Chess as a Social Metaphor in Italy

Most games (solitaire excepted) are, by definition, social activities — none more so than chess:

Knights Templar Playing Chess, 1283 AD

For some time chess was viewed by the Roman Catholic Church as a “path to perdition”. Eventually the church began to change their tune on chess and viewed it as a propaganda gold mine as opposed to a evil pass time. Specifically, “Jacobus de Cessolis used chess as the basis for a series of sermons” (Yalom 68). By this time chess was no longer considered a game of war due to the inclusion of non-warlike pieces such as the king and queen. This allowed Cessolis took advantage of this new paradigm to convey chess as an allegory for society. Using the chess board to demonstrate an ideal state Cessolis preached of a “social pyramid” with the king on top and the peasants at the bottom.

Michael Downing @

Image: Knights Templar playing Chess (1283 AD). Biblioteca del Monasterio de El Escorial, ms T. I 6, fol. 25. Patrimonio Nacional, Spain. Via Wikipedia.