The Saracen Club

Founded in the 15th century, the Saracen’s Head was a popular Marseille tavern overlooking the city’s bustling port. In 1612, the owners decided to make the tavern a private club; the decision attracted stiff resistance from many in the community, and it wasn’t until 1616 that the Saracen Club officially opened to members, reportedly after significant gratuities were paid to the city’s consuls for the privilege.

The Saracen Club is small and its appointments modest, but it’s well-regarded for its table and its cellar. Gambling is popular with the members and the club provides a few tables with a house limit of 100 £; members often arrange private, no-limit games as well. Brazen strumpets mingle with the members seeking female companionship.

The members of the Saracen Club are primarily merchants, master craftsmen. and ships’ officers; the club is reported to be the best place to hire a pilot in Marseille. The emblem of the club, a silhouette of a bearded Saracen in a turban beneath a curved scimitar, is occasionally worn as a pin by members; it’s rumored that the club keeps a mummified Turk’s head which prospective members must kiss as part of their initiation, but members refuse to confirm or deny the allegation.

The governors of the Saracen Club include three chefs du club, two treasurers, two secretaries, and a half-dozen managers. Dues are 10 £ annually.

The Saracen Club

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