The Guilds of the Armament Producers

of Sibiu, Braşov and Cluj (XIVth-XVIth C.)


Author: Ioan Marian Ţiplic.

ISBN 973-651-337-8, Editura Universităţii „Lucian Blaga”, Sibiu 2001.

© copyright Institutul pentru Cercetarea şi Valorificarea Patrimoniului Naţional în Context European, Marian Ţiplic

Seria Bibliotheca Septemcastrensis I, University “Lucian Blaga” Sibiu, Institutul pentru Cercetarea şi Valorificarea Patrimoniului Naţional în Context European.



-         Abstract –


II. The Organisation of the Armourers Guilds


2.1. The Leadership of Guilds. The system of the guilds' organisation and functioning was well regulated and proclaimed through. The statute of 1376 solved the most important economic, political and judicial problems of the guilds, the election of guild leaders and their relations with the members of the guild, with the management of the town etc.

The most important asembly of the members of the guild was the annual one, which was usually held in the first week after Christmas, on the New Year's Eve. In this assembly, the leaders of the guilds read reports about the activity and the wealth of the guild from the previous year. At these assemblies usually participated representatives of the local authorities, too. The members of the guild were invited to participate individually notices, the table of the guild. The table was provided with a box of copper in which there was, the order of the day and the punishment for those who will be absent from assembly. There were four ordinary assemblies a year and whenever it was considered necessary a special assembly was held. The leaders of the guilds were elected in the annual assemblies and they had different roles: economic, administrative, judicial and religious. Initially there were only two and they had different names, according to the language in which it was called the guild, fort example: magistri fraternitaes, magistri cehae, seniores magistri, primari, magistri, Zechmeister. The leaders had to be elected by all the members that is why sometimes, the elections lasted longer, two or three days. The oldest leader was called father of the guild (senior magistrarum, Zechvater), and the others were called: the 2nd, the 3rd, the 4th leader (according to their importance). If there were only two leaders, the older was called the senior and the younger the junior. Such an example we have in the Archers` guild from Sibiu at the end of the 15th Century where 2 craftsmen are mentioned: Niclos Bogner and Jung (Junor) Niclos Bogner.

The senior leader took the most important decisions, and the others leaders, like any other member of the guild, could not refuse any task were given by the senior. After elections, any leader had to take an oath in front of the members of the guild; among his duties for the community were to supervise the quality of the products, to reject the unsatisfactiory products of low quality from the market, to keep the honesty and the honor of the guild.

He also used to keep all the registers of the guild: such as, the register of the members of the guild and the punishments. the father of the guild was the one who accepted distributions of the apprentices and he decided where and with whom they served their apprenticeship. He also examined the craftsmen's works and he gave the title of craftsmen for those who prouved to be one. he solved some judicial problems which were not so complicated concerning the production of the guild and personal problems of the members as well. If the father of the guild could not solve the problem because it was too complicated for his competence, then the case was brought to court in a general assembly. This court could give the sentence during the trial, the litigant was not allowed in the room so that he could not influence the decision of the court. It is very obvious that the leaders of the guild could not do so many tasks all by themselves, so they used to choose some trustworthy people to help them do their jobs. These people were craftsmen, of course.

The most important man was the father of the journeymen (pater sodarium, Knechvater) who was elected by the general assembly of the guild. He was in charge with the journeymen and all the tasks and the problems concerning them (economic, social, moral); he looked for job for those who had to travel to Sibiu gave honors like the father of the guild and supervised the journeymen's work.

The second most important men, after the father of journeymen were the superviser craftsmen (Schaumeister) and then the Council of the Oldest Craftsmen which was a permanent council of the father of the guild. There was also a notary who drew out the minutes of the assemblies and the apprenticeship certificates as well as the journeymen's moral certificates, did the book keeping and took care of the mail. Apart from them, there was also a young craftsman (Jungster Zechmeister) who was not elected but he was the last who joined the guild. He had this job until he passed the craftsmanship exam when he became a craftsman of the guild. The young craftsman took care of the assembly of the guild, of the altar and he served at tables at the feasts of the guild.

2.2. The Functions of the Guilds. The strict and complex organization of the guilds had as its purpose the strict control of their functions that the entire society demanded at that time. Due to this strict organization they were able to accomplish  their roles: economic, social, political and military and religious roles.

A. The Ecomonic Functions. The first preoccupation of the guilds as well as their leaders' was to produce enough products of good quality and at a fair price. That is why the guilds were very careful with the products that were sold at great distance. This was not a only a matter of honor of the guild but also an very important economic matter: the craftsmen and the guilds had a good profit if they  were better than their competitors. in order to be sure of the good qualitiy of their products they took different measures: some general measures for all the guilds and some special ones for some of the guilds (such as the imprint of the craftsman's signature or of the guild's seal. The producers of armament of Sibiu were not obliged to have a personal mark that is why we know only three signatures of this kinds and we do not know to whom they belong to.

B. The Social Functions. The social relations between the members of the guild were very tight. They used to organize parties to welcome the apprentices or the new members of the guild and it was a very good occasion to have fun and be happy. The nicest feast was when the guild leaders were elected and all the members of the guild and their wives participated.

When a member of the guild was short of money the guild helped him giving him a loan or raw materials. When a member of the guild fell ill, the guild payed him and his familly some money during his illness until his recovery. Afterwards, he was obliged to give the money back. The guilds were very strict concerning the character of its members; they were very careful when choosing the apprentices or the new members so that no one would disgrace them; they were very cautions when checking their character. They demanded discipline, honesty and loyalty. The one who destroyed the harmony within the community, accused another member of cheating or offensed somebody else was severly punished with a fine of 4 kilos of wax.

C. The Political and Military Functions. Once the guilds developed from economic point of view, they became powerful political and military forces.

Starting with the end of the 16th century when Sigismund of Luxemburg (1387-1437) demanded the consolidation of the towns and defence walls surrounding them, the guilds were in charge with the preservation, the arming and the defence of the towns. The guilds were the most indicated for the defence and the consolidation of towns as its members were obliged to learn how to use and to practice every day bow and crossbow shooting. The interest for practising was due to the organization of contests where the award was materials and money. In addition, once a year they made a mention of all the members of guild who were able to carry arms and who were obliged to be equipped with bows, crossbows, swords and spears or gun and armours. All the equippment cost 8 florini: a spear 45 denari, a sword 1, 90 florini, a helmet 20 denari and the rest was spent on guns. The craftsman was obliged by law to be ready to fight anytime. For example in the code of law of the producers of arms, in 1514, it was written that the one who wanted to become a craftsman had to prove that he possessed a gutte pux zwm czyll.

The guilds had military functions but they had political functions as well. Unlike in Germany, in Transylvania, the citizen's influence, that is the craftsman's influence on the political administration was permanently maintained more powerful as the relations between guilds became closer. This is due to the fact that in the guilds' regulations from 1376 there was a law concerning the political influence of the guilds. This document attests clearly that of the influence guilds's was beyond the boundaries of the field, as the craftsmen had the duty to participate to the court assemblies four times a year; they did not take part in solving only the economic problems but also the social problems that were concerned with the public welfare. This power became bigger at the end of the 15th century and along the 16th century when all the German territories united politically and the guilds created an organic unit as a result of a similar economic life.

D. Religions Functions. The guild didn't mean only a handicraft community but also a religions community. Ist religion and moral influences were as important as the economic ones. A great number of wax fines  for various crimes of little importance prove the relation of their own with the church. They burned candles and they sang religions songs at the mass on hollidays especially on the Saint Protector's day. What we know about the guilds from Sibiu is that they had altars but we know nothing about a Saint Protector. The participation in the masses was compulsory, each guild had a separate pew of its own where the craftsmen had to sit in the rows according to their rank.

Various statutes of the guilds consist of strict instructions concerning the occasions when the mass had to be read. All the members of the guild participated in the procession which was another religious activity. It was also a tradition for all to accompany their deceased mate in great retinue. The uncomplishment of this obligation was punished with a wax fine. The first rule of this kind we find in the regulations of law of the blacksmiths' guild and of the tanners' guild.

The religious issue becames less and less important as the years went by and the economic, social and political problems became more important. As the guilds developed, their interests were different from those of the church; the guilds try to become independent from this institution that was the church.

2.3 Apprentices, Journeymen and Craftsmen. To join a guild and to became a member was not a simple thing at all; it took long and hard years of preparation, deprivation and humiliation. The sons of a craftsmen were educated in such the way to take over their father's workshop since early childhood so they were used to work in a workshop of a guild. We do not have specific information about the age when a young man was to become an apprentice, but all we know from the documents is that he had to be old enough; he could be probably 10 or 12. Before a youngman was received as an apprentice by a craftsman he had to work part time in the workshop for almost 2-3 weeks in order to prove his skills. No craftsman had the right to keep an apprentice without paying him more than the time established by law; if he did, he was obliged to pay the guild 1 florin and 2 kilos of wax.

Another condition for a youngman to become an apprentice was to belong to an honest family and from legitimate marriages. First of all the apprentice needed two witnesses to prove that he belong to vero et legittimo thoro habeatur matrimonium, as it was specified in the law on November, 12th, 1484 of the United Guild of Archers, Sword Makers, Shield Makers and Saddle Makers from Cluj. Their code of law had as model the one of the guild of spur makers and sword makers from Sibiu. These years of apprenticeship were not very easy because in the law was mentioned that during thew period  of 4 years the apprentice could be used for some other jobs outside his work two hours a day.

When the youngman finished his apprenticeship he was given a certificate that proved he learned the trade only after he had payed a tax of 25 denari. Having this certificate he had the right qualification to become a journeymen. The new journeymen was welcomed by his felow-jorneymen with a ritual that ended with a feast that was called the drink of friendship. This feast was rather expensive: fifty cracknels, bread, steak and 10 liters of wine. Once he was accepted by them he had two possibilities: either to keep working at the craftsmam where he learned the trade or to leave on his own, to travel to other towns where the trade he was interested in was more developed. There he would have the opportunity to learn much more about the trade and become an expert. Nürnberg was the town where the trade of arms was well - developed where we have information from the 16th century, more exactly 1530, of a craftsman Valentin Transilvăneanul. He may have decided to stay and settle in this town and marry the daughter of his craftsman Wilhem Worms as a result of performing the guild journey.

After travelling so long, the journeymen had to give a craftsman exam and they were obliged to present also the birth certificate, in order to prove that they came from a legitimate marriage, apprenticeship certificate; moral certificate and a journey certificate. With all these proofs, the craftsman was declared citizen of the town and he could go in for the proper exam which consisted of a practical exam that represented the making of crafty work or a masterpiece.

In order to be received in a guild and to have all the rights that a member of a guild had, the candidate had to do some other things, some of them rather expensive. First of all he had to invite the members of the guild to dinner. We have some information about the meal. It consisted of many dishes: 4 dishes, the first one: caraway cake and 2 capons of rice; the second: different steaks (stuffed pork, goose capon, 4 stuffed chicken, 5 slices of pork, 8 slices of beef and a half of rabbit; the third: meat and cabbage; the fourth: milk and rice and scraps and at the end fruit were served. If the new member was not able to prepare such a dinner he had to pay 12 florini and the craftsmen prepared their dinner themselves.

There was one more condition for a craftsman to become a  member of the guild, that is marriage. This was compulsory because of two reasons: on one hand in order to secure the tranquility of the craftsmen's families and on the morality of the guild and the other hand, in this way the other craftsmen could marry their daughters.