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Minchiate is an early 16th century card game, originating in Florence, Italy. It is no longer widely played. Minchiate can also refer to the special deck of 97 playing cards used in the game. The deck is closely related to the tarot cards, but contains an expanded suit of trumps. The game was similar to a complexified tarocchi.

VII, Fortitude, from the minchiate deck, depicts a woman breaking a pillar.


Scholars generally believe that the tarot cards were invented around Florence and northern Italy circa 1440; they spread elsewhere in Italy early on. The minchiate represents a Florentine variant on the original game. The game was first known as germini and was later known as ninchiate in the 17th century.

The word minchiate comes from a dialect word meaning "nonsense" or "trifle". The word minchione is attested in Italian as meaning "fool", and minchionare means "to laugh at" someone. The intended meaning may be "the game of the fool", considering that the card "The Fool", also called "The Excuse", features prominently in the game play of all tarot games.


The minchiate deck differs from the standard tarot deck in several particulars. The first and most obvious difference is that the trumps have almost doubled in number; there are 40 trumps in the minchiate, in addition to the unnumbered card the Madman, The Fool or the excuse.

The trumps of the minchiate deck, and their corresponding tarot of Marseilles cards and the esoteric Rider-Waite tarot deck are:

Card number Italian name[1] depicted on the minchiate card corresponding tarot of Marseilles card corresponding divination tarot card
(0) Il matto The madman Le Mat (the madman) The Fool
I Papa uno; l'Uno; il Papino; Ganellino[2] The trivial performer I Le Bateleur (the trivial performer) 1 - The Magician
II Papa due; Granduca The Empress; the Grand Duke III L'impérarice (the empress) 3 - The Empress
III Papa tre; Imperatore The Western Emperor IIII L'empereur (the Emperor) 4 - The Emperor
IV Papa quattro; Imperatrice The Eastern Emperor V Le Pape (the Pope) 5 - The Hierophant
V Papa cinque; Innamorato Love VI L'amoureux (the Lover) 6 - The Lovers
VI la Temperanza Temperance XIIII Temperance 14 - Temperance
VII la Forza Fortitude XI La Force (fortitude) 8 - Strength
VIII la Giustizia Justice VII La Justice 11 - Justice
IX la Ruota della Fortuna Wheel of Fortune X La Roue de Fortune 10 - Wheel of Fortune
X il Carro Chariot VII Le Chariot 7 - The Chariot
XI Il gobbo; il tempo Hunchback; time IX L'Ermite 9 - The Hermit
XII L'impiccato The hanged man XII Le Pendu 12 - The Hanged Man
XIII la Morte Death XIII La Mort 13 - Death
XIV Il Diavolo The Devil XV Le Diable 15 - The Devil
XV la Casa del diavolo The house of the Devil XVI La Maison Dieu (the house of God) 16 - The Tower
XVI la Speranza Hope none none
XVII la Prudanza Prudence none none
XVIII la Fede Faith none none
XIX la Carità Charity none none
XX to XXIII il Fuoco, l'Acqua, la Terra, l'Aria The four elements, fire, water, earth, air none none
XXIV to XXXV la Bilancia,la Vergine,lo Scorpione,l'Ariete,il Capricorno,il Sagittario,il Cancro,i Pesci,l'Acquario,il Leone,il Toro,i Gemelli The zodiac (Libra,Virgo,Scorpio,Aries,Capricorn,Sagittarius,Cancer,Pisces,Aquarius,Leo,Taurus,Gemini) none none
(XXXVI to XXXVIII, but usually unnumberred) La stella, la Luna, il Sole The star, the moon, the sun XVII L'étoile, XVIII La Lune, XVIIII Le Soleil 17 - The Star, 18 - The Moon, 19 - The Sun
(XXXIX, usually unnumbered) il Mondo the World XXI Le Monde 21 - The World
XL L'Angelo;Le trombe The Angel;The trumpets XX Le Jugement 20 - Judgment

The ace to ten and the court cards resemble their standard counterparts more closely. There are the four standard Spanish and Italian playing card suits of swords, batons, coins, and cups; these contain pip cards from ace to ten, and four court cards: a jack, a knight, a queen, and a king. In the minchiate deck, however, in the suits of cups and coins, the "knaves" or "pages" (Italian fanti) have been replaced by "maids" (fantine). The knights, mounted figures in the tarot of Marseilles and similar designs, are centaurs or sphinxes in many minchiate decks.

Significant differences exist also among the trumps between the minchiate subjects and their tarot de Marseille counterparts. As discussed below, the Papess and the Pope are absent from the minchiate trumps (at least no Pope nor Popess are depicted); instead, it contains a Grand Duke and two different Emperors. The card subjects depict a western and an eastern emperor.

The standard tarot card The House of God, becomes the House of the Devil in the minchiate deck or Hellmouth; it depicts a nude figure fleeing a burning building. The Moon depicts an astrologer studying the moon instead of the tarot of Marseilles howling dogs and lobster. The card corresponding to the Hermit is often called Time, or the Hunchback; it depicts an elderly man on crutches. All four cardinal virtues and the three theological virtues don't appear in tarot, except in the very early tarot decks called the Cary-Yale Visconti tarot. The minchiate version of the Hanged Man is called the Traitor; he carries bags in his hands as he hangs upside down, a representation associated with treason in 14th-century Italy.[3] The final card in the series is not the World, but an angel blowing trumpets.


The game spread from Florence to the rest of Italy and to other areas of Europe including France. By the 18th century, minchiate had overtaken the original game of tarot in popularity in Italy. Paolo Minucci published a commentary on the game in 1676, and the game is described in detail by Romain Merlin in Origine des cartes à jouer, published in Paris in 1869. The game was still played in Genoa in the 1930s, but its popularity declined in the late 19th and early 20th century.

The game, like other tarot games, is a trick taking game in which points are scored by capturing certain cards and sets of cards. The lowest five trumps (Daddy, Grand Duke, Western Emperor, Eastern Emperor, Lover) were called papi, "popes", even though "Le Pape" (The Pope) does not appear among the minchiate trumps. The highest five trumps (Star, Moon, Sun, World, Trumpets) were called arie ("airs") and have a special high scoring value in the game.


While the game of minchiate died out during the early 20th century, in more recent years the minchiate has become the subject of further speculative interest. It is related to the tarot, although the expanded set of trumps added to the minchiate does not shed any light on what the tarot deck was originally intended to signify.

In 15th-century Florence, at least, the tarot was thought to contain religious, allegorical, and cosmographical symbols. Justice, Strength, and Temperance were three classical "cardinal virtues" depicted in the more familiar tarot trumps. The minchiate supplies the remaining cardinal virtue — Prudence — and also includes the three theological virtues, Faith, Hope and Charity. The Sun, Moon, Star, and World figure in the tarot de Marseille trumps; the minchiate completes the series by adding all the zodiac signs and the four classical elements.

Although no divination system using this pack of cards ever existed in previous centuries, and because of this allegorical and cosmological content, in recent years tarot occultists have proposed systems of divination and cartomancy that use the minchiate deck. In Charles Godfrey Leland's book 1890 book Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches, an incantation is given that mentions the use of "40 cards", which are renamed in the spell as 40 gods who are being invoked to compel the goddess Laverna to do the caster's bidding.[4] Paul Huson has speculated that these 40 cards are the 40 trumps of the minchiate deck.[5] He has also pointed out that Leland's book Etruscan-Roman Remains in Popular Tradition (1892) contains a spell that is cast with tarocco cards,[6][7] to invoke Janus.

Minchiate decks[edit]

The Italian publisher Lo Scarabeo offers a reproduction of the "Ancient Minchiate Etruria", an engraved minchiate deck that originally appeared in 1725.

The Italian publisher Il Meneghello offers a reproduction, in regular and mini sizes, of the "Minchiate Fiorentine", a woodcut minchiate deck that originally appeared circa 1820.

The late tarot artist Brian Williams (died 2002) published a modern edition of the minchiate deck, which accompanies his book referenced below.

Artist Constante Constantini, through Italian publisher Solleone, has published two different modern minchiate decks:

  • Minchiate Fiorentine: modern redrawing of a woodcut design
  • Nuove Minchiate Fiorentine: modern redrawing

See also[edit]



  1. ^ A History of Games Played with the Tarot Pack, Dummet & McLeod, 2004. Edwin Mellen Press, Lampeter. Vol.1, page 319.
  2. ^ "Regole delle Minchiate di Niccolo Oneste (1716)". Retrieved 2011-11-01. 
  3. ^ as mentioned by Stuart Kaplan in his Encyclopedia of Tarot, Pope John XXIII ordered depiction of Sforza — guilty of desertion — as hanging from his right leg.
  4. ^ "Aradia, ch. 17". Sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 2012-04-03. 
  5. ^ Huson, Paul, The Devil's Picturebook, p.67, New York: G.P. Putnams Sons, 1971
  6. ^ Huson, Paul. The Devil's Picturebook. p. 189. 
  7. ^ "Etruscan-Roman Remains, ch. 10". 

Web sites of interest[edit]