If you want to use this site please update your browser!

Bishop Chess Piece


The bishop appeared on the European chessboard in the 12th century, replacing the elephant in the Islamic tradition. Replacing an ecclesiastical figure with an animal used in combat may seem curious, but medieval bishops often served in the military. This role is not shown here: the smaller figures probably represent people who served the bishop in ceremonies. The official, known as the reader, holds the bishop's book. He is tonsured as a monk - his hair is shaved in a circle at the top of his head. The man holding the staff and clasping his ear is probably the precentor who led the choir.