Giovanna 'Pope Joan' Card Game - 28 cm x 25 cm - Handcrafted in Italy - Pewter

Giovanna 'Pope Joan' Card Game - 28 cm x 25 cm - Handcrafted in Italy - Pewter

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An authentic version of the classic card English game 'Pope Joan', has been reverently handcrafted, from high quality pewter, by Cosi Tabellini's craftsmen. In fact this striking pewter playing card and counter caddy can be used for any card and counter game you and your family and friends enjoy.

Pope Joan is the most complete and entertaining in the family of the "Stop" games for three to eight players and was very popular during the Victorian era and was considered a mild and homely gambling game for all the family, especially clergymen! The game derives from the centuries-old games Hoc, Comet and Matrimony; the later games Newmarket and Michigan are derived from Pope Joan.  

The game 'Pope Joan' is thought to have been inspired by the legendary female Pope - Joan - who allegedly reigned for a few years during the early Middle Ages.


Joan was obsessed by the desire of learning and therefore frequented the monasteries and the cultural centres of Europe, skilfully disguised as a monk, as it would have not been seemly for a woman to have done so in these times; her cleverness and erudition astounded everyone, and the church, believing she was a man, ordained her a cardinal. At the Pope's death, the church, exhausted by  a series of internal struggles decided to elect to Peter's seat not a politician, but a learned man. So the very learned cardinal, who had continued to hide her true feminine identity under male clothes, was elected Pope.

Once made Pope, Joan was kept company by a young and handsome manservant, with whom she read the Holy Scriptures and the secret prophetic books. Very soon the servant noticed the Pope's odd behaviour, but he did not mention it to anybody, so much he was devoted to 'him'. But one day, while he was reading the Book of Jacob, Joan smiled at him and took his hand. Joan and the servant made love for a long time in the most secret room of the palace. Joan kept her love secret as long as she could, but one day, while she was leading the Corpus Domini procession, her body started twisting and contracting with pain of labour and childbirth.

So, between the Basilica of St. John and that of St. Clement, in a place where it has since been named the ill-famed "Vicus Papissae" (Lane of the Papess), Joan gave birth to a baby under the very eyes of cardinals, clergy and people. In the light of such an abomination, the church was so upset that they established the custom to make the Pope, as soon as he was elected, sit on the famous "gestatorial" chair, from where it was possible to ascertain his sex, so they were never fooled again!

As the Catholic Church denies a female Pope, the legend was used as Protestant propaganda in the Victorian-era, especially in Scotland. Another noteworthy feature of the game is the significance attaching to the Nine of diamonds, a card referred to in this game as 'Pope' but better known in English literature and folklore as "the Curse of Scotland". Of the many explanations offered for this intriguing nomenclature, perhaps the most amusing is the suggestion that it was so called because "The crown of Scotland contained only nine stones, as they never could afford a tenth".

Part of the game's popularity at that time would have been the distinctively designed circular and revolving board containing labelled compartments for the staking eventualities of the game, as well as storage for chips (known as 'fish') when not in use. A noteworthy feature of the game is the significance attached to the Nine of Diamonds, which is referred to in this game as 'Pope'.


Number of players: 3-8

The objective of the game is to finish playing all one's playing cards first, or to play cards to win as many fish as possible.

You need - 1 pack of cards; 30 or more fish for each player. (Red fish are worth twice the green ones).


1. The dealer takes the 8 of diamonds away from the pack to make playing the Pope Joan, the 9 of diamonds, more difficult. Hence the 'stop' sequence nature of the game.

2. Each player, the dealer included, "dresses" the tray by putting 15 fish into the various compartments; 6 to the Pope Joan, 2 to Matrimony and Intrigue and 1 to Ace, King, Queen, Jack and Game.

3. After shuffling, all the cards are dealt to the players,as well as a hand which will remain aside, covered, along with any that are left over from dealing. This is called the heel.  Then the top card of that hand is revealed.  If it is the 9 of diamonds the dealer wins the game, collecting all the fish, and the round ends; the player to the left of the dealer then becomes the new dealer. If any other card is dealt, its suit determines the trump suit for that hand. If the card dealt face up is an ace or face card, the dealer wins the counters on the appropriate section. 

4. The player at the dealer's left starts the game putting an uncovered card in the middle of the board and declaring its suit and value. It can be of any suit as long as it is the lowest value within the hand.

5. The player who holds the card (or cards) of the same suit and immediately superior to the card played, puts it on top of the first one, saying it aloud. The game goes on like that until nobody can add cards because:

They arrived at King of that suit (Aces are low).

The required card remains in the heel.

It has already been played.

It is the 7 of diamonds.

6. If a card that nobody can cover is played, then a new sequence is started by the player who played the last 'stop' card, and the cards already played in previous sequence are turned face down

7. The player who plays the Jack, the Queen, the King, the Ace of the trump suit, or the nine of diamonds, wins the fish that are in the corresponding sector; if he plays Queen and King, he also wins the fish that are in the Matrimony sector and if he plays Jack and Queen, those of Intrigue. As a consequence, the player so lucky as to have and play Jack, Queen and King of Diamonds wins the stake of 5 out of the 8 board squares.

8. The one who manages to play all the cards he has first, wins the game and takes all the fish from the tray. He also receives a fish for each card that remained in the other player's hands, but the one who owns the Pope Joan, is free from penalty.  

Any counters that are not won in a round remain on the layout until won in subsequent rounds. New counters are added as usual to all sections at the beginning of each round. Any counters left at the end of a game are distributed by redealing the cards, face up, without an extra hand. The players who receive the ace, jack, queen and king of diamonds and the Pope Joan take any remaining counters in those divisions. Any counters in matrimony are divided between the holders of the queen and king, and those in the intrigue section between the holders of the queen and jack.

Size: 28 cm x 25 cm

Weight: 1440 g

Materials Used: Pewter

Ref: CT0100801

Designer: Alberto Tabellini

It is possible to personalise this product - please see price options and then add details at Checkout.

100% Lead Free

All Cosi Tabellini Pewter is 100% lead-free, so it is totally food & drink safe, and is both EU and US FDA approved.


Cosi Tabellini pieces come gift-boxed with a guarantee card and instructions on how to care for pewter.

See more: Toys & Games
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