Perhaps this is all better in a thread dedicated to the Popess as Manfreda ("Maifreda", "Mayfreda", etc. are alternate spellings, based on variant spellings in the original sources themselves.)
I spoke from faulty memory and out of turn in mentioning a life of Manfreda which is in fact the Istoria di Santa Gulielma . But as Manfreda was St. Gulielma's "papess" (to quote Newman) I'm not sure how a positive treatment of the saint wouldn't reflect positively on her earthly vicar as well and thus of vital interest to the Visconti who cherished her memory (per Newman's thesis).
To address the last point first, I have more to say on the subject of Newman's thesis - a lot more - but basically, there is no evidence whatsoever that the Visconti DID "cherish her memory". It is all conjecture that they might have
, beginning with the premise, which Newman has, that the Visconti Sforza Popess represents Maifreda da Pirovano, Matteo Visconti's cousin (I'm not sure how they determine the relationship, one Inquisition source only says "cognatio" of Matteo's mother. "Cognatio" is a broad term in Latin, with the basic meaning of "family relative"). In other words, it is a classic circular argument: How do we know that the Popess is Maifreda? Because Bianca Maria cherished her memory. How do we know Bianca Maria cherished her memory? Because the Popess is Maifreda.
Moakley only went so far as to suggest - actually, to insist
upon - the identification, but Newman has taken it much further into speculation (as she admits), although she expresses no doubt, either in 1995 or in 2005, that the card represents Maifreda. This is the central premise upon which her interpretation of the fresco at Brunate hangs (and the nun in the fresco is most surely not Maifreda, but rather Maddalena Albricci herself, looking like her tomb effigy, and dressed in her black Augustinian habit; the man behind her must be Pierio Albricci, her cousin, who donated heavily to the convent for her sake (and her cult's sake)), including commissioning the tomb sculpture. I am surprised that Newman doesn't mention him or the startling resemblance of the effigy with the fresco, or the fact that she is in Augustinian habit).
In both of her discussions of this subject, it is clear that Newman doesn't have a good grasp of Tarot history. I don't fault her or most authors in other fields for this, since knowledge of the earliest history and chronology, even where it is well established (and frequently it is not), is both diffused across a variety of sources, many obscure, and, where it is not, like in Dummett's work, it is not easy for a newcomer to sift through it in a reasonable amount of time (say a few hours, or even a few days) and make a summary that is actually accurate, especially when a precise detail is intended to be used as the basis for a speculative argument. In other words, omissions are inevitable, and mistakes are bound to happen even when reliable sources are used.
So, like Moakley (who knew most of what there was to know at the time she wrote, but unfortunately she wrote before The Game of Tarot
and the systematization of the whole body of knowledge), Newman considers there to be only two viable candidates for the identity of the Tarot Popess - Pope Joan, or Manfreda da Pirovano. Although Moakley knew of some folkloric "popess" figures, she didn't follow up this line of investigation very far. It doesn't seem that she ever came across the allegorical personification of Mother Church or The Faith ("The Faith", i.e. the Church, not the Theological Virtue Faith
, although obviously the former in some ways derives from the latter).
The problem for arguing this in the Tarot is not simply that of explaining the meaning of such a personification in the trump sequence; it is also a chronologically extraordinary claim, since the Visconti Sforza Popess, if she represents The Faith, would be, by about a century, the earliest example of such an iconography. It is always risky, inviting controversy, to claim something extraordinary about a tarot trump. The only other such claim that comes close is the trump Death having the number 13, which appears to be precocious evidence, if not the very invention, of the association of the number 13 with Death. There is simply no evidence of it earlier, outside of Tarot, than the 19th century. In the 16th century Montaigne alludes to 13 as a number of people unlucky to have at the table, but he goes no further than this obvious allusion to the Last Supper and Judas. But there are other "unlucky" cards in the Tarot as well - the Hanged Man and the Devil come to mind - so we should not anachronistically read "13=unlucky=Death" so quickly into Montaigne's sparse witness. Court de Gébelin and the Comte de Mellet seem to be a link with the superstition alluded to by Montaigne, since they both regard Death at 13 as appropriate because it is an "unfortunate" number. But neither author says "13 is the number of Death". Etteilla, alluding to them in 1785 as "false savants", says that they consider 13 to be the "number or sign of Death", which itself is actually the first time such a formulation occurs anywhere. Pietro Bongo's encyclopedic , and sometimes inventive, compilation of numerological meanings in 1584 doesn't even give the "unlucky at table" meaning for 13. He is, however the first to attest to the meaning of 17=Death, which is the earliest I know of for anybody to claim that a certain number symbolizes Death.
http://ludustriumphorum.blogspot.fr/200 ... -card.html
Newman points to a fairly sustained interest on the part of the Visconti, down through Bianca;
I don't think she "points to" it, she actually only posits
it, based on some circumstantial facts (what is "it", by the way? - I'll assume it is the secret cult of Guglielma) and some plausible conjectures, the best of which, in my opinion, is the idea that Matteo confiscated the record when he had a chance. Even though the record of the 1300 trial was lost until the early 17th century, that fact that it ended up in Pavia (even if in a grocery) seems strong evidence that somebody had an interest in preserving it, and who better than a concerned family member?
But for Bianca Maria, there is no evidence at all that she even knew about the events of 1300. Her only certain connection is to Maddalena Albricci and the convent of San Andrea in Brunate (as she was to many religious establishments). Albricci's connection to Guglielma, in turn, is only circumstantial, the single direct piece of evidence being the fresco (which Newman would, ironically, have to deny, since she wants it to be Maifreda!) - her vitae
say nothing about Guglielma, so the only thing between them, besides the fresco (suggestive as it is), is the fact that Guglielma was a venerated saint in Brunate, and Maddalena settled in Brunate.
Regarding the Visconti Hours' Jericho illumination and the PMB World card - any thoughts there?
So much art has been lost, that I don't like to speculate about direct connections anywhere unless it is absolutely clear and undeniable, or necessary to conjecture for some reason. I'm not sure I've given this enough thought to really say anything yet though.
Why is it important?