Talk by Italian Researcher Dario Personeni at Medieval Studies Seminar

image 3On Saturday, October 12, 2019, the first session of the regular Medieval Studies Seminar in this academic year was convened under the aegis of the Department of Romance Languages. A talk on “In the 'Dark Forest' of Witnesses: Jacopo da Cessole's Book 'Libellus de ludo schachorum' and its Transmission throughout Medieval Europe” was given by Dario Personeni, a researcher at the Bergamo State Archive.

In his talk, the Italian researcher presented the results of his studies of the manuscript tradition of one of the most widely read and famous literary works in late medieval Europe, the Libellus de moribus hominum et de officiis nobilium ac popularium super ludo schacorum ('Book of the Customs of Men and the Duties of Nobles with Reference to the Book of Chess'), often simply called the Libellus de ludo schacorum ('Book on the Game of Chess'), which was written in the late 13th/early 14th century by the Dominican friar Jacopo da Cessole (also called Jacobus Cessolis).

The Dominican friar's text cannot merely be considered as a textbook on the game of chess; rather, it is a moral and didactic work. By allegorizing the pieces that move across the chess board, Jacopo describes in detail the main qualities that every member of the society at the time (in particular, the civitas or city) should possess in order for it to be able to function harmoniously. Only one category is missing from the picture he paints, namely, clerics, probably because none of the chess pieces was able to portray them adequately.

Among the earliest works from the mid- to late-13th century that interpreted the chessboard as a symbolic surface for portraying an ideal model of society with all its conventions and its hierarchy were the Communiloquium sive summa collationum ('Collective Dialogue') of the Franciscan John of Wales and the Dit d’Engreban d’Arras.

The seminar was attended by faculty members (L. V. Evdokimova, M. Iu. Desiatova, K.A. Alexandrova), colleagues from the Institute of General History of the Russian Academy of Sciences (S. I. Luchitskaya, N. M. Dolgorukova, M. A. Kozlova), the Italianist and medievalist A. E. Zvonaryova, and students from the Faculties of Philology and Theology of Saint Tikhon's University and the Higher School of Economics. S. I. Lunitskaya, A. E. Zvonaryova, L. V. Evdokimova, and theology student G. Moroz took part in the discussion following the talk.

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