Wherever in Western Europe man turned his eyes, he was confronted by the majesty of the church. Everything he did was approved or disapproved, blessed or cursed, interpreted and solemnised by the Church. He was baptised by it, married by it and buried by it. He called on angels, saints and martyrs for help, visited shrines and holy wells, made oaths on sacred relics. The Church dominated men's minds and imagination.
Generally-speaking, all the different religions prohibited what they saw as sinful games, idolatory, alcohol, etc but people got around it privately. For example the situation in Muslim Spain seems to have been the same as in Far Eastern countries, in that gambling games were officially forbidden but were enjoyed in private, and so weren't documented in history because the scribes were devout observers of the religious injunctions.
When playing cards arrived in Europe in the late 14th century, the Church took a strict, prejudicial view on what it saw as lewd, frivolous, fickle or dishonest behaviour. Members of the clergy would certainly not approve of card playing if it had anything to do with gambling or fortune telling. Moralising tracts were published expressing disapproval of gambling as a mortal sin which might offend God and destroy lives, sometimes reaching the invective of fundamentalism.
The early engravers and print makers made devotional images for pilgrims as a cheaper alternative to paintings or books. Many of these craftsmen also turned their hand to manufacturing playing cards to earn extra income. Stock images from the repertoire of devotional imagery might be adapted to serve as playing card symbols. However, playing cards have not always been amicable bedfellows with the church.
If we search on the Internet for topics such as the devil's bible or the devil's picture book there will be many pages expressing a wide range of opinions and viewpoints concerning dangers of playing cards, including in some instances false information without any factual basis. We hear in the news about religious groups holding intense emotional beliefs regarding their chosen faith. Playing cards or tarot cards can antagonise or anger some people.
In 1894 William Ramsay designed playing cards to impart religious instruction, “designed to supersede useless card-playing” and “fastening the great truths of the Bible ... in the minds of the players.”
The original patent specification can be viewed here►
Member since February 01, 1996
Founder and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996. He is a former committee member of the IPCS and was graphics editor of The Playing-Card journal for many years. He has lived at various times in Chile, England and Wales and is currently living in Extremadura, Spain. Simon's first limited edition pack of playing cards was a replica of a seventeenth century traditional English pack, which he produced from woodblocks and stencils.
A limited edition art print of the Queen of Clubs 1984 woodblock joker.
A limited edition art print of the Jack of Hearts 1984 woodblock joker.
Masonic playing cards created by Ivan Wojnikow, 2004.
‘Baraja Mística’ satirical playing-cards featuring revelling clergy published by Litografía Fernánde...
Numerology assigns significance to individual digits and their combinations, considering them as sym...
Paintings, statues, monuments and maps associated with different routes to Compostela.
Designs by Guitián, published by Ideas Peregrinas, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, c2018.
Pacific Northwest native Indian masks with artwork by Margaret Parrott, USA, 1992.
Bible playing cards featuring the life of Jesus, USA, 2008.
Playing cards inspired by mysterious symbolism of secret societies as well as a tribute to the Natio...
Gambling and Vice in the Hours of Charles V: card-playing in the local tavern
Round the World Families published by the London Missionary Society, c.1945.
Anno Domini biblical card game depicting New Testament history, published by John Jaques & Son, c.18...
Jacob’s Bible Cards published by Lion Playing Cards Factory Ltd, Tel Aviv, since mid-1950s.
Whimsical Playing Cards by Turkish designer & illustrator Oksal Yesilok, 2016.
The story of “Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan illustrated in a card game published by Castell Bro...
Snapshots, a Missionary Card Game depicting people from different cultural contexts engaged in their...
Judaism is the oldest of the great monotheist religions, parent of Christianity and Islam.
Clubs represent the Russian Orthodox church, Hearts Roman Catholicism, Spades Confucianism and Diamo...
Geistliche Karten, Augsburg, 1718. Each card carries a text in Gothic typeface giving advice regardi...
“Naipes Cristianos” catechetical playing cards with quotations from the four gospels, 2002.
Playing Cards have been around in Europe since the 1370s. Some early packs were hand painted works o...
Early engravers and print makers made devotional images for pilgrims and people who could not afford...