaria, when the cunning Volpino plots a deception against the old master (Act Four - Scene II):


Volpino: But were he to come, come of his own will, I have already prepared for him the pocket to make him the cleanest and most beautiful game of bagatelle that any other master has ever made. (Text 8)


We conclude - but the examples could be even more numerous –  with the Assiuolo of Cecchi (1549-1550) Act Three - Scene One:  “You will be served. Now begins this game of bagatelle”; with the Straccioni of Caro (1543-1556), Act Four - Scene One: "O you, tell lies or fortune, make with us today the bagatelle" and the Fantesca of Giovan Battista della Porta (1535-1615) (First Edition, 1592), Act I - Scene I: "And these who make bagatelle, make to be seen many things that are not true" (13) (Text 9 A-B-C)


When Baldassarre Castiglione (1478-1529) in the first book of the Cortegiano indicated activities that every good courtier must know and put into practice, he also suggested ones to avoid "such as tumbling on the ground, going up the rope and such things that almost pertain to giocolare [performers] and are hardly suitable for a gentleman" (come volteggiar in terra, andare in su la corda e tai cose, che quasi hanno del giocolare e poco sono a gentilomo convenienti). The fact is that unlike the editio princeps of 1528, in the original notes and later manuscript (ca. 1513-1516) (14) next to giocolare is also the term bagatella "and do things that almost pertain to giocolare [performing] or bagatella, and are hardly suitable for a gentleman" (e tal cose che quasi hanno del giocolare o bagatella, e poco sono a gentilom convenienti) (15). Castiglione modified the sentence subsequently, removing bagatella, because, as a lover of precision, he wanted to indicate to courtiers the actual behaviors to be avoided, to leave no doubt about the interpretation of the latter. He could do so because giocolare meant both “performer” and “performing.” But this is not true for bagatella, as we will see.


To better clarify the difference that exists between giocolare and bagatella, we illustrate below the significance of the first term.


Vittorio Cian, in his annotated edition of the work of Castiglione in 1894, derives it from the Medieval Latin jocularis, meaning jester, clown, acrobat.


Giocolare is therefore a term deriving from the Latin jocularis that in antiquity indicated facetious sayings or words, and he who uttered them was called joculator. In the Middle Ages joculator passed into designating the person who gladdened through singing, acting, dancing and various games of skill; his public is that of the courts and of the streets, and jocularis his activity. Thus was born what in the vernacular is called first, in French and Occitan jo(n)gler and joglar, from which the Italian giullare (16).


"The Latinate form giocolare", writes Ghino Ghinassi, "also has, in vulgar Italian, an ancient history, which dates back to the early centuries of the language, and is more or less a synonym of giullare: a synonym, it seems, of higher rank because of its closer proximity to formal Latin, and perhaps that is a bit less common than the word of French origin. For the rest, the two words can live and alternate in the same text, as happens, for example, in the Novellino, where Novella XLIII speaks of the same character as a giucolare first and then as a giullare, with perfect synonymy and interchangeability. However, it seems that, compared to that of bagatella, the context in which the word is located tends to have a more elevated and less derogatory connotation. The giocolare is encountered rather in the courts, both secular and ecclesiastical, or in the dining rooms of bishops (as in the passage of the Novella mentioned just now); it is more difficult to meet him in the plazas among the people intent on performing clowning or tricks" (17).   


In summary, a giocolare must be construed as a giullare whose job is to entertain the public with music, dances and recitations, and with exercises of skill and physical dexterity. These are people who, though of humble origins, are exhibited at the courts and in the upper classes of society, without being the object of ridicule or considerations of disapproval. Throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the term giocolare maintained its own identity, then lost and replaced by giocoliere.


Thus giocolare had two meanings: first, as a verb, to perform, and second, as a noun, the performer. Now let us turn to the word bagatella and its derivatives, both how a bagatello, a person who does bagatella, is different from a giocolare, and whether the same word bagatella can be used both for the person and his actions.


That the figure represented on the card of the Bagatto is a prestidigitator is not in question, and for the countless artworks that identify him as such, the nickname of Bagatello is attributed to Francesco da Milano, a famous prestidigitator and author in about 1550 of one the first works on prestidigitation, entitled Opera nuova non più vista, nella quale potrai facilmente imparare molti giochi di mano. Composta da Francesco di Milano, nominato in tutto il mondo il Bagatello (New Work no longer seen, in which one can easily learn much sleight of hand. Written by Francesco di Milano, named all over the world the Bagatello) (18).


Unlike the giocolare, the bagatello (as the name expressed) was considered a character of little value, a nothing [nonnulla], who used tricks and illusions to make money at the expense of the participants. In his "marvels" what seemed to be true in reality was only appearance and falsehood. A game of skill and dexterity that meant mischief and deceit. To demonstrate being able to turn in an instant into a whole piece of fabric that which was first divided into many parts, betrayed something magical. The bagatello was a magician [mago] of skill, but as we know, the Church condemned all forms of magic, including those utilizing tricks, because the enemy of God, namely the Devil, as the Cistercian Isaac de l'Etoile (ca. 1110-1167/69) expressed in one of his sermons, was the "author of a thousand tricks" (19).


The falsity of those who worked bagatelle, whether a prestidigitator or a master of deception, was therefore to be united to the untruth of the adversary of God, an enemy of virtue. Anton Francesco Doni, Academic of Peregrino, in Marmi (1552-1553), puts into the mouth of Ghioro, after reading a book of maxims and exhortations, the following words: "Ghioro: Sir, first take from the Court all the flatterers, because those who love flattery are the enemy of truth. Drive away the clowns, banish the charlatans [cerretani], & the masters of bagatella, because they are all people who do pranks, & a Lord who is always occupied in frivolous things reluctantly attends to serious business. All the vagabonds & the unstable, always have far from you, because these are the enemies of virtue" (20) (Text 10)


The prestidigitators were considered vagabonds and the unstable par excellence because, for work, they were forced to move constantly from one place to another, even if they tended not to be welcome. The contexts in which the skill of the prestidigitator was regarded with suspicion, bordering on fraud, were in fact common. We report, as an example, an account of something that happened in the South Tyrol, taken from the Viaggio in Alamagna of Francesco Vettori, a journey he made in 1507-1508, given to the press in abridgement: "After eating, it happened in the tavern that a conjurer [ciurmatore] and giucolatore of bagatelle had a great following of people. And, although he spoke Italian, he used his hands more than language, and by chance assembled, with his articles, some amount of crazzie (money). What he did I do not say, because of the rest we are so accustomed to seeing such things that to write of it would be superfluous. Nor had he finished gathering all his money and tidying his bagatelle (things), than arrived there perhaps ten familiars (servants of noble families), and with fury they tied him up and took him away." The host then explained to Vettori that it was not the custom in "Alamagna" (Germany) to take away money "in this fashion" (21) (Text 11)


From this passage and the other literary examples above, it is clear that by bagatelle were meant either the tricks of prestidigitation with the instruments of the magician [mago], or cunning actions generally, and not the people who actuated them, as further evidenced by the poem In lode dell’Orinale (In praise of the chamber pot)of Francesco Berni (ca. 1520): "For others, the chamber pot is as valuable as three pouches, / And it has more closets and more secrets / Than the knapsacks for the bagatelle" (Text 12). In this passage "for equivocal allusion he compares the chamber pot with the bag of the illusionist, equipped with double bottoms and secret pockets that hide the tools of his magic [magie], considered bagatelle” (22).


Therefore Bagatella is to be understood, unlike Giocolare, not as nomen agentis, but as nomen actionis. The person who does the game [giochi] is the 'bagattelliere' or the 'master of the bagatelle'. In the Sermo perutilis de ludo, “el bagatella” then expreses the actions of the prestidigitator and not the person himself. Only a little later, when that word is replaced by Bagatto, is it intended to mean the person who worked the prestidigitation. This difference between the two terms is pointed out by the famous philologist Ghino Ghinassi. 

We have seen how the prestidigitators and their activities were viewed with suspicion, not only by the Church but also by civil society. Already in the Carolingian period Charlemagne had enacted legislation against those who calculate by means of spirits, those who use magic charms,  those who control the weather by magic, and those who heal by magic: “Ideo praecipimus ut calculatores, et incantatores, et tempestarii, vel obligatores non siant; et ubicumque sunt, emendentur vel damnentur…..usque dum Deo inspirante spondeant emendationem peccato rum” (So we order that there not be calculators, and charmers, magicians of storms, or magic healers, and wherever they are, they be punished and sentenced .... until, by the grace of God, they promise to mend from their sins) (23) .


Albino Alkwin (735-844) will say it in "Histriones et mimos et saltatores ... magna immondorum sequitur turba spiritum” and Salviano (24) in the fifth century “Spectacula sunt diaboli”, while St. Bernard of Clairvaux in a sermon of 1150 will say "A man who frequents the giocolieri will soon have a bride named Poverty. If it happens that the tricks of the giocolieri strike your attention make it a habit to avoid them and to banish them from your thought. The tricks of the giocolieri are never pleasing to God" (25).


John of Salisbury (1120-1180) advised Princes even to exterminate, rather than nurture, all members of the "familia Diaboli", among them the prestidigitators (prodigiis hominum): "Nam de histrionibus et mimis, scurris et meretricibus, lenonibus et huiusmodi prodigiis hominum, quae principem potius oportet exterminare quam fovere” (26).


Following their application, it falls to Bernard of Clairvaux to write the rules for a new order, which would bear the name MILITUM XPISTI or Militia of the Temple or Poor Knights of Christ. On January 14, 1128, in the Cathedral of Troyes, in the presence of several representatives ofthe Church, and after a long debate, the Rule of the Temple was passed, giving definitive birth to the Templar Order. Bernard will emphasize in De laude novae militiae the substantial differences that distinguish the new order from the lay knights, and among them contempt for mimes and magicians [maghi], which were dismissed as vanity and folly: "Scacos et aleas detestantur; abhorrent venationem, nec ludica illa avium rapina, ut assolte, delectantur. Mimos et mago set fabulatores, scurrilesque cantilenas, atque ludorum spectacula, tamquam vanitates et insanias falsas respuunt et abominantur" (They hate chess and dice games, have a horror of hunting and in the ridiculous persecution of birds they do not find the customary pleasure. They avoid and abhor mimes and magicians, storytellers, scurrilous songs and the spectacles of games, which they condemn and reject as vanities and deceitful follies) (27).


On the other hand it could not be otherwise, since, as Jacques Le Goff writes on the concept of work in the Middle Ages "Man must work in the image of God. The work of God is the creation. Every profession that is not creative is therefore inglorious or inferior. You have to do like the farmer, who creates the masses, or at least like the artisan, who transforms the raw material in question. Not being able to create, we must transform - "mutare" -, modify - "emendare" - improve - "meliorare”. So the merchant is condemned, because he does not create anything. This is an essential mental structure of Christian society, nourished by a theology and morality that flourished in pre-capitalist regimes. The medieval ideology is materialistic in the strict sense. Only material production has value. The abstract value defined by capitalist economy escapes it, is repugnant to it, is condemned by it (28). A concept that "is clearly evident in various manuals of confessors, particularly in Thomas Cobham, who cites Aristotle" (29).


Later, between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, the economic revolution will lead to limiting the contempt regarding many professions previously considered sinful. Due to the condemnation of merchants, craftsmen like any other, the evil intention will remain, that is, acting out of cupidity - "ex cupiditate" – and love of gain - "lucri causa".


With this reading of ‘lucri causa’ and 'ex cupiditate’ it is necessary to assess the presence of the Artixan in the so-called Tarot of Mantegna: a warning addressed to the artisans lest they fall into these two bad intentions, responsible for condemnation and, consequently, the ruin of the soul. A lesson that we will see in the continuation addressed to all those who act by bagatelle.


The attitude of the Church will remain constant in the condemnation of prestidigitators. Bertoldo da Ratisbonda, in the 13th century, rejects from Christian society only the jumble of vagabonds, wanderers, the "vagrants." They form the "familia diaboli," the family of the devil, in front of all other trades, all other "states" now admitted into the family of Christ, the "familia Christi" (30).


All the members of the 'family Diaboli' were placed at the bottom of the social ladder because they not only led dishonest lives, but they induced others to do so. The danger was twofold, as their sin doubled. But the condemnation of the Church is not only addressed to them; with equal intensity the sentence also fell on their audience.


In their condemnation of the prestidigitators, the Dominicans were no less than other religious orders: in a passage of Salterio di Gesù e Maria, the Breton Dominican Beato Alano de la Roche (1428 -1475) tells of the meeting of Saint Dominic with some infernal beasts. Upon the questioning of these last manifested, they will say they are "the fifteen Queens of hell, the seductresses of the world" and to exercise their command "on the magicians [maghi] themselves and the prestidigitators similar to them", also on the astrologers, in as much "the premonitions that they pretend to foretell, as truths from the stars, are invented by our deceptions" (31).


Later, in the 16th century, when the plazas are full of bagatellieri, their condemnation will remain firm and constant, for the vain and deceitful character of their actions. So writes Thomas Garzoni ofBagnacavallo in his Chapter on Creatori di spettacoli in generale, e dei cerretani o ciurmatori in particolare (Creators of spectacles in general, and of charlatans [cerretani, purveyors of fake medicine] or illusionists [ciurmatori] in particular), in his Piazza Universale di tutte le professioni del mondo (Universal Plaza of all professions in the world) (1585): "But there is a certain sort of modern spectacle conceived by various kinds of charlatans [ceretani], of which I intend, to satisfy the  curiosity of the world, ...particularly to discuss. The charlatans [ceretani] then .... among the vile rabble have now acquired such credit that they get a major share of the competition for the public, and more pleased applause than excellent speakers of the divine word and honored professors of the sciences and applied arts, who can boast a small crowd of the public in comparison to that surrounding the cerretani. There was still some memory of this profession in the ancient world, since the bagatellieri, in Latin called gesticolatores, and according to the Greeks chironomi, got some moment of fame, giving pleasure with bagatelle and stupidities ... But in our times, the number and kinds of these have grown like weeds, so that for every city, every land, every plaza, one sees nothing but charlatans [ceretani] or street entertainers [cantinbanchi], who one could more easily call earnings-eaters than any other name. And all with vain arts and deceit they delude the minds of the populace, and entice their ears to hear their nonsense, their eyes to see the bagatelle (actions they carry out), and all their senses attentive to the ridiculous actions that they do in the plazas ... " (32) (Text 13)


Some of the 'sinners' that converted gave to the Church their assets acquired by sin. In the year 1058 a certain Alberto, repenting of his life led up to that time, made a donation to the Rectory "consisting of two pieces of land with houses, and five enclosures of arable fields" (33). From this we can deduce how lucrative this type of business was.


At this point, to those who wonder why the figure of a prestidigitator was placed as the card to start the Triumphs, we remember the ethical-Christian meaning that characterizes the entire triumphal structure (34), which we set out in other interventions (35) and which is shown below for expository convenience: "From the first order of Triumphs known (36), dating from the early sixteenth century, it is clear that it was an ethical game. The Giocoliere (Bagatto) depicts the common man to whom is given temporal guides, the Empress and Emperor, and spiritual guides, the Pope and Popess (Faith). Human instincts come to be mitigated by the virtues: Love by Temperance and the desire for power, or the Chariot, by Force (the Christian virtue "Fortitude"). The Wheel of Fortune teaches that every success is ephemeral and that the powerful are destined to become dust. The Hermit, who follows the Wheel, is time, to which each must be subject, and the need for every person to reflect on the real value of existence, while the Hanged Man (the Traitor) denounces the danger of falling into temptation and sin by betraying his Creator before Death overtakes him.


Even the Hereafter is represented according to the traditional medieval conception: Hell, and then the Devil, is placed under the earth's crust, above which extend the heavenly spheres. As in the Aristotelian cosmos, the sphere of the Earth is surrounded by a circle of "celestial fires", depicted by lightning striking a Tower. The celestial spheres are synthesized by three main celestial bodies: Venus, the Star par excellence, the Moon and the Sun. The highest sphere is the Empyrean, home of the Angels that at the Day of Judgment will be called to wake the dead from their graves. On that day divine Justice will triumph, weighing souls and dividing the good from the evil. Above all is the World, that of "God the Father", the anonymous monk wrote who commented on the Tarot at the beginning of the sixteenth century (Read on this, the iconographic essay about this Triumph). The same monk places the Fool after the World, as if to indicate his foreignness to every rule and teaching in so far as, lacking reason, he was not able to understand the revealed truth (37).


It is more than obvious that such a type of education was not intended to sum up Christian religious ethics for the wise and virtuous, but for sinners, those who more than any other needed to be converted to good. For this reason, putting the image of the bagatella, in the sense of 'sinful action' (nomen actionis), was done to emphasize a point of departure that represented the ultimate symbol of sin. To the question, "why the figure of a prestidigitator and not another sinner", I respond by saying that the Church understood the bagatella as one of the greatest expressions of sin, so as to create a topos in the fifteenth century, the era in which the term appeared, which was perpetuated in the history of the Church until the nineteenth century. In such a situation it will be necessary for us to change what we have written on the meaning of the Bagatto, adding to "the common man", the attribute of "sinner".


The Abbé de Feller commenting on the work of Louis François Gauthier (1696-1780) in Traité contre l'amour des parures et de luxe des habits (Treatise against love of ornaments and luxury in clothes) (38) writes that "The title recalls the excellent treatise by the same author on Les mauvaises chansons [The bad songs] (39), a matter that the spirits of the century treat as bagatelle, and which is a major source of corruption of morals and unbridled libertinism, which throws into restlessness and desolation all levels of society" (Le titre de l'ouvrage rappelle l'excellent traité sur les mauvaises chansons, matière que le esprits dù siècle traitent de bagatelle et qui est une des grandes sources de la corruption des mœurs et du libertinage effréné qui inquiète et désole tous les états de la société) (40). Feller writes that Gauthier “wants, with St Paul, that women who profess Godliness (and the same goes for men) be dressed in decent clothes, and be adorned modestly".


He adds that men who occupy themselves too much with their ornaments pass for effeminate, and women, for vain and easy. For, he says, if those women are chaste, their chastity at least does not appear in these bagatelles. They say that those ornaments give no reason to think the worst, but I reply that the Devil always thinks evil" (Il veut, avec S. Paul, que les femmes qui font profession de Piété, - & il en faut, dit-il, dire autant des hommes - soient vêtus d' Habits bienséans, & qu'elles soient modestement parées. Il ajoûte que les hommes qui s'occupent trop de leurs Parures, passent avec raison pour des efféminés, & les femmes pour être vaines & faciles. Car, dit-il, si elles ont de la chasteté; elle ne paroît pas au moins dans ces bagatelles. On dit qu'on n'y pense pas de mal; mais je réponds que le Diable en pense toujours).


Below, considering the work of Abbé Maydieu, Histoire de la vertueuse Portugaise, ou le modèle des femmes chrétiennes, on the education of the people (41), Feller writes: "On verra dans cet ouvrage des tableaux alarmans de tous les genres de vices, et sur-tout de que la dégradation celui des moeurs distinguishes par le nom bagatelle" (One will see in this work alarming reports of all kinds of vices, and especially those that the degradation of morals indicates by the name bagatelle), explaining in the following, in a note,  what this type of sin consists in: "The sin that degrades human nature the most, which enervates it, which blinds it, which deprives it of its nobility and legitimate pride, enslaves it to the most humiliating feelings, is called bagatelle sin [bagatella in Italian]. It is indeed with reason that the Sage warns us, that the foolish man commits his crime in the manner of a joke. Quasi per risum stultus operatur scelus. Prov. X. 23. [A fool worketh mischief as it were for sport]" (42). (On appelle la bagatelle le péché qui degrade plus la nature humaine, qui l'énerve, qui l'aveugle, qui la depouillant de sa noblesse et d'une fierté legitime, l'asservit aux plus humiliantes sensations. C'est bien avec raison que le Sage nous avertit, que l'homme insensé commet le crime, par manière de badinage: Quasi per risum stultus operatur scelus. Prov. X. 23). 


Commenting on the passage in Proverbs we say, as already written elsewhere (43), that the fool is the Fool of the Tarot, who needs to come out of his position of non-believer to reach, even to become, following in the footsteps of the Saint of Assisi, the fool of God. The Bagatto believes in God, but believes he can overlook a lot of things imposed by the Church, considering them bagatelle, trivial things and of little value at the end in the Last Judgment. Among these, not caring much or not at all for his own soul, he spends the good time given by God taking care excessively of his own body, in fun, in fighting, coming to regard as a mere bagatella even the Mass and the Eucharist.


The Church borrowed the term by which certain languages identified a sin of little importance, all in all a peccadillo, on the contrary elevating it, as the name and symbol of great guilt. Examples of this are countless. We will report various ones, starting backwards from the nineteenth to reach the sixteenth century.


Says the priest Giuseppe Cafasso (1811 - 1860) addressing the youth: "Youths and girls who listen to me, you will often feel like telling the world that these jokes, these sins are nothing, they are bagatelle; but what is not true is that these are sins not great enough that God will send to hell for these bagatelle, which punishes enough those that commit them; listen: take a good look at this language, what you allow to be said, you allow to be done, stand you fast in this that faith is telling you. These things are the greatest evil, and lead many unfortunate souls to hell: we sense on the lips of many, unfortunately, that the law of not eating meat on Friday and the Sabbath is a foolishness [minchioneria], a sham, a whim of men, and no man has this right, you feel that there is no more need to go to confession, one could be saved without Confession, being a burden placed by the Church, and not by God: My dears, false, false; faith obliges us to believe that the sacraments, and among them Confession, were established by God, and faith obliges us to believe and profess that the Church was founded by God, having received all its authority from him, who wants and requiresthe good of souls. O believe all these truths, or renounce the baptism, renounce the name and character of Christians" (44) (Text 14)


Giacomo Margotti (1823-1887), priest and doctor of theology, writes: "As to the questions of  bread, which includes all the questions of prosperity, and of the good and beautiful life, these all men care for. As for that which reflects the glory of God, and the moral progress of the city, it is considered a bagatella" (45) (Text 15)


So the Capuchin of the Province of Veneta, Marino di Cadore (Giuseppe Zanetti, 1745-1827): "Here then under the weight of these sins that are believed worthless bagatelle, fragility of nature, convenience in the world, under the weight of these aggravated sins Jesus Christ is fallen, fallen face down,  the joy of Heaven is afflicted, the glory of the Angels is saddened, the author of life is attacked by the horror of death;  tristis, trìstìs est anima mea usque ad mortem" (46) (Text 16)


In similar fashion Giuseppe Antonio Costantini (1692-1772): "Ours is a great deception, and too common in the major part of  Women, and I think also of  Men, the belief in satisfying the duties of religion with bagatelle, that cost us no commitment. To believe that you can caress your passions and be friends of God. To have the heart of the Wolf and the coat of the Lamb. No, no, we are not deceived there, beloved friend, one must first purge the interior, and win over those inclinations that make us hostile to God. But to feed a black heart, and have a white robe, will always be the color of betrayal" (47) (Text 17)


Angelo Paciuchelli da Montepulciano (XVII), brother of the Order of  Preachers and Provincial of the Roman Province wrote about it: "And a great opprobrium to men who clothe themselves vainly, and adorn themselves as if they were women .... In these past few days we have seen a man in church, where there were many people, who in the presence of all, drew a mirror from his hat band, very artfully tidied up and viewed himself in it, arranged his collar, hair, and beard. Whoever wanted to go down the particulars would never finish describing so many bagatelle and madnesses of men" (48) (Text 18)


So F. So F. Benedetto Fedele of San Filippo (seventeenth century), Franciscan of the Third Order:


From Panegirico Decimoquarto


"There can never be a small one, for one set up for the acquisition of great things. While the small man labors to acquire small things, an apple, a little robe, or a similar bagatella” (49) (Text  19) 


The polygraph and adventurer Gregorio Leti (1630-1701), in this passage of the Historia Genevrina, warns the religious authorities to enjoin  the parish priests to bring peace in the family rather than to do preaching that only the wind listens to. More pastoral care was necessary because family divisions would lead to litigations, a result of these bagatelle that they did not consider sins to be punished by Divine Justice:


"From wiser men I have always intended to say that as a remedy for this problem, it would be worthwhile for Ministers to be relieved of the weight of so many useless sermons that are made to the wind, or even to pews of churches, and to recommend to them a little more pastoral care, visiting the sick, and maintaining good union in families, because I dare say with my blushes, that more libertine men, not only the most upright, are shocked to see in Geneva many differences, so many conflicts and many enmities between Father and Child, between Husband and Wife, and between near relatives, without any Minister intervening to reconcile them with Christian charity, before they are stung by divine justice because of these discords that are reputed bagatelle; the orders of the Church are optimal in this, if they paid attention & performed" (50) (Text 20)


In order to gain participation in divine glory, it was necessary, as stated by Brother Francesco da Sestri (1619 -?), Capuchin Minor, to abandon earthly bagatelle, as infants do leaving their swaddlings:


The Reasoning - Part Two


“But, passing from the letter to the spirit, with good reason was celebrated with festivities, with music, and feasting the day on which children are weaned, because it mystically represented the time when children began not just to live, but to live well: they leave little children in need of milk, and initiate them into being human, that nourished with the sustenance of food they dare more, to grow in virtue, in which, emerging from swaddling, minutia and earthly bagatelle, they are introduced to investigating, to looking, & and to questioning heavenly & eternal goods: in which, detached from the breasts of the world and the enticements of the flesh, they sigh and aspire to the beloved and happy ones in Paradise, they really taste the table of the Eternal Father prepared in the Eucharistic Sacrament, which offers them the fatted calf, which fattens their souls, and fills them with grace, because in their time they are partakers in glory" (51) (Text 21)


Lorenco de Zamora († 1614), Cistercian monk and reader of Sacred Scripture in the College of St. Bernard of Alcala, talking about the attributes of the divine essence, denounces in the strongest possible terms, reputing as lifeless and spiritless bagatelle, the idols and "certain little Gods".


Of the attributes of the Divine Essence (Book One - Fourth Discourse)


"There are certain meaningless Gods, made to the taste of each, figurines & bagatelle without spirit and lifeless, things of fable without value, similar to those that young girls sometimes made while working in the house of their Master. And yet in this they are given too much honor, because the things of fable and figurines represent at least something, an attractive bride or a lascivious youth or other similar things. But the Idols are nothing, vanity and chimera, that man creates in his mind. ....God is one alone and singular, who dwells in himself, & not as some believe, in a place beyond the universe; he is all in himself, is all complete in all his parts, considering & ordering the generations of things. We have one God alone, & everything else is a joke. Nil est in mundo. Bagatelle & nonsense are idols worshiped by the Pagans for Gods" (52) (Text 22)


On 17 November 1616, the Holy Inquisition of Venice investigated a Monsignor of Split, suspected of heresy for having transmitted to England “scripta contraria sanctae romanae ecclesiae ac fidei catholice” (writings against the Roman Church and the Catholic faith). During the questioning of witnesses, one of them admitted that in fact that Monsignor had gone to England in order to publish a new doctrine. Bagatelle for that Monsignor but horrible crime for the Inquisition.


“Vocatus comparuit reverendissimus dominus Sfortia Ponzonus archiepiscopi Spalatensis, cui delato iuramento de veritate dicenda, pront tacto pectore, imantinenter


Interrogatus, who tells what he knows about the departure of Monsignor Marco Antonio de Dominis his preceptor, and about the ideas or counsel put into print, and which has already been noted in this holy court.


Respondit: I know very well that said letter is written and signed by the hand of  Monsignor de Dominiis, former archbishop of Split, because I know his writing, having had many of  his other letters while I was in Rome.


Interrogatus, who speaks on what he has understood from the brother of the one to whom he has just spoken, about his journey and thoughts.


Respondit: I found out that his trip was to England with the thought of publishing a new doctrine discrepant from that which the Catholic church holds, as my brother will tell you more fully.


Interrogatus: if said monsignor during the trip or in other location has expressed to him the motive for which he went to England.


Respondit: he said that he went to systematize some bagatelle [Italian in original] on the subject of religion and faith, since the people of England are considered by us damned, and that he wanted to unite them to us making little effort, saying, that he would very easily have succeeded there (53) (Text 23)


The Dominican philosopher, theologian and poet Tommaso Campanella, born Giovanni Domenico Campanella (1568-1639), for his religious beliefs underwent five trials. Here are some of the statements of the witnesses questioned by the Holy Inquisition regarding Campanella and his disciples (In the original, the word «bagatella» is in Italian) :


First trial, done by Brother Marco da Marcianise and Cornelio di Nizza in Monteleone. "Acts instituted by the trial with the charges, September 1, 1599" (Inquisitionis Acta contra PP. Fratres Thoman Campanellam, Dionisium de Neocastro, Johann Baptistam de Pizzone et alios Inquisitos) (54).


Examination of Caesar Pisano, cleric, October 19


(Questioned about Campanella) "Interrogatus said again  ... that to worship the sacrament on the altar is a bagatella, that it is a nothing to worship and a folly to believe it ..." (55).


Examination of Gio Tomaso Caccia, cleric, exiled, October 19


(Questioned on Brother Dioniso) "Interrogatus ... respondit: Father, I tell you the truth, I did not hear anything from Pontio unless a heresy; when, staying together in Pizzoni in the dormitory I heard the bells ring for Mass, I said, Brother Dioniso, I want to go to Mass, and then he told me “that Mass!”, joking about the holy sacrifice, and adding that they were giocherelle, and because I was shocked, he saidYou, who are monks, should show me devotion, while contrarily he says that the mass is a giocarella thing, and to this he added: "or stupid, this is a bagatella, and I then went below to hear the mass that Brother Silvestro said, and he went away without coming to mass" (56) (Text 25)


In the summary of the case against Campanella written by Monsignor di Caserta (Summarium Processus contra Fratrem Thoman Campanellam), a witness questioned "respondit where he said quod Santissimus Sacramentus eucharestiae erat solum pro ratione status, I say that Brother Cornelio wrote that I had said, and instead I had not said such a thing neither do I know what thing he wants to say for 'reason of state', neither least of all have I heard Campanella saying that this sacrament was a bagatella, and that it was madness to believe that in it was the Body of Christ: but he said about the sacrament that there were some superstitions and other words that seemed to me bad, but I don't know that he openly denied that in the consecrated wafer there was the body of Christ" (57) (Text 25)


Remaining within the inquisitorial ambit, a book manuscript of the middle of the 16th century informs us of a trial set in Modena against heretics or those suspected of belonging to orientations not reconcilable with the Catholic faith. Some of them were accused of holding theological positions of a certain severity: a Giacomo Graziani is delatus de eucherestia, de delectu ciborum e de libero arbitrio; thereferees just focus on the Eucharist in their criticism of the investigated  Ferrante Castaldi and Ventura Paroleno, of whom a witness reported that of cum consecrasset plures hostias dixit  many believed that these were bagatelle, the body of Christ, meaning the consecrated host as bagatella, that is, thing of little account, almost a joke (58).


In a letter of 1515 addressed to Martin Dorp (1485-1525) by Thomas More (1478-1535), the latter, with the intention of discussing and commenting on a theological analysis by his friend, quotes a passage that Dorp had written in a letter addressed to Erasmus. Here is the passage in question in a critical and philological translation of the original letter:


From "Letter of Thomas More to Martin Dorp” (Bruges, 21 October 1515)


"Do not let yourself be persuaded, Erasmus, that anyone with a literal understanding of the text of the Bible or even someone with Origen’s knack for discovering a moral significance is already a perfect theologian. There are many things yet to be learned which are not only more difficult to understand but also more useful to the flock for whom Christ died. How else are we to know how we ought to administer the sacraments, what their forms are, when we ought to absolve and when we ought to refuse absolution to a sinner, how much restitution we must make and how much we can keep, and innumerable other things of that sort? Unless I am very mistaken, you can learn a good deal of the Bible by heart much more easily than you can learn to unravel even one of those perplexities which crop up by the score every day, in which even four words can detain one indefinitely—unless what you call theological trifles [bagatelle in the Italian translation, naenas in the Latin original] includes all that pertains to the sacraments, though without them, according to God’s holy catholic church, man’s salvation is endangered". After that More writes: "Believe me, Dorp, if you yourself had not written this yourself nothing in the world could have made me believe that you held this opinion” (59) (Original Latin text in note)


The philosopher and jurist Jean Bodin (1529-1596) in his Colloque (60), writes that bagatelle were certain beliefs useful to salvation, but actually belonging to superstition (61), such as the Jewish use of phylacteries and Roman-Catholics’ hanging around their neck the beginning of the Gospel of St. John. To the affirmation of the Muslim Octave that the Koran contained the only important things and "rient qui sent bagatelle" [nothing which are bagatelle], Curce answered that "when Muslims believe they blot out their sins by washing often" they are "making stories for children" and that this practice is not easily distinguishable from that observed by the "Western Indians of New Spain, that when they vomit at the foot of the altar of their idols, they believe that their sins are going away". Salomon considers as "a bagatella that does not deserve mentioning" as much "the vision on Mount Tabor where Moses and Elijah, left and right, witnessed the triumph of Jesus Christ" as the solar eclipse that occurred at the death of Jesus (Sans m'arrester a cette Aphoteose de la Montagne de Tabor, qui pour n'estre qu'une bagatelle pour ne merite pas que l'on en parle, ceux pechent lourdement contre l'histoire qui sont les Autheurs de cette Ecclipse solaire ....) (62).


In regard to certain biblical stories to which the people attributed the value of bagatelle, Gilberto Sacerdoti wrote: "Commenting on the Commentator in front of his students in Bologna, Pomponazzi [1462-1525] lingers "with evident satisfaction on certain expressions of Averroes, of dark color as regards the faith. "As Aristotle says," Pomponazzi explains, "it is impossible to live without laws," clarifying the avoidance of doubt that with "laws" we will talk about "de legibus fidei". Now, enunciating these necessary laws, the religious legislator is forced to speak "in a different way from the philosopher." Besides, what he proposes is that the "multitudo bene faciat", and thus in the discourses contained in his leges he "does not care about the truth," because he knows that "there is still a good number of men, essentially like beasts, "who do not let themselves be guided by the truth of reason, but only by sensitive appetite." Therefore, to induce the community to "behave well", the lawmakers say, for example, "they will go to hell", and thus in their laws behave exactly like "the nurse with the baby”, when, to educate them, they “give them to understand” a lot of fables and "other bagatelle." Because the laws are set up "ut homines to pacem reducantur." Among these "bagatelle" necessary for the education of the vulgar are to be counted some stories that speak of sacrifice and immolation. Commenting on Aristotle's Poetics, reports Pomponazzi in his lectures of 1518, "Averroes cites when Abraham wanted to sacrifice his son, and says that this is a figmentum (fiction), and that legislators, so as to induce men to worship God, pretend many things, and it is fatuous to believe that he had wanted to sacrifice his son, and says that the laws were invented for rough men, so that they will be obedient to God” (63).


Therefore the attitude of a certain part of the rationalist believers, who regarded as bagatelle many biblical stories, is not to be blamed, Pompanazzi says, despite the Church's assessment of that position as a sin.


As a final example, here is a passage in the life of St. Victor (3rd-4th century), who in this fashion expressed himself before the Court of Prefects, after being tortured by the Emperor in vain that he might repudiate his beliefs:


"But am I to be condemned, because I prefer to present goods and stormsthe eternal? Would I not be a fool, if I considered of greater value these bagatelles [term translated from the Latin], than the goods of the other life, which are of an endless value? The favor of princes, pleasures, honors, glory, health, life itself, which are not other, in truth, than goods that neither can be always had when they are wanted, nor can be enjoyed for long, and whose possession is embittered continuously by the fear of losing them? Will it not be a correct and praiseworthy thing to prefer to the enjoyment of whichever terrestrial thing, eternal life and the grace of him who has created the whole, and renders perfectly happy the one who possesses it? This inestimable good is now possessed as soon as it is loved, that than which the possessor could desire no other. In surrendering to you freely therefore the goods of which you speak to me, I believe I am making an advantageous exchange, since in place of a momentary pleasure I come to acquire an eternity of delights" (64) (Text 26)


With this work on the term Bagatelle and its meaning as expressed over several centuries by the Church (65), we are now able to understand precisely the ethical and religious value that underlie the concept of the Mystic Ladder of the Tarot. A lesson for humanity of those centuries, linked to the Ars Memoriae, to remember through that card game what sin is and how to avoid it, thinking back to the teaching expressed by the symbols of this extraordinary triumphal procession.


                                                                             ORIGINAL TEXTS

Text 1 - Vasari: "Ma egli ebbe sempre l'animo alle baie e lavorò a capricci, di niuna cosa maggiormente curandosi che di vestire pomposamente, portando giuboni di brocato, cappe tutte fregiate di tela d'oro, cuffioni ricchissimi, collane, et altre simili bagatelle e cose da buffoni e cantanbanchi"

Text 2 - Fiorenzuola: “Io vidi in Siena, in su la piazza che e’ chiamano il Campo, un giocatore di bagatelle [circulator] a cavallo per ghiottornia di pochi quattrini inghiottirsi una spada appuntatissima, e cacciarsi in corpo uno spiedo porchereccio da quella parte ch’egli ha la punta”

Texts  3 -  Pulci “fece il tristo e il cagnaccio all’usanza, / E lasciossi cader come un ribaldo. / Guarda se sa ancor far la bagatella..."

Texts  4 - Pulci: "Pensa, lettor, che il traditor rassetti / Tutte sue bagatelle e sue bugie, / E mandragole e serpe e bossoletti / E polvere e cartocci e ciurmerie / Mostrassi, e tutti sciogliesse i sacchetti…”

Text 5 - Masuccio Salernitano: "mai da niuno ponito de quanti inganni e bagatelle avea adoperate tutto ‘l suo vivente”

Text 6 -  Macchiavelli: "Nicomaco: Tu mi minacci di chiacchiere; fa’ ch’io non dica. Tu credi forse che io sia cieco e che io non conosca e’ giuochi di queste tua bagatelle? Io sapevo bene che le madre volevano bene a’ figliuoli, ma non credevo che le volessero tenere le mani alle loro disonestà".

Text 7 - Aretino: "Cappa. Tu sei molto allegro, Rosso, tu stai ridendo da ti stesso: che vuol dire? Rosso: Io mi rido d’una giuntaria, ch’è stato fatta tanto destra che non se ne sarebbe accorto il maestro de le bagatelle; e te la conterò più per agio"

Text 8 - Ariosto: "Volpino: Ma venga pur, venga a sua posta, che apparecchiata ho già la tasca da farli il più netto e il più bel giuoco di bagatelle ch’altro maestro giocasse mai"

Texts 9
A - Cecchi:  “Vo’ sarete servito. Orsù a cominciar questo giuoco di bagatelle”
B - Caro  “O tu di’ le bugie o la fortuna fa oggi le bagatelle con noi” 
C - Della Porta “E questi che fan le bagatelle, pur fan veder molte cose che non sono”

Text 10 - Doni:  “Ghioro: Lieva Signore via de la Corte tua primamente, tutti gli adulatori; perche chi ama l’adulazione è nimico della verità. Scaccia i buffoni, bandisci i Cerretani, & i Maestri di Bagatella, conciosia che son tutti gente da beffe, & un Signore che sta sempre involto nelle cose leggieri, malvolentieri spedisce gravi negotij. Tutti i vagabondi, & gli instabili, sien sempre lontano da te; perche questi son nemici della virtù” 

Text 11 - Vettori: "Dopo mangiare, capitò nell’osteria uno ciurmatore e giucolatore di bagatelle et aveva gran seguito di gente. E, se bene parlava italiano, adoperava più le mani che la lingua, di sorte che ragunò, con questa sua articella, qualche somma di crazie. Quello facessi non dico, perché noi altri siamo tanto usi a vedere simil cose che scriverle saria superfluo. Nè avea in tutto finito di raccorre e’ danari  e rassettare le sue bagatelle, che sopraggiungono quivi forse didici famigli e con furia lo legorno e menoronlo”. L’oste spiegherà poi al Vettori che non era costume di “Alamagna” farsi portar via i danari “con questi modi”

Text 12 - Berni: “Vale altrui l’orinal per tre scarselle / Et ha più ripostigli e più secreti / Che le bisacce delle bagattelle”

Text 13 - Garzoni: "Ma ci è una certa sorte di spettacol moderno trovato da varie specie di ceretani, del qual inten­do, per curiosità del mondo, …….. particolarmente ragionare. I ceretani dunque…. fra la vilissima plebe s'hanno acquistato ormai credito tale che molto maggior concorso con più lieto applauso si fa loro ch'agli eccellenti oratori del verbo divino e agli onorati catedranti delle scienze e arti ingenue, di piccola corona rispetto a loro circondati intorno. Fu di questa professione qualche memoria an­cora presso agli antichi, essendo che i bagatellieri, latinamente detti gesticolatores, e, secondo i Greci, chironomi, ottennero qualche nome fra loro, dando piacere con le bagatelle efrascherie… Ma a' tempi nostri, il numero e le specie di co­storo son cresciute a guisa della mal'erba, in modo che per ogni città, per ogni terra, per ogni piazza non si vede altro che ceretani o cantinbanchi, che più pre­sto mangiaguadagni puon dimandarsi che altramente. E tutti con vane arti e in­ganni illudono le menti del popolazzo, e allettano l'orecchia a sentir le frottole raccontate da loro, gli occhi a veder le bagatelle, i sensi tutti a stare attenti alle prove ridicolose che in piazza fanno…”

Text 14 -  Cafasso: “Giovani, e figlie, che m’ascoltate, voi sentirete soventi a dire nel mondo che quelle facezie, que’ peccati sono un niente, sono bagatelle; che non è vero sieno peccati così grandi, che Dio mandi all’Inferno per questo che li castighi poi tanto; sentite: guardatevi bene da queste lingue, lasciate dire, lasciate fare, voi state fermi a ciò, che la fede vi dice. Essere queste cose il più gran male, e condurre all’inferno tante anime disgraziate: si sente purtroppo sulla bocca di tanti, che la legge di non mangiar carne Venerdì e Sabbato è una minchioneria, un impostura, un capriccio degli uomini, e nessun uomo avere questo diritto; si sente di più che non v’è bisogno d’andarsi a confessare, potersi salvare senza la Confessione, essere un peso messo dalla Chiesa, e non da Dio: falso miei cari, falso: la fede ci obbliga a credere che i Sacramenti e fra questi la Confessione, furono da Dio istituiti; la fede ci obbliga a credere, e professare, che la Chiesa, fu fondata da Dio, aver ricevuto da lui medesimo tutta quella autorità, che vuole ed esigge il bene delle anime. O credere tutte queste verità, o rinunziare al battesimo, rinunziare al nome, ed al carattere di cristiani”

Text 15 - Margotti: “Quanto alla questione del pane, che comprende tutte le questioni di agiatezza, e di bella e buona vita, questa si cura a tutto uomo. Quanto a quella, che riflette l'onore di Dio, e il progresso morale del cittadino, si reputa una bagatella”

Text 16 - Zanetti: ”Eccolo quindi sotto il peso di que’ peccati che si credon da noi bagatelle dappoco, fragilità di natura, convenienze di mondo, dal peso di questi peccati aggravato cade Gesù Cristo, cade boccone a terra, l’allegrezza del Cielo si attrista, la gloria degli Angeli rendesi mesta, assalito l’autor della vita dall’orrore di morte: tristis, trìstìs est anima mea usque ad mortem

Text 17 - Costantini: “E' un grande inganno il nostro, e pur troppo comune alla maggior parte delle Donne, e credo anche degli Uomini, il credere di soddisfare ai doveri di Religione con bagatelle, che niuna violenza ci costano. Credere di poter accarezzare le nostre passioni, ed essere amici di Dio. Aver cuore di Lupo, ed aver sopravveste di Agnello. No, nò; non c' inganniamo, amica dilettissima; bisogna prima purgare l'interno, e vincere quelle inclinazioni, che ci rendono nemici di Dio. Ma nudrire un cuor nero, ed avere la veste candida, sarà sempre il colorito del tradimento”

Text 18 - Paciuchelli: “E gran vituperio de gl’ huomini, che essi vestano vanamente, e s’adornino quasi che fossero donne….A questi giorni passati si è veduto un tale, che trovandosi in chiesa, overa molta gente, alla presenza di tutti, trasse uno specchietto dal cinto del suo cappello, molto artifiziosamente accomodatovi, e rimirandosi in esso, si acconciò il collare, i capelli, e la barba. Non finirebbe mai chi volesse discendere a’ particolari, e descriver le tante lor bagatelle, e pazzie” 

Text 19 - Fedele of San Filippo: “Non può esser giammai piccolo colui, che attende all’acquisto di cose grandi. Mentre l’uomo è piccolo, per l’acquisto di cose piccole, d’un pomo, d’una vesticciola, o di simile bagatella, s’affatica"

Text 20 - Leti: “Dagli Huomini più savii io hò sempre inteso dire, che per rimediare à questo inconveniente, converrebbe sgravare i Ministri di quel peso di tante Prediche inutili che si fanno al vento, o pure a’ banchi delle Chiese, e raccommandarli un poco meglio la cura Pastorale, nella visita degli Infermi, e nel mantenere la buona unione tra le Famiglie, poiché ardisco dire con mio rossore, che gli Huomini più libertini, non che quelli più dabene si scandalizzano nel vedere in Geneva tante distintioni, tante discordie, e tante nemicitie tra Padre, e Figlio, tra Marito, e Moglie, e tra prossimi parenti, senza che alcuno Ministro si mescoli a pacificarli con carità Christiana, prima d'àndare per bagatelle nella giustitia; gli ordini della Chiesa son'ottimi in questo, se fossero ben' osservati, & eseguiti”

Text 21 - Francesco da Sestri: "Mà, passando dalla lettera allo spirito, con molta ragione si celebrava con feste, con musiche, e conviti il giorno, che si spoppavano i putti; perché misticamente figurava quello, in cui i fanciulli cominciavano non semplicemente a vivere, ma à ben vivere: in cui lasciano d’essere pargoletti bisognosi di latte, e principiano ad essere huomini, che si nodriscono d’alimento più sostentioso, per crescere nella virtù: in cui, usciti dalle fasce, dalle minutie, e bagatelle terrene, s’introducono ad investigare, à cercare, & à dimandare beni celesti, & eterni: in cui, staccati dalle poppe del mondo, e dalle lusinghe della carne, sospirano, ed aspirano a’ diletti, e contenti di Paradiso, che realmente gustano alla mensa del Padre Eterno preparata nel Sacramento Eucharistico, che propone loro il vitello saginato, che ingrassa l’anime, e le impingua di gratia; perché à suo tempo siano partecipi della gloria”

Text 22 - Lorenco de Zamora: "Delli attributi della Divina Essenza. Sono certi Dearelli fatti al gusto di ciascuno, figuruccie, & bagatelle senza spirito, e senza vita, & pvavoluccie simili a quelle che tal’hora, mentre lavorano in casa delle loro Maestre, sogliono fare le fanciulle. Et anco in questo se le attribuisce troppo honore, perché le pvavoluccie, & figurine rappresentano pure qualche cosa, ò una gratiosa sposa, ò un giovane lascivo, overo altre somiglianti cose. Ma gl’ Idoli sono un niente, una vanità, e chimera, che dentro all’intelletto l’huomo forma. Dio è uno solo, e singolarissimo, che habita in se medesimo, & non come credono alcuni, in un luogo fuora dell’universo; è tutto in se medesimo, è tutto in tutte le parti intiero, considerando, & ordinando le generazioni delle cose. Un Dio solo habbiamo, & tutto il resto è burla. Nil est in mundo. Bagatele & frascherie sono gl’Idoli adorati dalla Gentilità per Dei"


Text 23 - The Holy Inquisition of Venice:

, che dica quello che sa intorno alla partenza di monsignor Marco Antonio de Dominis suo precessore, et circa il manifesto o consiglio stampato da esso, et del quale già si è havuto notitia in questo santo tribunale.
Respondit: Io conosco benissimo, che detta lettera è scritta et sottoscritta di sua propria mano di esso monsignor de Dominis già arcivescovo di Spalato, perchè ho pratica della sua mano, havendo havuto molte altre sue lettere mentre io era a Roma.
Interrogatus, che dica, che cosa habbia inteso dal fratello di quel, che ha detto di sopra circa il suo viaggio et pensieri.
Respondit: scoprii, che il suo viaggio era verso Ingilterra con pensiero di publicar nova dotrina e discrepante da quella, che tiene la chiesa catholica, come mio fratello dirà più pienamente.
Interrogatus: se detto monsignor per viaggio o in altro loco gli habbia significato la causa, per la quale andava in Inghilterra.
Respondit: disse, che andava per accomodar alcune bagatelle in materia della religione et fede, cioè che quelli de Inghilterra da noi sono tenuti per persi, et lui voleva unirli con noi altri con poca cosa, dicendo, che facilissimamente haerebbe fatto"

Text 24 - Inquisitionis Acta contra PP. Fratres Thoman Campanellam

Primo processo fatto da fra Marco da Marcianise e fra Cornelio di Nizza in Monteleone.  “Atti institutivi del processo co’ capi d’accusa; 1 settembre 1599” (Inquisitionis Acta contra PP. Fratres Thoman Campanellam, Dionisium de Neocastro, Johann Baptistam de Pizzone et alios Inquisitos)

Esame di Cesare Pisano, clerico, 19 ottobre

(Domanda sul Campanella) “Interrogatus…disse ancora… che il sacramento dell’altare è una bagatella di adorare et che è niente, et una follia a crederlo…”    

Esame di Gio. Tommaso Caccia, clerico, fuoruscito,19 ottobre

(Domanda su Frate Dioniso) “Interrogatus… respondit: Padre, vi dico la verità, dal Pontio io non intesi salvo che una heresia, che stando a Pizzoni insieme nel dormitorio et havendo io sentito sonar le campane a messa gli dissi, Fra Dionisio, io voglio andare a messa, et egli all’hora mi disse che messa, burlandosi del sacrificio santo, et soggionse che erano giocherelle, et essendo io scandalizzato et dicendo Tu che sei monach dovresti mostrarmi devotione et dici che la messa è cosa giocarella, et a questo esso soggionse, o chiotto questa è una bagatella, et io allora me ne calai a basso a sentire la messa che disse Fra Silvestro, et lui si partì via senza venire a messa”

Text 25 - Summarium Processus contra Fratrem Thoman Campanellam: “respondit dove dice quod Santissimus Sacramentus eucharestiae erat solum pro ratione status, dico che fra Cornelio scrisse ch’io l’avessi detto et non dissi tal cosa ne sò che voglia dire ragione di stato, ne tampoco hò inteso dal Campanella che questo sacramento fusse una bagatella, et che fusse pazzia credere che in esso fusse il Corpo di Christo: ma disse circa il sacramento erano alcune superstizioni et altre parole che mi parvero cattive, mà non so che lui apertamente negasse nell’hostia consacrata ci fusse il corpo di Christo….”

Text 26 - San Vittore (Italian translation from Latin): “Ma come potrò io essere condannato, perché preferisco ai beni presenti, e temporali, gli eterni? Non sarei un insensato, se facessi più conto di queste bagatelle [termine tradotto dal latino], che de' beni dell'altra vita, i quali sono di un infinito valore? Il favore de' principi, i piaceri, gli onori, la gloria, la sanità, la vita medesima, che altro sono alla fine, se non beni che nè si possono sempre avere, quando si vogliono, nè si possono godere lungo tempo, ed il cui possesso viene di continuo amareggiato dal timore di perderli? Non sarà dunque giusta e lodevol cosa preferire al godimento di qualsivoglia cosa terrena la vita eterna, e la grazia di chi ha creato il tutto, e rende perfettamente felici quelli, che la posseggono?Ora questo bene inestimabile si possiede tosto chè si ama, e chi lo possiede non ha più che desiderare. Nel cedervi pertanto liberamente i beni di cui voi mi parlate, io credo di far un cambio assai vantaggioso, poichè in luogo di un piacere momentaneo vengo ad acquistare una eternità di delizie”


1 -
Ghino Ghinassi, Un dubbio lessicale di Baldassarre Castiglione, in Paolo Bongrani (editor), Dal Belcalzer al Castiglione: Studi sull’antico volgare di Mantova e sul Castiglione, Volume 5, Biblioteca Mantovana, L. S. Olschki, 2006, p. 268. In regard to the verses of the laud of Jacopone da Todi quoted by Muratori in which the term Bagatella appears, see note 6.

2 - Read our article The Order of the Triumphs.

3 - See:

- Ottorino Pianigiani, Vocabolario Etimologico della Lingua Italiana. This Dictionary, whose first edition was in 1906, has actually been printed up to 1993. Online at link

b - Fra’ Vincenzo Coronelli, Biblioteca Universale Sacro-Profana – Antico-Moderna, Vol. 5, Venezia, Antonio Tivani, 1704, p. 75. 

c - Dissertazioni sopra le Antichità Italiane. Già composte e pubblicate in latino dal Proposto Ludovico Antonio Muratori e da esso poscia compendiate e trasportate nell’Italiana Favella. Opera Postuma. Data in luce dal proposto Gian-Francesco Soli Muratori suo nipote. Vol. 2, Giambatista Pasquali, 1751, pp. 171-172.

4 - See Bagatella inOttorino Pianigiani, op. cit.

5 - Glossarivm manvale ad scriptores mediae et infimae latinitatis ex magnis glossariis Caroli du Fresne, Domini du Change et Carpentarii, Vol. 1 Halae, Apud Io. Iust. Gebaveri Vidvam et Filivm, 1772, p. 521.

6 - The complete passage quoted by Muratori: "Paul Scordilla, who around the Year 1389 wrote the Lives of the Archbishops of Ravenna, Part. I of Vol. II, Rer. Ital. p. 214, writes: Cuius zizaniae siminator fuit Servideus, primo Cantor huius Ecclesiae, & c. cognomine vocatus el Bagatella, propter ejus cavillationes umbratiles & pueriles, vel quod illam artem noverit Bagattandi [Of whom was the sower of discord Servideus, first chorister of this Church, called by the last name Bagatella because of his shady and childish quibbles, or because he knew well that art of Bagattare]. Muratori quoted in his etymological study on this term the following two verses of Jacopone da Todi drawn from the laud Renunciation of the World (Satire I):

Lassovi la fortuna fella

Travagliar qual Bagattella

In reality the ample glossaries of the most recent and reliable critical editions of the laudario iacoponico (F. Ageno, Firenze, 1953 - F. Mancini, Bari, 1974) agree in affirming that the term Bagatella quoted here does not appear in the original edition of the manuscript since it deals with a later interpolation. The meaning of the two verses would be understood however in this sense: "I leave to you the perfidious fortune / that so torments you as if it were a bagatelle", that is, as things thus without weight and without value -  as feathers could be said to be – so that being tossed by such bad fortune is to his liking. Another later interpolation is from considering the presence of the term Bagatella reported particularly in nineteenth-century texts referring to the Canzona in Frottola (Frottola Song)(dated to 1280) of Cavalcanti, where in the later edition we have bagatelle, but baccatelle in the original text. 

Giuoco è da Bagattelle

L'andar pure a le belle con chi sguizza


Game is of bagattelle

to please those who flee


The same “baccatelle” is also in a rhyme by Antonio di Meglio (XVth century). From these examples the derivation of ‘bagatella’ from ‘baccatella’, i.e. berry (small fruit), is clear. Please read what is written about it in this essay with reference to the etymology of the noun 'bagatella'.

7 - Giorgio Vasari, Le Vite dei più eccellenti pittori, scultori e architetti, 1550.

8 - Erasmi Rot. [Erasmus of Rotterdam], MΏPIAΣ ΕΓΚΏΜΙΟΝ sive Stultitiae Laus Declamatio, Basilea, G. Haas, 1780, pp. 133-134.

9 - Adriano Seroni (editor), A. Fiorenzuola, Opere, Firenze, 1971, p. 185. The expression “a cavallo” is an error by Fiorenzuola, in that equestrem in Apuleius means a horseman’s sword (spatham praecutam).

10 - XXIV 126, 8-127, 2.

11 - XXV 112, 1-5.

12 - See the edition edited by Giorgio Petrocchi, Firenze, 1957, p. 197.

13 - Nino Borsellino (editor), Commedie del Cinquecento, Milano, I, 1962, p. 158; II, 1967, pp. 253, 472.

14 - Codice Vaticano Latino 8204.

15 - See Ghino Ghinassi, op. cit., pp. 267-268.

16 - Arrigo Castellani,Grammatica storica della lingua italiana I, Introduzione, Bologna, 2000, p. 120.

17 - Ghino Ghinassi,op. cit., p, 273. For the Novellino see the edition of A. Conte, Roma, 2001, p.76.

18 - This work was cited, among others, by Msgr. Leber and quoted in William Andrew Chatto, Facts and Speculations on the Origin and History of Playing Cards, London, John Russell Smith, 1848, p. 117. Another text that contains an explanation of Renaissance games of prestidigitation, even if the matter occupies a small part of the whole volume (22 pages out of 283), is the Discoverie of Witchcraft by Reginald Scot, reprinted by Dover Publications. The first edition appeared in 1584. We thank Mrs. Valery Russo for having kindly communicated to us the existence of this last text.

19 - Isacco della Stella, I Sermoni, Volume One: Dalla Settuagesima alla Pentecoste, Sermone 32. Sermone Terzo per la prima domenica di Quaresima, Roma, Paoline, 2006, p. 249.

20 - Francesco Doni, I Marmi, Ragionamento Secondo, Vinegia, Francesco Marcolini, 1552, p. 35.

21 - Enrico Niccolini(editor), Francesco Vettori. Scritti storici e politici, Bari, 1972, p. 47.

22 - Ghino Ghinassi, op, cit., p. 271.

23 - See: Sancti Agobardi episcopi Lugdunensis, Liber contra insulsam vulgi opinionem de grandine et tonitruis, in “Patrologiae Cursus Completum, Series II, Tomus CIV, Parigi, Migne, 1851, pp. 147-148. Quoted in Nicola Cariello, Stato e Chiesa nel regno d’Italia al tempo di Ludovico II (844-875), Roma, Scienze e Lettere, 2011, pp. 31-32. For the English translation of the Latin words, see Steven F. Kruger, Dreaming in the Middle Ages, p. 11, which is in Google Books.

24 - Salviano di Marsiglia, Il governo di Dio, 23-26 e 187-189.

25 -  Cfr. Luciano Contini, La gente del circo e luna park e il servizio pastorale, online at link

26 - Policraticus, I, 8, PL, CIC, col. 405-406.

27 - Bernardo di Clairvaux. Il libro della nuova cavalleria, De laude novae militiae,  trans and ed. by Franco Cardini, Milano, 2004.p. 169.

28 - Jacques le Goff, Mestieri leciti e mestieri illeciti, in “Tempo della Chiesa, tempo del Mercante”, Torino, 1997, pp. 58-59.

29 - Ibid, note 22, p. 59.

30 - See: Anton Emanuel Schönbach, Studien zur Geschichte des altdeutschen Predigt,in “Sitzungen und Berichte der philologisch-historischen Klasse der kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften”, vol. 154, 1907, p. 44.

31 - By Salterio must be meant the Rosary. Work published posthumously in 1478. Online link at of the site “Ecclesia Dei. Cattolici, Apostolici, Romani”.

32 - Discorso CIV. 

33 - Francesco Dondi Dall’Orologio, Dissertazione Terza sopra l’Istoria Ecclesiastica di Padova, Padova, Presso il Seminario, 1807, pp. 29-30.

34 - Our concept of the Mystical Staircase of the Tarot was formulated in 1987 on the occasion of the exposition Cards of the Court. Tarot, Game and Magic at the Court of the Estensi, an exposition of which we took care of the historical-scientific project and the document selection.

35 - Read the essay The History of the Taroti.

36Sermo perutilis de ludo, previously cited. This is the order: 1 El bagatella - 2 Imperatrix - 3 Imperator - 4 La papessa - 5 El papa - 6 La temperantia - 7 L'amore - 8 Lo caro triumphale - 9 La fortezza - 10 La rotta - 11 El gobbo - 12 Lo imphicato - 13  La morte - 14 El diavolo - 15 La sagitta - 16 La stella - 17 La luna - 18 El sole - 19 Lo angelo - 20 - La iusticia - 21 El mondo - 22 El matto   

37 - For a longer examination of the figure of the Fool read the related iconological essay

38 - François Louis Gauthier, Traité contre l’amour des parures et de luxe des habits, Second Edition, Paris, Chez Augustin-Martin Lottin, 1780.

39 - François Louis Gauthier, Traité contre les danses et le mauvaises chansons, Paris, Chez Antoine Boudet, 1769.

40 - In Mélanges de Politique, de Morale et de Littérature, extraits des Journaux de M. L’Abbé de Feller, Vol. 1, Louvain, Vanlinthout et Vandenzande, 1822, p. 307.

41 - Histoire de la Vertueuse Portugaise; ou le modèle des femmes chrétiennes. Par Mr. L’abbé Maydieu, chanoine de l’église de Tryes, en Champagne. Paris, Chez Charles-Pierre Berton, 1779.

42 - Mélanges de Politique, etc., op. cit, p. 216. The English translation of the Vulgate is that the Douhy-Rheims Bible, as revised by Richard Challoner in 1750, of Proverbs 10, 23:

43 - Read the iconological essay The Fool.

44 - Renzo Savarino (a cura di), Giuseppe Cafasso. Predicazione varia al popolo - Istruzioni e Discorsi, Cantalupa,2005, pp. 357-358.

45 - Giacomo Margotti, Alcune considerazioni intorno la separazione dello Stato dalla Chiesa in Piemonte, Torino, Paolo Deagostini, 1855, p. 95.

46 - Marino da Cadore, Panegirici. Discorsi Morali e Prediche Quaresimali, Vol. 5, Venezia, Francesco Andreola, 1838, p.. 174.

47 - Agostino Santo Pupieni (Giusepp Antonio Costantini), Lettere Critiche. Giocose, Morali, Scientifiche ed Erudite, Vol, 3, Paragrafo ‘Nobiltà, Sapere e Virtù’, Venezia, Giuseppe Zorzi, 1780, p. 18.

48 - F. Angelo Paciuchelli, Lezioni Morali sopra Giona Profeta, Tomo Terzo, Seconda Impressione, Venezia, Paolo Baglioni, 1658, p. 93.

49 - F. Benedetto Fedele, Sacri Panegirici de Santi, Venezia, Giunti, 1640, p. 156.

50 - Gregorio Leti, Historia Genevrina o sia Historia della Città, e Republica di Geneva, Part 3, Amsterdam, Pietro, & Abramo von Someren, 1686, p. 521.

51 - Fra Francesco da Sestri, Parte Seconda de Ragionamenti a Novitii, Genova, Anton Giorgio Franchelli, 1685, p. 5.

52 - Lorenzo de Zamora, Monarchia. Mistica della Chiesa, Composta de Gieroglifici tratti dalle Divine, & Humane lettere, Parte Prima, Tradotta nuovamente dall’Idioma Spagnuolo nell’Italiano da Pietro Foscarini, Venezia, Andea Baba, 1620, pagg. 79 - 80. Original title of the first edition: Monarquia mistica de la iglesia, hecha de hieroglificos sacados de humanas y divinas letras, Madrid, 1617.

53 - Starine, Jugoslavenska Akademija Znanosti, Zagabria, 1870, pp. 152-155.

54 - Luigi Amabile, Fra Tommaso campanella. La sua congiura, i suoi processi e la sua pazzia, Volume III, Nino Aragno Editore, 2006, p. 194. Reprint of the anonymous title published in Naple in 1882

55 - Ibid, p. 241.

56 - Ibid, p. 245.

57 - Ibid, p. 431.

58 - See: Matteo al Kalak, Storia della Chiesa di Modena. Dal medioevo all’età contemporanea. Profili di vescovi modenesi dal IX al XVIII secolo, Modena, Poligrafico Mucchi, 2006, p. 284.

59 -  English translation in Complete Works of St. Thomas More, Vol. 15 (Daniel Kinney, editor), Yale University Press, New Haven, 1986, pp. 55, 57. Latin original, pp. 54, 56. Italian translation inFrancesco Rognoni (editor), Tommaso Moro. Lettere, Scelte, translated with commentary by Alberto Castelli, Milano, V&P (Vita e Pensiero), 2008, p. 121. Here is the Latin: “Non persuadeas Erasme tibi eum demum absolutum esse Theologum, qui Bibliae seriem ad litteram intelligat, nec eum item qui morales sensus, aeque atque alter Origines nouit eruere. Multa restant discenda, ut intellectu difficiliora, ita et utiliora gregi pro quo mortuus est Christus. Alioqui qui sciemus, ut Sacramenta sint administranda, quaenam sint eorum formae, quando absoluendus peccator, quando sit reijciendus, quid praeceptum sit restitui, quid seruari possit, et innumera eiusmodi? Multum nisi erro longe minori opera bonam Bibliae partem edisceres, priusquam uel unius perplexitatis nodum discas dissoluere cuiusmodi plurimi cottidie occurrunt,  ubi uel in quattuor uerbis diutissime herendum est, [27] nisi tu has etiam uoces Theologorum naenias, quaecunque ad sacramenta pertineant, sine quibus tamen sancta dei ecclesia catholica profitetur salutem hominis periclitari.” Crede mihi Dorp nisi hec tute scriberes, nunquam adduci possem, hec te sentire ut crederem.

60 - Jean Bodin, Colloque entre sept scavans qui sont de differens sentiments, Genève, Libraire Droz, 1984.

61 - About superstition, considered by the Church a sinful bagatella, Muratori explicitly warns: "Ubi ignorantia, ibi facile Superstitionem quoque reperias" (“Where ignorance exists, you will also easily find superstition"). Ludovico Antonio Muratori, Antiquitates Italicae Medii Aevi, De superstitionum semine in oscuri Italiae saeculis. Dissertatio quinquagesima nona, Vol. XII, Arezzo, M. Bellotti, 1778, p. 402.

62 - Jean Bodin, op. cit. About the reported examples, see pages 257,  268,  269,  414,  500.

63 - Gilberto Sacerdoti, Bagatelle e figmenta: Pomponazzi e Averroè, in “Sacrifico e sovranità. Teologia e politica nell’Europa di Shakespeare e Bruno”, Torino, Einaudi, 2002, pp. 295-296.

64 - Pia Società di Ecclesiastici e Secolari, I Fasti della Chiesa nelle Vite de’ Santi, Milano, Angelo Bonfanti, 1828, p. 509.

65 - Even in our day, though with rare frequency, 'sin-bagatella’  is still mentioned. An example: on November 19, 1998 appeared in Espresso an interview of Prof. Luigi Lombardi Vallauri, teacher of the Philosophy of Law at the University of Florence, according to whom to admit the existence of hell on the part of the Catholic Church results in a "colossal injustice....instead of re-educating the offender, as would be correct, hell condemns him to an eternal punishment, without escape. The Catholic hell is too immoderate a punishment in relation to the crime committed" because it is possible to go to hell for a "sin-bagatella", such as a calm kiss sine periculo pollutionis (without danger of pollution, spilling of semen). 

Copyright by Andrea Vitali