Medieval Chess Troubles

Nicholas C. Rossis

Lewis chess | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books The Lewis Chessmen. Source: The British Museum

Medieval monasteries had a serious problem. Instead of 100% focusing on their spiritual and earthly duties, many monks loved besting each other at chess. The Medieval version of “video games cause violence” was, “playing chess leads to blasphemy.”

Things got so bad that chess was forbidden many times throughout the medieval period. However, monks were so addicted that often they found creative ways to hide their boards and pieces. Lanercost, a monastery in the UK, features gameboards scratched into the stone of the windowsills for bored monks to play. And the foldable chessboard, which could be disguised as a book and held a compartment for pieces, was developed that way. In a sense, portable Chess was the Gameboy of Medieval Times.

If you’re writing any kind of Medieval fiction, throwing in a chapter about the chess controversy may be a great way…

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