hist-games: Bishops with Dice

Michael J. Hurst mjhurst at earthlink.net
Mon Jul 29 08:22:27 PDT 2002

I've recently subscribed to the List, and browsed through the
archives. One of the most interesting threads in the archives
concerns Thierry Depaulis' questioning the historical foundation
of El Tablero de Jesus, back in January/February of 2000. Based
on his post, and on subsequent posts last Summer, it appears that
there is no such historical foundation for this pious game of

However, when I read part of the legend/hoax that surrounded the
game, it had a familiar ring to it. Particularly the following

"Moreover, as we now know, the monks regarded El Tablero (or
professed to regard it) as less a game than a "religious
exercise" which helped cultivate the Christian virtues of
moderation and self-denial. In a defense of the game written in
1446, the Bishop of Limoges went so far as to describe El Tablero
as 'a godly game, which rewardeth forbearence and punisheth

Gertrude Moakley, in her 1966 study of the Visconti-Sforza Tarot
cards, included the following aside in a footnote about the
number of suit cards (56) in a Tarot deck:

"It was Professor Maurice G. Kendall [famous statistician] who
pointed out to me that fifty-six is the number of throws with
three dice. He mentions the dice game of fifty-six throws, which
Bishop Wilbold recommended to his clergy as a spiritual exercise
in the year 970. Burckhardt (_Civilization_, p 409) mistakenly
refers to this as a game of cards." (Moakley, 42.)

Does anyone know of the "Bishop Wilbold" reference? What it
contains? Any info would be appreciated.

Best regards,
Michael Hurst

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