Andrea Vitali's Historical Essays on the Tarot

The renunciation of "Tarrocchi"

In the Resolutions for the Spiritual Exercises of B. L. Giacobini (1676)


Translation from the Italian by Michael S. Howard, June 2013


Benedetto Ludovico Giacobini (Fobello in Valsesia, 1650 - Varallo 1732), after completing his education with the Jesuits of Novara, was ordained a priest in 1676. The following year he became pastor in Cressa (at Borgomanero, in the Novara), completing his mission in 1704. In that country he received the attribute "father of the poor", for his humility and patience and for his poverty of life and great charity.


In 1704, because he had refused to  compete for the office of  provost of Varallo Sesia, he was led to obedience by the bishop of Verona and then chosen for that post. On January 18, 1705, he then left Cressa for Varallo, where he remained, except for a few trips, until his death.


Requested by many for prestigious positions (Vittorio Amedeo II would have liked him to be a bishop in his territory, Clement XI invited him to Rome, and Count Carlo Borromeo to Naples), he always refused every appointment, driven only by the desire to take care of the souls of his parish. Marked by an ascetic life according to the dictates of Loyola, his conception provided a strong discipline combined with a training program based on renunciation and charity. There remains from him his famous Spiritual Exercises, addressed to the priests of his diocese there from 1676 to 1723. In Padua in 1753, Ludovico Antonio Muratori published some of the Resolutions dictated by Giocobini in Latin.


Muratori, who always felt great attraction for the holy man’s conduct of life, had the good fortune to meet him in 1699 in Cressa following Count Borromeo, who had set out to meet him in person. The meeting of Muratori with Giacobini led the famous scholar to want absolutely to speak about him in a work that he was composing on the illustrious men of his time. To this end, therefore, he requested the Bishop of Novara, Gilberto Borromeo, to "research confidential information of all the virtues and good deeds of Giacobini, as much as was known of his life as far back as the beginning of his religious career" and that "the information desired now will serve me for instruction and stimulation. If I lived long enough, then it could serve for others’ instruction and his glory". Borromeo, raised to the purple, answered only after the death of Giacobini, by sending a circular to the clergy in which he sought to draw out their testimonies. The collected material allowed Muratori to write his biography which became, together with that of his father Paolo Segneri Jr., one of the edifying readings for seminarians until the mid-twentieth century. Later, the biography was translated into Latin by Count Pietro Strassoldo di Gorizia, for its diffusion into German-speaking countries.


Benedetto Ludovico Giacobini liked to play tarot. If in fact we wanted to write about him and his spiritual exercises, our motivation resides in two aspects that we will now analyze: the first concerns the themes of the Resolutions taken into account by him in his exercises, topics that agree with the deep Christian teaching of the Triumphs of the tarot; the second concerns the necessary sacrifices needed to live with and in God, including doing without games, even such innocent and pure entertainment as those of cards, including the "Tarrocchi". The expression “Propongo in oltre di non giocare mai più a giuochi di carte, tarrocchi, ed altri simili” ["I propose in addition nevermore to play games of cards, tarot, and others similar"] obviously reflects a passion felt by Giacomini, whose renunciation appeared necessary so as not to give to anything one’s love except God, as expressed in the topic “Of the Kingdom of Christ”.


The Resolutions (1676), on which to meditate for eight days, which the following year, Giacobini examined in greater depth (On the first Meditation concerning the Preparation, etc.), are as follows:


On the Preparation:

Of the final end of 'Man

Of the sin of the Angels

Of the evil of sin

O Death

Of Judgment.

Of Hell

Of trifling sins [peccati leggieri]

The Kingdom of Christ


In summary form, these are themes present in the Tarot Trumps (1):


Of the final end of Man = To attain union with God (from the Fool to the World)


Of the sin of the Angels = Pride punished (The Traitor, that is, the Hanged Man)


Of the evil of sin = The fruitless search for one’s own earthly grandeur (The Chariot)


Of Death  = Memento Mori (Death)


Of Judgment  = The thought of the Last Judgment (Judgment)


Of Hell = The sad end reserved to sinners (The Devil)


Of trifling sins = The need to resort to Virtue (Justice, Temperance, Fortitude)


The Kingdom of Christ = Reliance on religious authorities (The Pope)


The Meditations (Year 1677) = Meditating on one’s own mortal human nature, so as to escape the horrors of Hell, and attain the joys of Paradise (The Hermit)


Below are the above-mentioned resolutions for the Spiritual Exercises (year 1676) in their entirety as described by Muratori in his Biography of Giacobini (2):





Writing the Life of the good Servant of God Giacobini, I made mention of His Resolutions. Then I thought, that to know better the beautiful interior of this Man of the Lord, always tending to perfection, it would be of supreme benefit to read all the steps of His Spirit.And so I resolved to add them to his biography. These were made by him chiefly in the times of spiritual exercises, or Retirement of one day a month, going from the year 1676 until 1723. and then after his death by Canon Pietro Obizzini. The handwritten originals of these Resolutions are preserved in the College of the Oblates of St. James of Novara. But because he laid them out in Latin, I have judged it better to translate them into the Vernacular, that they may serve also to many pious Souls who do not understand if not in the Italian language. There you will find many things repeated, and not once, but several times more. For all that, there was nothing I wanted to delete or change. Virtue is arduous in execution, the inclinations and passions requiring great effort by those who want to break them. However, more shots, more assaults are needed to succeed well in combat. It will not harm the Readers, those who supremely aspire to making their Souls good, if they give themselves to this more and more.




Made by Giacobini Provost of Varallo, on the occasion of Spiritual Exercises from the Year 1676 to the Year 1723.


In the Year 1676.


 On the Preparation


I propose in these eight days to speak very little, so that the intellect is more apt to receive and execute holy inspirations, and to tolerate everything for God's sake, to the end that he wants to soften the hardness of my heart, so as not to offend him more.


Of the final end of man.


I have proposed, and do propose, to embrace no other end than that of the Love of God, and do nothing, if not for this. To achieve that of which I wish, what serves me as incentive are the stings and heartbreaks that always accompany me when I live sloppily.


Of the sin of the angels.


I establish wanting to be cautious about the future in relation to my health [i.e. the health of my soul].  Therefore, I propose not to worry about anything of this World, and especially the friendship of people, at any time that this is not for the glory of God, and not wanting to make any demonstration to any person, that I have understood to have offended me.


The evil of sin.


I have proposed solidly not to want ever to speak in Church except in case of necessity, utility, and piety, and when such speaking does not result in irreverence of God. Otherwise not to murmur against my Neighbor, and not to listen to others, except in case of being able to give them remedy - and always to have in mind, that I am a vile worm, a carcass that stinks, to the end of stimulating in me humility, and to recognize everyone to be greater than I, and in sum to abhor everything that offends God so good.


 Of Death.


I propose wanting to bear great love and charity to my Neighbor, and especially to those who offend me, to give alms, to remind myself at every opportunity that I must die, to wear a hair shirt every Friday, and to eradicate all inordinate attachment.


 Of Judgment.


I have proposed wanting to do everything, as though I was doing it before the presence of God. And so I resolve myself to be cautious in the future of doing and saying anything that might be unseemly, and that I would have to repent, and to make first an act of reflection..


Of Hell.


I am determined to want rather to die, and millions of times, than commit a mortal sin; to abhor occasions of bad company, to have always in my head, that to fall into mortal sin is to be damned for all eternity; and that all the Spiritual Exercises will be lost, and everything vanished. Further resolved to make every morning a brief reflection on the pains of Hell, as an incentive to the end of acting well; and to remind myself that from moment to moment I can die, and that I must render a strict account to God.


Of trifling sins.


I propose to say no more lies of any kind, no more idle words, no more dishonest, to recite the Office with large external composure, to the end that I can overcome any distractions at will; to celebrate the Mass with great humility; to do it feeling, as much   as possible,  so much Mystery; not to make fun of anyone, no less laugh inordinately, to flee every venial sin, as far as human frailty will grant me; finally act always with reflection, and always with concern for my health and that of others, so as to give pleasure to God; and not to respond, nor impugn, without first reflecting.


Of the Kingdom of Christ.


I have proposed to want Christ to take precedence in all my undertakings, and not to deliberate anything, maximally difficult, as much in cases of Care as in others, before having made Prayers before the Crucifix, which I want to follow henceforth until death.


I am resolved to obey in all respects, without any reply, the commands of my Superiors, and to submit willingly to any request, as well as never to despise the opinion of others, although lower; and of being ready to endure with a good heart all the hardships of this World and the insults of the Next.


I resolve not to procrastinate in anything, and immediately to set about doing the task without delay, nor to let myself win by appearances that may occur, when serving God, and to put aside any friendship and affection of earthly things, longing to be despised, and to be recognized as without any virtue in me


I propose to tolerate willingly, even if I were to be contested on some true proposition, and not get upset by any critical responses, so as to eradicate an inclination so ingrained in me.


I have proposed to want to tolerate any disease that God sends me with a generous spirit, and take it as a dear pledge of the love of Christ, to be remembered as a vile worm, and to enjoy more with serene face, when I am affronted by my dearest friends. I want to take correction that anyone will make of me. 


I propose in addition nevermore to play games of cards, tarot, and others like it. [Propongo in oltre di non giocare mai più a giuochi di carte, tarrocchi, ed altri simili.]


A God was put behind a thief, Barabbas, and I will not be put behind the most infamous creatures of the World? Yes, yes: I want, I establish and crave it.


I propose not to give any other thing my love, than God, whom I want to love and serve in every place, at every time. And therefore I will remember every day, how he has shown his love to me, this vile carrion.


I propose never to peruse  with acts of reflection the female sex, in virtue of the Love of God.


Oh great Love of God! who consecrates all my heart.




1 - For a complete discussion on this topic please read the section entitled "Celestial Harmony" in the essay The History of the Tarot

2 - Ludovico Antonio Muratori, Vite di alcuni uomini illustri che sono fioriti nelle Lettere che in questo XVIII secolo. Dell’umile Servo di Dio Benedetto Ludovico Giacobini, Proposto di Varallo, e Vicario generale della Diocesi di Valle di Sesia, [Lives of some famous men who have flourished in Letters in this eighteenth century. Of the humble Servant of God Benedetto Ludovico Giacobini, Proposed to Varallo, Vicar General of the Diocese of the Valley of Sesia], Napoli, Gaetano Castellaro, 1778, pp. 72-74.