Ecclesia Ludens

board and dice games in a Scottish monastic context

Mark Hall (Author)

board games, church, merels, monastic, play
Arbroath; Dryburgh; Scotland; UK


The 50th anniversary of the publication of The Games of Merelles in Scotland, by W Norman Robertson, in volume 98 of the Society’s Proceedings is an appropriate moment to mark the development of medieval play studies in Scotland. His short note recognised the significance of the two merelles boards (from Arbroath and Dryburgh monasteries) but did not seek to contextualise their discovery in either of the broader contexts of board games or the church. The moment to do this is also made apposite by the significant increase in the evidence for board games and this paper briefly introduces the range of archaeological evidence accompanied by a discussion of the religious context of such play, in its European dimension and in particular around the endorsement/condemnation debate. The need to more fully understand the value of play as an aspect of identity in medieval society and social hierarchies is recognised in the medieval section of ScARF dealing with empowerment ( and this paper is also offered as a contribution to approaching that understanding.


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How to Cite
Hall, M. (2016). Ecclesia Ludens. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 145, 283-297. Retrieved from