hist-games: Tablero de jesus

Mark Waks, AKA Justin du Coeur justin at intermetrics.com
Tue Feb 1 10:08:05 PST 2000


Okay, here we go...

The information I have on Tablero is based on photocopies provided by
Amanda Kendal of Westmoreland; if I recall correctly, her husband
Gerhard introduced the game into the SCA.

The principal source is a short article by I.Y. Erzbergen-St.Susse,
Ph.D., Queenswood Professor of Medieval Studies at Brunswick University.
It appears to be from 1971, and was provided as part of the rules to a
Tablero set sold by:

	Erzbergen-St.Susse Co.
	5 Teatown Road
	Croton-on-Hudson, NY 10520

Since the article is still under copyright, I won't transcribe it whole,
but the high points are:

-- The game is known to have been played by Cistercian monks at the
Abbey of Los Santos de Campo in Granada by 1404.
-- Boards have been found in a few Spanish abbeys, as well as Tuscany,
Provence and the Low Countries.
-- The Abbot of Cleaves in England, in 1449 refers in his journal to
"the Jesus boarde".
-- The Bishop of Limoges defended the game in 1446.
-- The game was banned by Sylvester V in 1458. The rules have what
appear to be a rubber stamp saying that this ban is no longer in force;
it isn't clear to me whether this implies that the ban was lifted
recently, or not.
-- Cardinal Martino d'Allesandro says in his memoirs that he introduced
the game to the papal court in 1456.
-- The board being sold by Erzbergen-St.Susse is based on one found at
the Abbey of Saint-Michel-des-Fosses in Provence. It is highly
decorated, with a floral motif covering most of the squares and various
religious symbols on some of them. There is speculation in the footnotes
of the rules about how these symbols might have influenced play. There
is a reference to a British Prof. Bryce Ryefield as having opined about
one of the odder symbols on the board.

Okay, so what does all this indicate? It is *possible* that this could
all be some sort of hoax by Mr. Erzbergen-St.Susse, but it seems
unlikely to me -- the level of detail in the descriptions is unusually
good, and the game *feels* like a Renaissance dicing game to me. If it's
a hoax, it's a remarkable one.

Of more concern is the complete lack of primary source material, which
makes it impossible to judge the quality of the reconstruction. For all
I know, this could all be some sort of horrible misreconstruction of a
Tafl variant. But lacking that primary information, I currently choose
to believe that the reconstruction is appropriate -- there's nothing
blatantly odd about it.

I'd be more than happy to get more information than this, in any respect
-- if someone comes up with good reason to believe that the game *isn't*
period, that's obviously important to know, and I would dearly love to
get the original sources that this is based upon, so I can evaluate the
reconstruction. For now, I'm going to believe that the reconstruction is
reasonable...

				-- Justin

Random Quote du Jour:

"You know those bumper stickers you can get that say 'I <heart> my Cat'
 or Schnauzer or whatever? -- I saw an ad in the Village Voice for a
 little stick on <Screw> icon you can put over the heart...."
		-- Terry Smith

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