Were There Card Games in Medieval Times?

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By Eric Wilson

Card games have become an integral part of our lives. We use them for entertainment, gambling, and even learning.

But have you ever wondered if card games existed in medieval times? Let’s explore this topic in-depth.

The Origins of Card Games

First, we need to understand the origins of card games. The exact origins are unknown, but it is believed they originated in China during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Cards were used as a form of currency and were decorated with intricate designs and illustrations.

From China, cards spread to India and Persia. It wasn’t until the 14th century that cards made their way to Europe through Egypt and Spain.

Medieval Card Games

Card games were popular in medieval times but were quite different from what we know today. The cards were hand-painted on woodblocks or ivory, making them expensive and only accessible to the wealthy.

One popular medieval card game was Tarot. Originally used for divination purposes, Tarot cards evolved into a game that involved bidding and trick-taking similar to modern-day bridge.

Another popular game was Karnöffel, which originated in Germany. It involved bidding and attempting to capture the highest-ranking card.

The Church’s Stance on Card Games

The Church had a mixed stance on card games during medieval times. On one hand, they saw them as a form of gambling that could lead to addiction and financial ruin. On the other hand, they recognized that card games could be used for educational purposes.

In fact, some monasteries had their own deck of cards called “Trionfi” which depicted religious figures such as saints instead of traditional playing cards.

The Evolution of Card Games

Card games continued to evolve over time with new variations introduced such as Poker in the 19th century and Bridge in the early 20th century.

Today, card games are more accessible than ever with digital versions available on smartphones and computers. They remain a popular form of entertainment and social activity.


In conclusion, card games did exist in medieval times. They were different from what we know today, but they were a popular form of entertainment among the wealthy. As card games evolved over time, they became more accessible to everyone and continue to be enjoyed today.