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The Merels Board: a symbol or just a game?

The Merels Board is a symbol frequently found in the mysteric archeology as a graffiti, sculpture or engravings of the Medieval period.

merels board
Merels Board at Campiglia Marittima (LI)

Recent studies sustain there is a link between the historical places belonging to some monastic or knights congregations and the finding of some symbols, among them the Merels Board. Particularly, most of the scholars consider the medieval symbol is related to the Knights Templar. Overtime the monastic Order, born after the first crusade for defending the Christian pilgrims, settled in some strategic place of Europe and the Middle East.

In a period lasting from the 12th to the 14th century many specimens of the Merels Board were found. However, some engravings date back to the Stone Age, attesting that the symbol has ancient origins. Even Plato, in his dialogues of Timeus and Crythia describes the capital of Atlantis as an enormous Merels Board.

A Knight Templar painted in a Medieval miniature.

Representation of the symbol

The architecture of the symbol is simple. It is composed by three squares linked by perpendicular lines. Sometimes there is a hole located at the center.

merels board
A specimen of the Merels Board at Collodi Castello (PT)

The meaning of the Merels Board is more complicated. Overtime a debate rose and tho main hypothesis were proposed.

A symbolism or just a board game?

The first hypothesis affirms the Merels Board represents the board of a game. It is known the existence of a game named Nine Men’s Morris or Merels, in Italy Filetto.

The board of theFiletto

The Nine Men’s Morris requires two players and is articulated in more phases. Firstly nine pawns are placed on the board. Then, on each turn, one player moves an own piece towards a next position. If three “allied” pieces are in the same line of the board, an opposite piece is removed. The player who cannot move loses the game.

According to the game hypothesis there is the evidence that the symbol is found near prisons or military settlements. They are waiting places where people played the game to hang out.

However, some remains appear different. In fact, many specimens of the board are located on ceilings or vertical walls. It is so difficult to play upside down!

merels board
The vertical Merels Board in the San Galgano Abbey, Chiusdino (SI)

That suggests another hypothesis: probably the Merels Board was a symbolism with a mysterious significance, like the Sator Square.

The Merels Board, symbolic significances

The last hypothesis could have a historical base. In fact, most of the diffusors of the symbol during the Middle Age were the Knights Templar, whose Order made exoteric studies. Is it possible that the Merels Board was used as a signboard? Among the functions of the Knights Templar there was the protection of the Solomon Temple, destroyed in 70 AC by the general Tito.

The Jerusalem Temple

Effectively, the description of the temple in the biblic Book of the Chronicles is particular:

“He made the courtyard of the priests, and the large court and the doors for the court, and overlaid the doors with bronze” [Chronicles II 4,9]

Does it seem a description of the board? Therefore, this symbol could have represented the Jerusalem Temple and its courtyards.

merels board
The Jerusalem Temple was built for the first time by the King Solomon. It was destroyed by Nabucodonosor in 586 BC and then reconstructed by the Israelian exules from Babylon (second Jerusalem temple). However, the sacred building was finally destroyed by the Roman general Tito in 70 BC.

The Merels Board and the Christianity

Moreover, the Merels Board could have an implicit meaning associated with the religious buildings. The symbol would represent the Holy Trinity over a cross. At the same time, it could indicate the Merkavah: the charriot of fire that Ezekiel described in his book (1, 4-26). It moves over all directions and is an allegory of the God’s word. The board is divided into four squares, like the angels forming the structure of the Merkavah, or like the number of the evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Does this symbol represent an evangelic admonishment for conversion? If it was, the Merels Board could have had the same function as the Christograms.

Samuele Corrente Naso

(Translation by Daniela Campus)

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