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 –


III. The guilds of the armament producers of Sibiu, Braşov şi Cluj.


3.1. The guilds from Sibiu. First we have to mention that at least at the beginning, the craftsmen who produced arms were the blacksmiths. They became more qualified as the economic conditions were better and there was a great need of arms as the towns developed. That was why, for a while they had too many orders that they could handle. Later on there appeared other guilds: those of sword makers, of shield makers and of archers. Once these guilds improved their economic situation, they divided in to separate guilds.

The first documentary information on a guild or on a blacksmiths's association is from 1291, during king Andrew the 3rd who speaks of the craftsmen who were processing iron ore (ferri fabri) and of iron foundry (ferri fusores). The guild of blacksmiths appeared, as it is attested by documents in 1376 when the codes of law were renewed; its name was Fabrorum fraternitatis.

At that time, the blacksmiths were specialized in different  branches: knives makers, bucket makers, locksmiths and sword makers (the latter were named gladiatores).

Beginning with the latter half of the 15th century the guilds develop more and more rapidly that is why a great number of other guilds that detatched themselves from the guild of blacksmiths appear. These branches were strictly specialized in producing armament. This fact is illustrated in the Counting register from Sibiu beginning with the 7th decade of the 15th century in which a fairly great number of craftsmen: sword makers, archers, shield makers, crossbow makers and armour producers are mentioned.

In the 15th century sword and spur makers who detached from the guild of blacksmiths reorganise in separate branches and later on they will have the same privileges. A real proof of the foundatin of separate guilds of sword and spur makers in Sibiu is the fact that the guilds of locksmiths and spur makers from Cluj had as their model those from Sibiu. At the end of the 15th century and at the beginning of the 16th century there are mentioned light craftsmen (schwertfeger or schwert-macher) in the Counting Register of Sibiu.

Another guild that developed greatly and produced unique and specific products is the one of shield makers. During the 15th century this guild managed to impose itself on the markets in Transylvania and later in Moldavia and Wallachia due to the high quality of their products. At the end of the 15th century and at the beginning of the 16th century in the Counting Register four great craftsmen - shield makers - are mentined. As a proof of their importance in the economic and military field in the latter half of the 16th century one of the towers of the fortress of Sibiu was given to be taken care of to the shield makers.

The Arches' guild was historically attested in 1492, they even owned one of Sibiu fortress' s towers. The production of archers lasted until the former half of the 16th century when the arch was replaced by the crossbow. As the archers craftsmen are mentioned as being isolated towards the latter half of the 16th century it means that they were no longer organized in a guild and they didn't have any economic power. In the Counting Register of Sibiu, apart from the archers (sagitarii arcum), the crossbow makers (sagitarii balistarum) are mentioned towards the end of the 15th century. At the end of the 15th centruy and beginning of the 16th century 9 archers craftsmen are mentioned in the Counting Register.

As I already mentioned above, the arch was gradually replaced by the crossbow, that was widely used in Transylvania in the 15th and the 16th century. In the collection of the History Museum from Sibiu there have been preserved 25 crossbow from the 15th century which were produced by craftsmen from Sibiu, as J. Bielz believes, because of the badges of Sibiu that were descovered on them. The crossbow makers are not mentioned so constantly at the end of the 14th century  but in the following years their become more and more important. In the Counting Register of the town, beginning with the year 1495 1 florin was spent on saggitario ... dato. Infomation about the price of crossbow we find in the Counting Register of Braşov; in 1541 were spent pro 4 arcubus fl. 1 asp. 17 and pro 14 arcubus fl. 4. In the Counting Register of Sibiu we found a document on the price of bolts of a crossbowfrom 1501 that attests the existance of the crossbow makers: Clemens ...flor.1.

During the 15th century and 16th century the method of processing metals developed more and more and there appeared a new trade foundry and consequently there appeared canons and arquebuses.

A proof that Transylvania was important in the production of arms is also the fact that the most ancient portable fire arm, very well known in the history studies as the Loshult gun, was discovered in Sweden, dating from the former half of the 14th century; as a result of spectral analysis of the bronze that it was made of, it has been proved that the raw material care from Transylvania, Apuseni Carpathians. Even though we can discuss further more the place of its origin, the information above confirms the existence of the ore of copper from Transylvania which was a very important element in the development of the production of portable fire arms. In the year 1370, in Sibiu, an armourer of the town is mentioned and three years later the same armourer is attested as bombard maker; he provided the town with fixed bombs and on wheels. In 1481, March 10th, in an indulgence issued by the dean of Sibiu is mentioned a certain Johann Straws kannonengiesser who received the dean's  forgiveness for his future sins as he was going to war against the Turks.

3.2. The guilds of the armourers from Braşov. It goes without saying that when we talk in general about the researches from the Medieval Transylvania that we no longer have to mention the importance of Braşov as the town was one of the most important economic centers of trades from South Transylvania during three centuries. Braşov's began to develop later than the other towns' from South but its ascension is favoured by its strategic position at the crossroads between Moldavia, Wallachia and the Black Sea coast and it managed to mentain close relations with the principalities from East Carpathians and with those from South Carpathians as well. Historically, such a guild is first attested only in 1408, the year when we have the oldest Register of Guilds of Braşov, but we have some craftsmen mentioned in the 14th century, a fact that makes us believe that the organization of the guilds might date from at least at the end of the 14th century. During the 14th  and 15th century the trades develop into 2 distinct periods, when the production increased. Those period are:  Sigismund's reign and the one of Mattias Corvin. The king's support consisted of numberless orders (especially military) but more importantly of the concession of certain royal rights. In the 16th century trades develop a great deal and in the year 1562 aproximante 43 guilds are attested and in the Counting register many arm producers are attested as well.

The guild of blacksmiths. The organization of the guild of blacksmiths is attested in the 15th century and in the former half of the 16th century is attested the existence of a bastion of the blacksmiths, a fact that proves that the guild was powerful enough from economic point of view of they afforded the keeping of such a fortress. At the end the 15th century, between 1480-1488, 23 blacksmiths are attested in Braşov; they are distributed in the following: 8 craftsmen in quartal Portica, 9 in quartal Corpus christi and 6 in quartal Catharina.

The guild of Shield makers. This guild is mentioned in the 15th century, when the number of the shield makers who paid taxes was relatively large; in the latter half of the 15th century 21 are mentioned and this number relatively is constant. The shields made in Braşov were different from those made in other towns from Transylvania, especially Sibiu, that was the main centre of production. These shields were very much required especially on the market from beyond Carpathians.

The Archers' Guild. The trade of the archers from Braşov is documentarly attested in 1397 in the Register of taxes at the end of the 15th century, where 23 archer makers are mentioned. In the first years of the 14th century the archers' guild renews its state, a fact that proves that there had been others but due to the new socio-economic conditions, it no longer corresponded; consequently we can say that the archers' guild from Braşov was set up sometime in the former half of the 15th century and it developed mostly at the end of the century when the number of its members was about 23. Their number increased in the former half of the 16th century; this lead to the economic development of the guild and eventually to the growth of its social and political importance. This latter fact is illustrated in the Register of Expenses of Bran Castle, where on January, 10th 1524 is attested the election of Luca Czeresch as owner of the castle beside Clemens. Obtaining a job of such importance it is obviously clear that Clemens's economic position assured him a good place among the leaders of Braşov at the beginning of the 16th century. From September 6th, 1547 when a new statute is drawn they preserved the one of the archers' guild from Braşov, drawn out in August 25th, 1505 from the initiative of the guild's leaders, Clemens, Stephen and Kristel.

The guild of crossbow makers. At least until present, we have no documents to prove the existence of separate guilds of crossbow makers but the large number of such craftsmen in the 16th century makes us believe that they organized themselves separately from the archers' guild. As far as the existence  of the crossbow makers in Braşov is concerned, they are attested in the 16th century, more exactly in 1514, when in the Counting Register of Braşov is mentioned a certain Michaelis armbruster who receives a carpet which valued 36 florini. Between the years 1514-1555 in Braşov 7 craftsmen are attested.

The guild of sword makers. The trade of making swords is attested even in the 13th century - the best example is the hardware from Şelimbăr - but as an organized guild only in the 14th century, when within the trade centre (the blacksmiths' guild) they produced swords. We do not have exact information about the existence of a guild of sword makers in Braşov during the 14th century, but sometime at the end of the 14th century and the beginning of the 15th century the sword makers  separated from the locksmiths' guild, as in the year 1424 in the register of the furriers are mentioned two craftsmen, Hanis and Jorg whose parents worked in the trade of making arms. On the other hand, in the latter half of the 15th century an economic relation between the sword makers in Braşov with Moldavia is attested - as Ştefan cel Mare (Stephen the Great) sent for swords various times. In the latter half of the 15th century, in Braşov, 20 swords makers belonging to a guild are mentioned. Most of these craftsmen are mentioned too in the Tax Registers in the former half of the 16th century beside several new members of the guild.

The armourers's guild. The method of moulding of cast iron in Braşov developed a great deal, Braşov being one of the most important suppliers with armament of the prince Ioan de Hunedoara, for Moldavia and Wallachia until these principalities became under the power of Ottoman Empire. Information about the existence of this trade we have even from the 14th century, when in Bistriţa is attested a certain Andrei Bombardengiesser who can be identified with the craftsman Andrei - magister Andreas -, native of Braşov and who at the same time moulded many bells. Nevertheless, we must make a remark concerning this trade - within the armourers' guild we have historically attested on one hand guns and arquebus makers and on the other hand bombards and canon makers and separately from those two, bell makers. And apart from those mentioned previously we have several craftsmen who dealt with the moulding of bells.

The trade of arquebuses making is attested in Braşov by a document in which Mattia Corvin orders 100 guns (pixidae), 5 quintals of gun powder and 100 canon balls, in 1471, during a military campaign operation. Other proofs for the existence of this guild come from some receipts which attest the payment for some arquebuses by a third person.

The guild of canon founders existed in Braşov ever since the former half of the 15th century and to prove that, we have some indirect information that comes from the Princely Office of Transylvania and of the Royal Court and they refer to the interdictions of fire arms export in the Romanian Principalities or refusal for canons, gun powder and canon balls orders of the Prince of Transylvania or of the princes of the other two principalities. The increasing development of this trade is attested in the 16th century when in 1514-1547 the canon makers in Braşov are mentioned.

3.3. The armourers' guild from Cluj. Once the Angevin Dynasty came to the throne of Hungary the political situation within Transylvania is stabilized and there had been created a good environment to the economic development of the towns due to the politic support and counterbalance between the large feudal autonomous domains and the main power - royalty. In these conditions there appeared and developed the guilds from Cluj between the 14th and 16th centuries; the Income register of the town in the year 1453 offered us the opportunity to know the structure of the working population which was as the following: 6% tailors, 4% boots and shoe makers, 2,64% blacksmiths, 2% bag hunter makers, 1,5% archers, 1,3% arrow makers and 0,17% shields makers. There were approximately 4500-4800 workers who paid taxes and together with those who didn't pay taxes their number was about 6000 inhabitants.

The blacksmiths' guild. In Cluj, the blacksmiths are documentarily attested for the first time in the year 1362 in a document, more exactlya sale contract of Nicolaus and Henlinus fabrice of a yard that they owned together in Podului Street (nowsdays Horea Street). A century later, in 1467, July, 20th  the Magistrate of Cluj approved the statutes of the guild at the request of several blacksmiths: Antoniu, Simon, Ştefan and Ieronim; their contents demonstrates that this guild is even older than we thought and that it existed even earlier.

The guild of the sword makers. The sword polishers are mentioned for the first time in Cluj in the document dating from 1484, November, 12th when the magistrate of Cluj, Johannes Markus certifies the statutes of several guilds reunited: of archers, saddle makers, belts makers, sword makers, shield makers and arrow makers. In the year 1557 the sword makers asked the boots makers' permission to use their mill of tannery in order to install a grindstone for sharpening and polishing their swords.

The Archers' guild. Information about this trade we have only from the 15th century when a certain Jacobo literato the son of Gabriel, an archer is mentioned as a witness in a trial. This document dates from 1432, April, 12th. Starting from this remark, we can say that Gabrielis arcupis worked as an archer sometime between 1410-1460 if we take into consideration that he could not become a deacon at an age less than 20.

An organization of the archers is not attested until the end of the 15th century, more exactly until November, 12th, 1484 when they organize themselves in guilds beside the sword makers, spur makers, shield makers, saddle makers and locksmiths. Beside, the representatives of the other branches, there appeared 2 archers, Martinus Kufferbart and Johannes Gabrielis who were of the main initiators of the text of the statutes that is why we may draw the conclusion that, at that time, the archers had a better economic situation than those from other branches who wanted to found some new guilds. In the 16th century the archers are more and more rarely mentioned in documents and gradually their place is taken by the crossbow makers.

The guild of shield makers. This guild is hardly attested in documents from the 14th century but this does not prove that it was not organized as a guild and consequently it is not mentioned in the documents at that time. A proof of its existence before the 15th century are many documents that attest the existence of the shield makers in Cluj at the beginning and at the middle of the 15th century. A very good example is the partial register of the people of hungarian origin who paid taxes in 1453 where a certain Valentin paysgyarto appears. Towards the end of the 15th century the shield makers' guild organizes itself and together with the archers, belt makers, sword makers, etc. want to found a mixed guild.

In the 16th century numberless shield makers are still attested, altough the shield, as a defence arm was used less and less, that is why these craftsmen had some other functions (for example they were painters, too).

The armourers' guild. The documentary material which abounds in mentions about fire arms and white arms makes us think of the hypothesis that there existed in the 16th century of the iron and bronze founders, of the craftsmen who produced arquebuses, muskets, falconets. In the Counting Register of the town there are mentioned a series of expenses for little canons (manuaria bombardaria) and guns as well as the price paid for them. The existence of an armourer (Hans Jorg Burghart) is clearly attested in 1585 when the citizen in Bistriţa made an order for an armour (Stecharnisch).