Bishop Chess Piece
The Bishop was introduced to the European chessboard in the 12th century, replacing the elephant of Islamic tradition. The substitution of a man of the church for an animal used in battle may seem curious, but medieval bishops frequently served with armies. That role is not on display here: the smaller figures probably represent men who served the Bishop in ceremony. An official known as a Reader holds the Bishop’s book. He has been tonsured—his hair shaven in a circle at the crown of his head. The man holding a staff and cradling his ear may be the Precentor, who was in charge of the choir.
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