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 but more complex than tarocchi. The minchiate represents a Florentine variant on the original game.

Playing Card (CH 18165899).jpg
Trump I, Ganellino from Earlier Minchiate
Alternative namesGermini, Gallerini, Ganellini
Skills requiredTactics, Strategy, Cooperation
Card rank (highest first)Trump suit 40-1
Long suits: K Q C J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Round suits: K Q C J 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Playing time30 min.
Random chanceModerate
Related games


Florence is one of the contenders for the birthplace of tarot. The earliest reference to tarot cards, then known as trionfi, is dated to 1440 when a notary in Florence recorded the transfer of two decks to Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta.[1]

The word minchiate comes from a dialect word meaning "nonsense" or "trifle", derived from mencla, the vulgar form of mentula, a Latin word for "phallus".[2] 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. In tarocchini, sminchiate is a signal used to communicate to a teammate.

Popess from the Rosenwald sheet.

The earliest reference to minchiate is found in a 1466 letter by Luigi Pulci to Lorenzo de' Medici. However, this game was believed to be played by a 78-card deck as evidenced by the Rosenwald sheets, uncut sheets of Florentine tarots dated from 1480 to 1500.[3] There are two other differences from 97-card minchiate. First, in 97-card minchiate the sequence for some of the lower trumps goes from lowest to highest: Fortitude, Justice, Wheel, and Chariot. In the Rosenwald ordering it is Justice, Fortitude, Chariot, and Wheel. Second, the Rosenwald sheets contains the Popess as the second trump which is not found in the 97-card deck. In a Florentine song written around 1500, the trumps in a tarot deck were listed as almost exactly as the Rosenwald sheets with the exception of the missing Popess which likely means that this card was dropped from the deck by that time.[4] The song also ranks the other trumps as Fortitude, Justice, Chariot, and Wheel, which suggests it is a transitional stage from the Rosenwald sheets to the 97-card deck's order.

97-card minchiate was first known as germini, after the Gemini (XXXV) card, the highest of the newly introduced trumps. The earliest record of germini dates to 1506.[5] This deck was created by inserting the 20 new trumps as a single block between trump 15 and The Star, which is now trump 36. The new deck proved so much more popular that the 77-card deck ceased production and the older name of minchiate was transferred over to the larger deck during the 17th century. The game spread from Florence to the rest of Italy and France during that century. In Sicily, it was called gallerini while in Liguria it was known as ganellini but the rules used in these regions are lost save for cryptic references that they were quite different from the Florentine game. All surviving rules are derived from the type played in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and the Papal States.

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. It was also known in Germany during the late 18th century. The game was still played in Genoa in the 1930s, but its popularity declined in the late 19th and early 20th century.


Lucca version cards

The minchiate deck differs from other tarot decks in several features. 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. Minchiate uses additive Roman numerals for its trumps. Due to the large number of trumps, players generally called them by their number with the exception of the arie.

Suit Minchiate
English Swords Cups Coins Clubs
Italian Spade Coppe Denari Bastoni
Spanish Espadas Copas Oros Bastos

Minchiate decks come in two standard patterns, earlier and later, which coexisted for almost two centuries. Earlier Minchiate dates from the early 16th century or even the late 15th century.[6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13] There are the four standard Latin suits of swords, batons, coins, and cups; these contain pip cards from ace to ten, and four face cards: a jack, a knight, a queen, and a king.[14] 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. The suits follow the Portuguese pattern with the exception of the batons which follows the northern Italian suit-system. This pattern died out around 1900.

Minchiate card deck (1860-1890)[15]
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Jack Knight Queen King

Earlier Minchiate cards, 17th century, from Smithsonian Digital Collections[16]

The Republic of Lucca produced their own version of Minchiate decks which were very similar to the ones used in nearby Florence but with several graphical differences.[7] Kings are seated under arches, knights are humans riding horses, all knaves are male, and the Fool is playing with a dog. This pattern died out in the eighteenth century.

The Later Minchiate pattern appeared around the early 18th century as a luxury edition.[17][18][19][20] In this version, the eight highest trumps lose their red backgrounds. Around 1820, this pattern was redesigned to give it a flatter, plainer appearance with changes to a quarter of the trump and court cards while restoring the red background to the high trumps.[21][22] This pattern survived in Liguria until the 1930s.

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

The trumps of the minchiate deck
Card number Image Italian name[23] English translation corresponding Minchiate Francesi card corresponding tarot of Marseilles card corresponding Rider–Waite tarot card
  Il matto The madman Momus Le Mat (the madman) 0 - The Fool
I   Papa uno; l'Uno; il Papino; Ganellino[24] Pope one (Mercury) I Le Bateleur (the trivial performer) 1 - The Magician
II   Papa due; l'Imperatrice[25] Pope two; The Empress (Bacchus) III L'impératrice (the empress) 3 - The Empress
III   Papa tre; l'Imperatore[4][25] Pope three; The Emperor (Amor) IIII L'empereur (the Emperor) 4 - The Emperor
IIII   Papa quattro; il Papa[4][25] Pope four; The Pope (Venus) V Le Pape (the Pope) 5 - The Hierophant
V   Papa cinque; L'amore Pope five; Love Amor VI L'amoureux (the Lovers) 6 - The Lovers
VI   la Temperanza Temperance Temperance XIIII Temperance 14 - Temperance
VII   la Fortezza Fortitude Fortitude XI La Force (fortitude) 8 - Strength
VIII   la Giustizia Justice Justice VII La Justice 11 - Justice
VIIII   la Ruota della Fortuna Wheel of Fortune Fortune X La Roue de Fortune 10 - Wheel of Fortune
X   il Carro Chariot none VII Le Chariot 7 - The Chariot
XI   Il gobbo; il tempo Hunchback; time Old age IX L'Ermite 9 - The Hermit
XII   L'impiccato; il traditore The hanged man; the traitor none XII Le Pendu 12 - The Hanged Man
XIII   la Morte Death none XIII La Mort 13 - Death
XIIII   Il Diavolo; il demonio The Devil none XV Le Diable 15 - The Devil
XV   la Casa del diavolo The house of the Devil none XVI La Maison Dieu (the house of God) 16 - The Tower
XVI   la Speranza Hope Hope none none
XVII   la Prudenza Prudence Prudence none none
XVIII   la Fede Faith none none none
XVIIII   la Carità Charity Charity none none
XX to XXIII      il Fuoco, l'Acqua, la Terra, l'Aria The four elements: fire, water, earth, air Fire, Earth, Water, Air none none
XXIIII 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) December, November, October, September, August, July, June, May, April, March, February, January none none
(XXXVI to XXXVIII, but usually unnumberred)     La stella, la Luna, il Sole The star, the moon, the sun The Star, the moon, the sun XVII L'étoile, XVIII La Lune, XVIIII Le Soleil 17 - The Star, 18 - The Moon, 19 - The Sun
(XXXVIIII, usually unnumbered)   il Mondo the World the World XXI Le Monde 21 - The World
(XL, usually unnumbered)   Le trombe The trumpets Renown XX Le Jugement 20 - Judgment
Trump VII, La Fortezza
Later Minchiate (18th century)
Later Minchiate (19th century)

By comparing the Rosenwald sheet with 16th century trump lists, the Popess (II) was likely dropped in the late 15th century which shifted every trump above the first down one rank.[4][25] The Empress, Emperor, and Pope became the new II, III, and IIII respectively, the latter now wearing a secular crown as opposed to a papal tiara. Since the five lowest trumps were collectively known as the papi (popes), Love was added to this group after its demotion. The identification of middle papi was largely forgotten for centuries as players generally called cards by their number (pope 2, pope 3, etc.) French writer Romain Merlin (1869) is the only source that called trumps II, III, and IIII the Grand Duke, Western Emperor, and Eastern Emperor.

Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance were three classical "cardinal virtues" depicted in the more familiar tarot trumps. The minchiate supplies the remaining cardinal virtue — Prudence — and inserts them with the three theological virtues, Faith, Hope and Charity. The only other deck to have the theological virtues was the Cary-Yale deck. This is the only deck to include all seven virtues.

Minchiate is a southern tarot pattern so it shares many qualities with the Bolognese and Sicilian tarots as opposed to the western patterns like the tarot of Marseilles. While the Tower is called The House of God in the Marseilles tarot, it is called the House of the Devil or Hellmouth in the minchiate deck and it depicts a nude woman 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 with an hourglass in the background. Like other southern decks, the final card in the series is not the World, but Judgement. The minchiate completes the series by adding all the zodiac signs (in random order) and the four classical elements.

The eight highest ranking trumps have a red background while the top five (the arie) are unnumbered. A 98th card was made for some decks.[23] It is a trump with a red background and is also unnumbered like the arie. It depicts a nude woman running in a wheel, probably representing Fortuna. While 98-card decks were mentioned as being played in Sicily during the early 18th century, only a few examples from Genoa survive. It is uncertain how this card ranked and how it affected the versicole sequences in the game. Also unknown is how it relates to the 98-card version of the Minchiate Francesi described below.

Educational MinchiateEdit

Educational decks were produced in Florence during the 18th century.[26][27] Instead of the usual figures and pips, each card would have text explaining a certain topic. One history deck has each suit teaching the history of Assyria, Persia, Greece, or Rome with the trumps teaching myths and legends. Geography decks contained maps of the known world.

Minchiate FrancesiEdit

Momus as the Fool in the 97-card deck

The Minchiate Francesi, also called Minchiate de Poilly after its attribution to engraver François de Poilly (1623–93) and his son (1666-1741) who had the same name, refer to 3 different French decks utilizing the same set of engravings. The first has 42 numbered trumps, the second has 40 numbered trumps and Momus as an unnumbered card and lacks the first's "Le Chaos" card, the third has 21 numbered trumps and Momus as an unnumbered card. The intended game for the first deck is unknown, but the second appears to be intended to be played like the Italian Minchiate while the third deck appears to be intended for ordinary Tarot (despite still being called a Minchiate deck). The order of the motifs for the two latter decks have been rearranged compared to the first deck to more closely resemble their Italian counterparts. All three decks have the same 56 plain suit cards with French suits with each suit representing a different continent; spades for Africa, hearts for Europe, clubs for the Americas, and diamonds for Asia. The engravings share motifs with both the Italian Minchiate and the Tarot Nouveau as well as taking unique motifs from Roman Mythology.[28][29]

98 cards with 42 trumps order:

  • #1-5 Cosmological objects (Chaos, Sun, Moon, Star, World), #6-9 Elements (Air, Earth, Water, Fire), #10-13 Age (Youth, Infancy, Adolescence, Old age), #14-18 Senses (Taste, Smell, Touch, Sight, Hearing), #19-24 Virtues (Prudence, Justice, Charity, Hope, Strength, Renown/Judgement), #25-30 Gods (Mercury, Bacchus, Amor, Venus, Momus, Fortune) #31-42 Months/Zodiac (January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December).

97 cards with 40 trumps and Fool order:[30]

  • Momus, #1-4 Gods (Mercury, Bacchus, Amor, Venus), #5-9 Virtues (Prudence, Charity, Justice, Hope, Strength), #10 Fortune, #11-14 Ages (Old age, Youth, Adolescence, Infancy), #15-19 Senses (Taste, Touch, Smell, Hearing, Sight), #20-23 Elements (Fire, Earth, Water, Air), #24-35 Months/Zodiac (December, November, October, September, August, July, June, May, April, March, February, January), #36-39 Cosmological objects (Star, Moon, Sun, World), #40 Renown/Judgement.

78 cards with 21 trumps and Fool order:[31]

  • Momus, #1 Mercury, #2 Amor, #3-8 Virtues and Fortune (Hope, Strength, Fortune, Justice, Charity, Prudence), #9-12 Age (Old age, Youth, Adolescence, Infancy), #13-16 Elements (Water, Fire, Earth, Air), #17 Star, #18 Moon, #19 Sun, #20 Renown/Judgement, #21 World.

Austrian MinchiateEdit

Mysterious French suited decks produced by Piatnik of Vienna around 1930 also featured forty trumps.[32][33] It resembles the Industrie und Glück decks used for Central European tarock. Like the 54-card Industrie und Glück pattern, the plain suits consists of only 32 cards while the 40 trumps feature rustic genre scenes. With the Sküs (the Fool), the total number of cards is 73. Compounding the mystery is that the packaging is in French. Industrie und Glück type decks are not known to have a community of players in any French speaking country while the game of Minchiate is thought to have been restricted to only a few players in Genoa by the 1930s.


Minchiate can be played by two to four players with the most common version played by four players divided into two partnerships.[23] The game, like other tarot games, is a trick taking game in which points are scored by capturing certain cards and sets of cards. As in most tarot games, the pip cards in cups and coins are in reverse order and play is counter-clockwise. The lowest five trumps were called papi ("popes") while the highest five trumps (Star, Moon, Sun, World, Trumpets) were called arie ("airs") and have a special high scoring value in the game. Minchiate is similar in many ways to tarocchini played in Bologna. In these games, combinations (melds) of cards are more important than the value of individual cards.

Cards Points
Trumps 36-40 10
The Fool, Kings, and Trumps 1, 10, 13, 20, 28, (29), 30-35 5
Trumps 2-5 3
All others 0

The last trick is worth 10 points. Trump 29 is a unique card, by itself it is worth nothing but when used in combinations (versicole), it is worth 5 points. Versicole are formed through a sequence of three or more of consecutive point cards. In addition, there are four irregular versicole:

  • Versicola del Matto: Trumps 1, 40, and the Fool
  • Versicola del Tredici: Trumps 1, 13, and 28
  • Versicola delle diecine: Trumps 10, 20, and 30; or 20, 30, and 40; or 10, 20, 30, and 40
  • Versicola dei Regi: Three or four kings

All versicole have to be declared at the beginning of the game. At the end of the round, each team will assemble versicole from their captured tricks. Trumps 1, 3, 13, 20, 28, 30-33, and 38 are considered valuable cards because they are required to form some versicole or to deny the opposition the same. The Fool can be added to every versicola.

The minchiate deck was also used to play two games that don't use normal tarot rules, Al Palio and A sei tocchi.

2-player rulesEdit

This is the simplest version of the game; it was not considered serious but only as an introduction to the more complex four player versions. Jetons are used to keep track of scoring. The dealer gives 25 cards to his opponent and himself. His opponent leads the first trick but instead of letting the dealer play, she declares any meld she has and scores. The dealer then declares his melds and scores. Each takes back their own cards and the dealer finishes the first trick. Players must follow suit. If they are unable to do so, they must play a trump. If unable to play a trump, then any card can be discarded. The winner of each trick immediately scores from the captured cards and leads to the next trick.

The Fool excuses the player from following suit, it can neither capture nor be captured. The player gives a worthless card from his trick pile in exchange to his opponent.

At the end of the round, each player adds to their running total the captured cards, melds from the captured cards, and the last trick bonus. The player who has captured more than 25 cards gets a bonus point for each extra card. The two players then compare their sums with the loser having to pay the winner the difference.

In cartomancyEdit

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 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.[34] Paul Huson has speculated that these 40 cards are the 40 trumps of the minchiate deck.[35] 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,[36][37] to invoke Janus.


  1. ^ Pratesi, Franco. Studies on Giusto Giusti at trionfi.com. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  2. ^ Mario Alinei (2015). "L'etimologia di it. minchione, it. mer. minchia e lat. mentula". Quaderni di Semantica (in Italian). Il Mulino (1): 407–415. ISSN 0393-1226.
  3. ^ Rosenwald sheets at the National Gallery of Art. Retrieved 13 October 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d Depaulis, Thierry (2007). "Early Italian Lists of Tarot Trumps". The Playing-Card. 36 (1): 39–47.
  5. ^ Pratesi, Franco (2015). "1499-1506: Firenze". The Playing-Card. 44 (1): 61–71.
  6. ^ Earlier Minchiate pattern at the International Playing-Card Society. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  7. ^ a b Mann, Sylvia (1990). All Cards on the Table. Leinfelden: Deutsches Spielkarten-Museum. pp. 36–40.
  8. ^ Wintle, Simon. Minchiate Fiorentine, 17th C. at the World of Playing Cards. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  9. ^ 65 of 97 Minchiate cards c. 1675 at the British Museum. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  10. ^ 19 of 97 Minchiate cards c. 1675 at the British Museum. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  11. ^ Florence Minchiate c. 1700 at the World Web Playing Card Museum. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  12. ^ Minchiate Fiorentine c. 1790 at the World Web Playing Card Museum. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  13. ^ Enderbrock, Peter. Minchiate 'Carte Fine' at Peter Endebrock's Playing-card Pages. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  14. ^ "Evolution of Playing Card Designs - Solitaired". Solitaired: Free Solitaire Online. Retrieved 2020-03-08.
  15. ^ "Jeu de Minchiate: jeu de cartes, estampe". Gallica.
  16. ^ "Explore & Learn". Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 2020-03-08.
  17. ^ Later Minchiate pattern at the International Playing-Card Society. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  18. ^ Wintle, Simon. Minchiate Etruria at the World of Playing Cards. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  19. ^ Jeu de Minchiate 1712-16 at the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  20. ^ Carte di Etruria c. 1725 at the World Web Playing Card Museum. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  21. ^ Wintle, Adam. Minchiate Fiorentine at the World of Playing Cards. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  22. ^ Minchiate Fiorentine at the World Web Playing Card Museum. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  23. ^ a b c Dummett, Michael; McLeod, John (2004). A History of Games Played with the Tarot Pack. Lewiston: The Edwin Mellen Press. pp. 315–355.
  24. ^ "Regole delle Minchiate di Niccolo Oneste (1716)". Archived from the original on 2017-02-13. Retrieved 2019-02-16.
  25. ^ a b c d Renzoni, Nazario (2012). "Some remarks on Germini in Bronzino's Capitolo in lode della Zanzara". The Playing-Card. 41 (2): 85–87.
  26. ^ Mann, Sylvia (1990). All Cards on the Table. Leinfelden: Deutsches Spielkarten-Museum. p. 49.
  27. ^ Depaulis, Thierry (1984). Tarot, jeu et magie. Paris: Bibliothèque nationale de France. pp. 85–86.
  28. ^ Origine des cartes à jouer, Romain Merlin, Paris, 1869. Page 130-131.
  29. ^ Tarot, jeu et magie, Thierry Depaulis, 1984. Page 86.
  30. ^ Jeu de Minchiate de fantaisie à enseignes françaises at the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  31. ^ Jeu de Minchiate de fantaisie à enseignes françaises at the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  32. ^ Fara, Rudolf and Salles, Maurice (2006) An interview with Michael Dummett: from analytical philosophy to voting analysis and beyond. Social Choice and Welfare, 27 (2). pp. 347-364. ISSN 1432-217X
  33. ^ Unsolved Problems in Playing-Card Research at the International Playing-Card Society website
  34. ^ "Aradia, ch. 17". Sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 2012-04-03.
  35. ^ Huson, Paul, The Devil's Picturebook, p.67, New York: G.P. Putnams Sons, 1971
  36. ^ Huson, Paul. The Devil's Picturebook. p. 189.
  37. ^ "Etruscan-Roman Remains, ch. 10".

External linksEdit