What Card Games Did They Play in Medieval Times?

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By Monica Bates

Card games have been popular for centuries, and people have been playing them since medieval times. The cards used in those times were different from the ones that we use today. However, the basic concept of playing card games has remained the same throughout history.

The Origin of Card Games

The origin of card games is still a matter of debate among historians. Some believe that they originated in China during the Tang dynasty (618–907 AD), while others trace their roots to the Mamluk Empire in Egypt during the 13th century.

The Cards Used in Medieval Times

The cards used in medieval times were different from the ones we use today. They were typically hand-painted and made out of parchment or vellum.

The designs on these cards varied depending on where they were made. In Europe, cards usually had four suits: cups, swords, coins, and batons.

Popular Card Games Played During Medieval Times

1. Tarot: Originally used for divination purposes, Tarot cards gradually became popular as a game during the 15th century.

2. Karnöffel: This game was popular in Germany and was played with a deck of 32 cards. The objective was to win tricks by taking specific cards or combinations of them.

3. Maw: This game was played with a deck of 52 cards and was popular among English royalty during the Tudor period.

4. Primero: This game was similar to poker and was popular in Spain and Italy during the 16th century.

The Symbolism Behind Medieval Cards

The designs on medieval cards had deep symbolism associated with them:

Cups: Represented love, emotions, and matters of the heart.

Swords: Represented justice, power, and conflict.

Coins: Represented wealth, material possessions, and financial matters.

Batons: Represented the working class, labor, and daily life.

The Legacy of Medieval Card Games

Medieval card games have left a lasting impact on modern card games. Many of the games played during medieval times are still played today in some form or another. The designs on medieval cards have also influenced modern playing cards and can be seen in the suits used in decks today.

In Conclusion

Card games have been enjoyed by people for centuries, and medieval times were no exception. The cards used during that era were different from the ones we use today, but the basic concept of playing card games has remained constant. The legacy of medieval card games lives on in modern-day pastimes, making them a fascinating part of our cultural history.