Pero Tafur

- an interesting forgery (text is in progress)

Pero Tafur 1   Pero Tafur 2   Pero Tafur 3   Pero Tafur 4

The text of Pero Tafur appears in the web. Pero Tafur seems to have been a real person, living from ca. 1410 - 1484. A description of his life is given in Pero Tafur 1 at the beginning. His report of a great journey between 1435 - 1439 looks to me (just my view, not an official statement, as far I know) like a "forgery", in my opinion it's a romance, not a real journey-report. I believe this cause of the following reasons:
  • Tafur describes Niccolo III. d'Este as a very old man around 80 years, but Niccolo in reality had at that time, when Pero Tafur claims to have met him a real age of a little above 50. I guess, Tafur had heard, that Niccolo reigned 48 years, and then calculated, that Niccolo should have been a rather old man in 1438, and so made him look like this ... but overlooked the fact, that Niccolo was only 10 years, when becoming regent. Probably: he never saw Niccolo III. in reality.
  • Another point is his accidently meeting with Filippo Visconti - which as such already is unbelievable. The description he gives from Filippo's appearance doesn't fit with other reports.
  • He meets so many important persons, that the story is unbelievable in itself.
So I think, it's a "wrong" report, but for historical study not totally worthless. Tafur seems to have been a contemporary writer, so some of his informations might contain knowledge, which is not given by other sources. For instance the local descriptions might be good. So I've reduced the text to some interesting points, commenting just this aspects. If you're interested in the complete text, follow the above links, it's not a boring story.

Part of the Genua description - Chapter 1

The inhabitants are very industrious and without vice, nor are they addicted to sensual pleasures, for which the nature of the country is unfavourable. They are very wealthy and orderly. In matters of dress they see to it that if anyone is more richly clad than is necessary, he or she is taxed. They are of a very beautiful complexion, but not handsome of face, although both men and women are well grown, and they value the women by size: the tallest has the smallest dowry. Widows do not take a second husband, and if they do they suffer in their reputation. In the troubles which the people have had, the Duke of Milan entered the city as ruler with one of the factions, and while I was there the people rose against the Duke and killed one of his captains who was stationed there, who was called Pacino de Alciato, and they destroyed his castle which was near the city. There they showed me the dreadful prison, in which were kept those knights who had been taken by the Kings of Aragon and Navarre. In the sea at Genoa there are few fish, and those very small. Without doubt, if the men of other nations were such travellers throughout the world as are the Genoese, and were so long separated from their homes, the chastity of their wives would be much endangered. But here they value their morals so highly that a woman is hardly ever taken in adultery. If such a thing occurs the penalty is always death.

Tafur refers to the Genuese reaction in December 1435 upon Filippo Marias Visconti decision to give freedom to Alfonso of Aragon. Political this was a desaster to Filippo Maria, cause he lost his important ally Genua. It is reported, that during Alfonso's stay at Filippo's court, both played cards, although the Florentine Bisticci, another literary liar, noted in his biography about Alfonso, that he stopped card playing when 18 years old.
Interesting: Tafurs note about the virtue of the women in Genua and the death penalty for adultery - this throws an international light upon the Parisina case.

From Bologna to Ferrara - Chapter 2

While at Bologna I sold my horses, and placed myself and my goods and people on board a boat, and travelled to Ferrara, all the way by that river of which I have spoken. It is very narrow so that only one boat can travel at a time, and if two boats meet one of them has to be hauled ashore. The river freezes each night, and the villagers have boats, the keels of which are shod with iron, and at night they go up and down the river, breaking the ice with poles which are pointed with iron, and thus they make a waterway for travellers. The children go about singing, "good sport," which is to say: " May there be a good frost" By this river we reached the Po, one of the greatest rivers in the world, and one of the four arms which descend from the German Alps, and travelling along the Po we came to the city of Ferrara. I there presented myself to the Marquis, lord of the city, and remained three days. I then left by the river and came to Francolino, and continuing still by the river, I arrived at the place where it enters the sea which is one day's journey.

The first visit to Ferrara. No details, beside the description of a chanel between Ferrara and Bologna.

From Chapter IV: - We left Viterbo and passed certain cities called Narni, Terni and Spoleto, and arrived finally at Perugia, a famous city, where was born Bracchio, that great captain, and Sforza, father of the present Duke of Milan.

Wrong. Muzio Attendola wasn't born in Perugia. But Tafur tells us here, that he writes during the reign of Francesco Sforza, between 1450 - 1466.

After a long journey, which leads Tafur to most far countries and known spots of the world and to the most famous persons of his time (all together rather unbelievable) Tafur returns back to Venice and then he turns to a journey on the Po. First aim: Ferrara 1438, begin of the council:

WHEN I departed from Venice to go to the other Christian countries I left there the goods I had brought from the Levant, including the slaves, and my money, and all that I had purchased, in the charge of Messer Domenego Vent', a merchant of Venice, my very good friend, and took only the money which I thought sufficient for my needs. I took also bills of exchange on certain merchants in Bruges in Flanders, and departed in a boat, and slept the night of my departure at a place called Chioggia, which is founded in the sea like Venice, and is subject to it. There were certain burnt ships there, which had been lost in the battle when the Genoese came to that place to make war on the Venetians. The next morning we departed, and after four or five miles we entered the river Po, which is one of the greatest rivers in the world, and the arm by which I entered is one of three. The river is so large that many times, when the Venetians are at war with the Duke of Milan, they both of them arm great fleets in it. The ships are the most wonderful I have ever seen. They are barques of great size and are flat-bottomed, so that they can float in shallow water. On the deck is a great castle of wood with a lofty tower, and in it they place ammunition for their artillery, such as bombards, culverins and the like. The rowers are below so that they cannot be attacked. These ships do not carry sails nor are they built for sailing, since they would easily capsize. With these ships they fight mightily, and while I was there the Venetians set out with forty galleons against the Duke of Milan, intending to capture a city, and the Lombards came out to resist them, and they say that there was a great battle. The Lombards use a small kind of boat, called galapago, completely covered with metal like a vault, and they use them to set fire to the others, and it is not possible to injure them. The Venetians, however, sent a man who dived under the water and swam to the enemy's ships, and bored holes in them with a drill, so that the Lombards lost three ships before they knew what was happening, while the Venetians lost four by fire. The battle continued for so long that the Venetians were beaten and lost sixteen galleons, and recovering what men they could, they retreated down the river and returned to the city. On this wise there is frequent warfare between the Venetians and the Lombards.

I continued my way along the river Po to a place called Francolino, which is on the mainland and belongs to the Marquis of Ferrara. Thence I came to Ferrara, where the Pope and the Emperor of Constantinople then were, with a great concourse of people who had assembled to witness the union of the Church with the Greeks. The second day, well accompanied by the Castilians, I went to see Pope Eugenius, who received me very graciously. He desired to know the particulars of my journey to Jerusalem, and about the Sultan of Egypt, and the Grand Turk, also concerning the Emperor himself, what power he had, and I gave heed and then satisfied him to the best of my knowledge, and so I departed. That day in the evening I went to wait upon the Emperor of Greece, and gave him letters from his consort and from his brother the Despot. He received me gladly, saying that I was his kinsman and a native of his country. He drew me to him and made me sit there beside him, asking me for news of his country and telling me that I must visit him each day I was there, and that it would give him much pleasure if I were to reside with him. Thus we were very familiar together. The Emperor was living in a palace belonging to the Marquis of Ferrara, on the waters of the Poatello, which they call Paradise, a very pleasant residence.

That day I took my leave and rested myself, and on the petition of the Castilians who were there I cut off my beard, which I wore very long, and clad after the manner of my country, I went again to see the Emperor. When he saw me he said that I had done wrong to cut off my beard, which is the greatest honour and dignity belonging to man. But I replied: "Lord, we hold the contrary, and except in the case of some serious injury we do not wear beards"; and we spoke upon the matter for some time. Then we returned to the affairs of Greece, and he enquired of me minutely concerning matters there, about his wife and brother, the condition of the country, and what the Grand Turk was doing, and as to my movements since I was there, and I told him everything I knew. That day the Emperor was to go to see the Pope, and I went with him. The Emperor had the gout and could not walk, and he was carried in a chair by certain men. The Pope received him very honourably, in a great hall which had been made ready. There were present with him a number of cardinals, archbishops and bishops, the Marquis of Ferrara and other lords of the country, and they were all in their seats. On the right hand was the chair of the Emperor of Germany with those of the kings and princes of Christendom, and on the left that of the Emperor of Greece, and of certain prelates. In the centre was the Pope's chair which was raised above the others. That day they remained three or four hours in council, conferring, it was said, upon certain differences of faith between the Greeks and the Latins. Afterwards we departed, and the Pope entered into his chamber, while the Emperor returned to his palace accompanied by the members of his train. For he had brought from Greece a great company of people, all of whom went about in long robes and with great beards, showing themselves to be grave and serious persons. It was, indeed, a goodly company, but one had the impression that more were in attendance than was actually the case, although they say that at least a thousand persons were there.

The Emperor entered his palace, and all departed from him, but I remained and went in with him, and he made me dine at his table and showed me many kindnesses. Eight days later was the Feast of Corpus Christi, which the Pope and the Emperor, notwithstanding their magnificent attendance, celebrated in such manner that in a village of ten inhabitants it could not have been performed with more humility, only in view of the presence of so many strangers, the customary usages were altered. While I was there I saw two messengers who arrived on business with the Pope, one from the Duke of Burgundy, craving licence to hear Mass after noon, and the other from the Duke of Germany, craving leave to hear Mass before midnight. The city of Ferrara is one of the pleasantest I have ever seen. It is of the same extent as Valladolid, but with very good houses and fine streets. It is well walled, with bastion and ditch, and there is a castle on one side above the river Po. It is very pleasant within, but more so without. The soil is rich, and round about are many fruit gardens. The city pays tribute to the Pope, and they say that he received at one time 100,000 or 150,000, ducats, but it grew less by degrees to 10,000 or 6,000, and now it is reduced to 3000, and I will presently relate the reason for this.

The Marquis of Ferrara is a native of France, and also, they say, of the lineage of Galalon, and certain ceremonies are observed with him with the bread as with the others of the same descent, such as placing the loaf on the table upside down and then turning it over. They say that he came to the King of France to ask him to give him arms and release him from this custom, and the King provided the arms, but said that he could not grant the other request. This Marquis is a great lord and has for his inheritance many fine cities, towns and castles, with a revenue, it is said, of 300,000 ducats. He is very merry and handsome of person and very amorous. They say he has continuously ten or twelve concubines in certain of his palaces in the city. He must be a man of eighty years of age, small of stature and very fat. They say also that, being married to a daughter of a Duke of Germany, his wife became enamoured of a son of his by another wife, and their love took such shape that the son forgot what he owed to his father, and the wife her duty to her husband, and they indulged their carnal appetites. The Marquis, learning of this from a servant, surprised them in the act of sin, and sent them to the judges of the country that they might deliberate what judgment should be executed upon them. Many lords of the country and elsewhere remonstrated with him, and even the Pope begged him to act mercifully, but to all he replied that he would neither order them to be killed nor spared, but that the judges must decide the matter. The judges gave sentence that they must both die, and the Marquis being present, they were immediately taken to the place of justice and there executed. It would take too long to describe all that happened. Then the Marquis had a galley prepared, and entered into it and sailed for Jerusalem. On his return he married a daughter of another Duke of Germany, a very beautiful girl of fifteen, he being eighty, so that nothing can be looked for but another mischief greater than the first.

The Marquis has sons by this last wife who are infants. He has also a bastard, a youth of thirty, and a man of much virtue and a gallant knight in war. Seeing that Italy is never at peace, and that he must leave his dominions to those infant sons, who did not know how to govern and would certainly come to grief, the Marquis decided to leave all he possessed to the bastard. He, therefore, made him legitimate and constituted him his heir to everything, and made his people kiss his hand and take him as their ruler. The Pope also was consulted and gave his permission. The Marquis then ordered that there should be given to the eldest legitimate son, under oath, as his inheritance for ever, one half of the revenue, but not the government. I saw there one day a great festival in the palace to which came many nobles, both men and women, and there was a joust, and after it was finished all the ladies ran on foot in the lists. They had to run as far as a man could throw a stone. At the other end were three pieces of cloth, one of brocade, one of crimson velvet, and the third of cloth of scarlet. The first gained the brocade, the second the velvet, and the third the cloth of scarlet. But if the Garandilla de Alcudia had been there she would have run the course three times over and won all the prizes. The Marquis is a merry man, and it well appears that he is of French birth. I remained in this city twenty days, resting myself and preparing for my journey to Germany, and buying beasts for me and my people. When all was ready I went to take leave of the Emperor of Greece, and he begged me to visit him again before I returned to Spain, since I had to go back to Venice to fetch my goods, and I promised to do so. I departed from Ferrara and passed through the March to a city called Parma, which is on the river Po and belongs to the Duke of Milan. There, passing the river, I found Nicolao Picherino, the Duke's captain-general, with 20,000 horsemen, the finest body of men I have ever seen. They say that he was going to take Bologna, which belongs to the Pope. I remained three days at Parma to see them pass, and it was a most remarkable thing to see a body of men so finely armed and mounted, and so well found in everything necessary for war, and, what was best of all, with such a discreet and able captain at their head. In this city are the finest cherries I have ever seen. From there I went to Piacenza, a city belonging to the same Duke, which is likewise a great city of 7000 or 8000 inhabitants. From there, the next day, I went to Milan, an immense city, and one of the greatest in Christendom. Indeed, in the opinion of many, it is the greatest. The city is indifferently walled, but there is a great moat with an excellent rampart, and within, the city is very well built and the streets are very fine. It is a grander sight and more interesting to see the city on a work-day than on a holiday. The streets and the houses of the armourers are most remarkable, as well as those of the spear-makers, the saddlers and the tailors who make the uniforms and materials for war. They know how many rulers and leaders of armies there are in Italy, and their devices, and they and the other craftsmen are so well provided that they can supply them with everything they need, though it be for the greatest lord in Italy. All the craftsmen are marvellously skilful and do their work with great regularity. There is in the city a palace where the Duke lives, which is a very notable residence and very large. Outside, it is defended by a great wall with a very strong bastion and a deep and capacious moat, through which the river runs, and from this they take much fish. The palace ands on level ground on one side of the city; indeed, in the whole of Lombardy there are no houses built on rocks, but they are in no way less strong for being built in the plain, so well are they moated on all sides.

In this city there are many notable churches and monasteries, especially the chief church on which they are still at work, which they call the Duomo, a most sumptuous building. Here they say the Ambrosian Mass, which is the reverse of ours, and I am told also that they observe Lent differently. There is a very rich monastery of the Order of Preachers, in which St. Peter the Martyr is buried, who is believed to have met his death in this city. The Duke of Milan is a person who does not let himself be seen. This, they say, is for fear of poison, but one day he was in a park there, and I saw him and had speech with him. He seemed to me to be a discreet person, grave and honest, of great stature, with a very long nose, and with his head shaved and uncovered. He was not well attended, and they say that he does not value any but men-at-arms. These he keeps in the field, and, indeed, he does well to value such men. This Duke has neither son nor daughter, only a bastard daughter married to the Count Francesco, who now is Duke of Milan.

The city is without a rival in Christendom, in point of size, abundance, and in the number of its inhabitants, both nobles and artisans. They say that the Duke's revenue from the city itself, not counting the Church revenues, is 1000 ducats a day. No one can enter the city unless first, on entering the Duke's dominions, he obtains a certificate which establishes that he comes from a healthy country, uncontaminated by plague. This regulation is most rigidly enforced, and they say that it is now sixty years since there has been an outbreak of plague in any part of the country. I enquired concerning many things relating to the government of the city which is very well ordered. Much more is this the case in the Duke's household. They say that those of his council can take money from no one but from him, and that when a council is necessary its deliberation is secured in this manner. A writing is sent to each councillor containing the particulars of the matter to be decided, and each one writes his opinion at the foot of the paper without consulting with his fellows. Indeed, anyone who does otherwise would suffer heavy penalties. Thus, reading the opinion of each councillor, the Duke adopts that which seems to him to be the wisest, and during his government his decisions have been much praised.

I DEPARTED from Milan and set out for Germany, and as I came to no city worthy of mention I have nothing to relate, but I found many places burned and destroyed, which had been laid wale by the great Italian commander, Facino Cane. The third day after leaving Milan I arrived at a German town which is called Lucerca, but before I could enter it was necessary to load all the animals and baggage upon boats, and to cross a great lake which receives its waters from the Alps. The lake is very deep and quite four leagues across, and in it are multitudes of fish which are said to be very good to eat. This town must have about 1500 burghers. It is well walled and adorned with beautiful houses in the German manner, with stoves in them, and excellent inns, very abundantly provisioned.

So continuing by those ways, and descending from the mountains and ridges, and travelling for a day along the plain, we reached the noble city of Basle. The Council was then sitting, and a great company of people of all nationalities had assembled in the city. There were many notable personages from Spain, although the Alferez had by that time departed. Nevertheless, the Cardinal of San Pedro, and the Bishop of Cuenca, the Bishop of Burgos, and others still remained. This town is situated upon the banks of the river which comes from the Alps and the Lake of Schaffhausen. The stream is of furious swiftness, and it happens frequently that the water sweeps down with it great blocks of ice, frozen as hard as stones, which destroy the buildings and bridges and everything else in their way. The boatmen are in constant peril of striking some obstacle and of being dashed in pieces, although they are very skilful and wary. The boats travelling down the river never return, for they could not make headway against the current. Indeed, such is the pace with which they sweep downstream that it turns one giddy to behold them. In this river are many delicate and wholesome fish, including very large salmon.

The city of Basle is abundantly supplied with everything which Germany produces, and excellent wines, and other beverages may be had there. It is well walled and delightfully built; the houses are of several storeys with high chimneys, and very pleasantly adorned with glass windows looking on to the street. Many of the buildings have towers on which are crosses and weather-cocks. The city is very pleasant to behold from within, and still more so from without. The streets are paved with stones, and are well supplied with drinking troughs. The churches and monasteries are indeed notable. The principal church is exceedingly well built, and there the Council holds its sessions. The inhabitants, both men and women, are very comely and rich. The city is self-governing, although it belongs to the Empire, and they say that the citizens owe no tribute to the Emperor except to entertain him at dinner when he is there, and to provide him with a pair of breeches, but he can summon them to war. The city has large and well-populated suburbs. Such multitudes of beggars had flocked to Basle from all parts of Germany, having been attracted thither by the Council, that they alone would fill a large city. I heard that the Cardinal of San Pedro was in the Alps at the warm baths, which they call the Holy Baths, and about a mile distant is a notable monastery called Maria Stella, where the Cardinal had resided for six months, since he did not desire to enter Basle for fear of offending Pope Eugenius, but he transacted the business of the King, our Master, from that place. I went to see the Cardinal, who received me very graciously, and since I was still suffering from the wound which I received in Troy, and which with travel seemed always to be getting worse, the Cardinal made me remain there in the care of a surgeon, and in twenty days I was cured. This surgeon is held in great esteem as well by the clergy as by laymen, and without doubt he deserves it, for he is a notable person of sovereign virtue and outstanding honesty. The monks regard him with special affection, for besides the good which he does them, he has made heating rooms for them and other contrivances for the service of the establishment, which is situated high up in the mountains in the coldest place in all Germany. I went to see the bathing etablishments where I found a great concourse of people, both sick persons and pilgrims who had come there under vows from afar. They think nothing of men and women bathing together quite naked, and it is the custom to play games and take their meals in the water. I met a lady there who was on pilgrimage for her brother, who had been taken prisoner in Turkey, and I frequently threw silver coins into the bath, and her maids dived for them and picked them up in their mouths. One can well imagine what it was they held in the air when they put down their heads. The people in general have excellent voices. Even the common people sing part songs with great skill, like trained artists.

I LEFT Padua and travelled along the canals, and since that country is very close to Venice, they collect the water into lakes, some of fresh and some of salt water, but these lakes have a very evil smell, and they call them the marshes, and when in speaking the Italians wish to refer to anything as noxious or stinking, they liken it to those marshes. On drawing near to Ferrara, they told me that the Pope was wishful to depart, and it was so, and on arrival I found the Pope preparing to set out for Florence. As soon as I arrived I waited on the Emperor of the Greeks, who rejoiced greatly to see me again, and I saw also the Pope's progress which was in this wise. All the archbishops, bishops, and other prelates and clergy, went on foot in procession with the crosses. Then followed the cardinals on horseback, staffs in hand, in order of precedence, and after them came twelve horses with crimson trappings, one bearing the umbrella, one the chair and another the cushion, and so on until the end. The last horse was covered with brocade, and on a rich silver saddle was a casket containing the Blessed Sacrament. This horse had a silver bell, and two prelates led it by the reins. Then came the Pope himself, upon a horse with crimson trappings. He was vested as for Mass, wearing a bishop's mitre and giving his blessing on one side and the other, while men cast coins into the street, so that those who picked them up might gain pardons. This was done to prevent the crowds from pressing upon the Pope, whose horse was led by the Marquis of Ferrara and the Count of Urbino.

It was rumoured that the Duke of Milan was lying in wait to capture the Pope, so that the Marquis escorted him that day to a hermitage a mile from there with a great company of armed men, making it seem that the Pope was travelling with troops to one of his cities, where he had arranged great festivities. But in fact he rode with him in a different direction, and in two days brought him safely to Florence. They say that for this service, and others that the Marquis did, the Pope reduced the tribute payable by the Marquisate to 3,000 ducats, and confirmed all its privileges, as appears in the Bull which the Marquis had engraved in stone and set up in the great church at Ferrara. I remained two days in Ferrara and desired to depart, and I could not do otherwise than go to Florence, for all the banks were closed and the bankers had gone away.
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