hist-games: Tablero de jesus

Thierry Depaulis thierry.depaulis at freesbee.fr
Wed Feb 2 00:54:47 PST 2000

On Tue, 01 Feb 2000 Mark Waks, aka "Justin du Coeur" wrote:

>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:

That is certainly good information. Thank you for letting us know.

>-- The game is known to have been played by Cistercian monks at the
>Abbey of Los Santos de Campo in Granada by 1404.

Cistercian monks in Granada?? This is highly improbable since Granada was
still a muslim city by 1404 and had long been so!

>-- Boards have been found in a few Spanish abbeys, as well as Tuscany,
>Provence and the Low Countries.

I guess the game had different names in Tuscany, Provence and the Low
Countries. Does I.Y. Erzbergen-St.Susse name them?

>-- The Abbot of Cleaves in England, in 1449 refers in his journal to
>"the Jesus boarde".

I'd love to hear more about this 15th-century "journal"! Unfortunately I
was unable to locate Cleaves. Can any British reader help?

>-- The Bishop of Limoges defended the game in 1446.

I will ask the Limoges Archives.

>-- 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appear to be a rubber stamp saying that this ban is no longer in force;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.

This is the worst part of the story: *no Sylvester V has ever existed*!
In 1458 there were two successive Popes: Calixtus III, who died in August,
then Pius II who was elected some days after. There were only three
Sylvesters as regular Popes and one antipope (Sylvester IV, who reigned
from 1105 to 1111).

>-- Cardinal Martino d'Allesandro says in his memoirs that he introduced
>the game to the papal court in 1456.

I will check whether there is a Cardinal Martino d'Allesandro. The spelling
is strange -- neither Italian nor Spanish -- but the double l may be a
mistyping (for d'Alessandro?).

>-- 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 no place called Saint-Michel-des-Fosses in France... There is a
village called Saint-Michel-en-Provence, and... another one called
Saint-Maur-des-Fosse's (acute) *with a well-known abbey* which used to
belong to the Kings of France. It is now a suburb of Paris (therefore far
from Provence).

>There is a reference to a British Prof. Bryce Ryefield
>as having opined about one of the odder symbols on the board.

British Professors are always welcome for opining about odd symbols... ;-)

>Okay, so what does all this indicate? It is *possible* that this could
>all be some sort of hoax by Mr. Erzbergen-St.Susse,

Well, well. Someone who is able to *invent* a Pope can forge everything.
Even if 'Tablero de jesus' looks like a "horrible misreconstruction", as
you nicely put it, not of Tafl but of Quaeckbord/Queck, aka
Dringuet/Trinquet, le Point de l'Echiquier (in France), Prenten,
Brentenspiel (in Germany), a game where people diced *over* a chessboard.
In Castilian the game was called ' Jaldeta'.

>but it seems unlikely to me -- the level of detail
>in the descriptions is unusually good, and the game *feels* like a
>dicing game to me.

This is not my feeling. But historical research cannot rely on "feeling".

>If it's a hoax, it's a remarkable one.

Guess what is my (temporary) conclusion...

Thierry Depaulis

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