in the foothills, just half an hour's drive from Vicenza and a few minutes
away from Bassano del Grappa, Marostica is surrounded by the ancient walls
of its castles, as if it wants to symbolize its discreet elegance. This
finds its moment of greatest expression and renown in the world famous
Every September of an even numbered year, this human chess game is played
on the square of Marostica. It occurs every second Friday, Saturday and
story of the Chess Game dates back to 1454 when Marostica belonged to the
It happened that two nobleman, Rinaldo D'Angarano and Vieri da Vallonara,
fell in love with the beautiful Lionora, daughter of Taddeo Parisio, the
Lord of Marostica's castle. As was the custom in that time, they
challenged each other to a duel to win the hand of Lionora.
Lord, not wanting to make an enemy of either suitor or lose them in a
duel, forbade the encounter in conformity with Venetian Law.
He decided the two rivals should play a chess game: Lionora would take the
winner as her husband. He furthermore decided that the loser would in any
case join his family, marrying Oldrada, the younger sister.
game took place on the square in front of the Lower Castle, with armed
living persons carrying the ensigns of Whites and Blacks. It played in the
presence of the Lord, his daughter, the Lords of Angarano and Vallonara,
the noble court, and the entire population.
The Lord also decided the challenge should be honored by an exhibition of
armed men, with fireworks and dances and sounds.
the armed men entered the field: archers and halberdiers, foot-soldiers
and knights. Then came the Lord and his court with an anxious Lionora, who
was secretly in love with one of the two rivals. With them were Lionora's
faithful nurse, noblemen and their ladies, the herald, the master of arms,
falconers, pageboys, maidens, standard holders, musicians, farmers and
their wives; the Whites and Blacks with their kings and queens, rooks and
knights, bishops and pawns: and the two suitors, who decided the moves.
the victory, fireworks and music were offered according to the Lord's
As Lady Lionora had secretly informed the population, should the winner be
her beloved, the Lower Castle would be illuminated by white light, so that
everybody could share their joy.
event is repeated today just like the first time, in a framework of
sumptuous costumes, multi-color banners, martial parades, exquisite
A note of unique courtesy pervades everything; it inspires the whole
re-evocation of this ancient story which, from the darkness of remote
times, still lives today as a miracle of fantasy.
The orders are still given to characters and cast today in the dialect of
the "Serenissima Republic of Venezia".