Craft in the medieval city. Workshops

The economic basis of the West European medieval city was the craft. Craftsmen of one or several related professions united in workshops. Several reasons contributed to this: first, it was easier for artisans to defend themselves against the willfulness of the feudal lords; secondly, the workshops had more opportunities to combat the competition of newcomers to artisans. In most cities, belonging to the shop was a prerequisite. The main function of the shops is to control production and sell handicraft products.

The first guild organizations appeared in Italy already in the tenth century, in France, England and Germany – in the 11th-12th centuries. At first the shops were few. However, over time, their number has increased significantly. The workshops were very diverse. Some produced food, others produced fabrics, clothes, shoes. Particularly respected were the shops for processing iron and wood.

With the development of production, the shops began to crumble. For

example, the workshop of smiths was divided into workshops: gunsmiths, tinsmiths, knife-makers, etc. Even narrower crafts for the production of helmets, armor, swords, spears, etc., emerged from the gunsmith’s shop. There were even smaller workshops, like, say, the shop manufacturers of wallets for giving alms to beggars in Paris or a shop for embroiderers of arms in Cologne. At the end of the XIII century. In Paris, there were over 130 shops, uniting about 5,000 artisans.

In the XIV-XV centuries. shops are divided into rich and poor. The workshops, newly formed, were much poorer than the shops, founded a decade or a century earlier. The difference in the subject of production and sale was also felt, that is, the potter could not have such profits as a jeweler whose products the rich bought. So sometimes the older shops were subordinated to the younger ones.

Only a person with a master’s title could work in his own workshop. For his own money, the master bought the necessary equipment, raw materials and manufactured the product completely. The master had assistants: apprentices and pupils.


most important questions of the life support of the workshop were decided at the general meetings of the masters, who were considered the main governing body. Here they adopted a statute regulating the functioning of the shop. For observance of norms and order in the shops, the foremen, elected from the masters, followed.

Blacksmiths. Medieval miniatures

According to the charter, each master was allowed to have a strictly defined number of tools and machines, apprentices and pupils. It was forbidden to work at night and on public holidays. On the eve of the holidays, the working day was reduced. The charter specified how much raw materials to buy and how many products to produce. It was forbidden to have too large stocks of raw materials, so that in case of excess, the economical master would not take advantage of unforeseen profits.

Great attention was paid to the quality of the goods. If the craftsman made poor-quality products, it shamed the whole shop, so the irresponsible masters were punished. For example, in London, a baker who saved on flour and sold carpet, not installed by the shop weight, was put in a cage and carried around the city to ridicule. And in Paris, substandard goods were exhibited at the pillory.

XIII century. From the statute of the Parisian manufacturers of pewter utensils

1. Anyone who wants to be a producer of pewter in Paris can freely be to him to work well and honestly, and he can have as many apprentices and pupils as he likes.

2. None of the manufacturers of pewter can not work at night or on public holidays, when the whole city celebrates; and whoever does so, is obligated to pay the king 5 fine, because night lighting is not enough for him to be able to do his craft well and honestly.

3. The manufacturer of pewter utensils must rightfully create all kinds of products of his craft only from benign alloy, as the case requires; If he does otherwise, he loses the product and pays the king 5 fine.

5. No one can and should not sell old tin products as new; and when someone does so, he owes the king 5 fine.

The workshops were closely connected with the activities of urban artisans. Each shop had its own premises for holding meetings, meetings of the foreman, organizing feasts and storing the treasury, replenished by contributions and fines. The workshops could help orphans or widows of deceased masters. They also built a church or chapel in honor of the saint – the patron of the craft.

After the victory of the communal movement, all the levers of government passed into the hands of the patrician. The shops, having strengthened their positions, entered into battle with him. They demanded that their representatives be admitted to the city council. The so-called “guild” revolutions began for power in the city. Where the urban craft was less developed than trade, the patrician defeated. In cities with a high level of development of crafts, the shops were defeated. But in this case, access to power was not all artisans, but only the richest shops.

Each craftsman kept secret the secret of his own craftsmanship. That’s why the parents were forced to give the children “science” to the master. The duration of study, depending on the complexity of the craft, lasted from 2 to 8, and in individual workshops – even up to 12 years. For the tuition paid. Master mastered the disciple at his discretion, dumping on his shoulders and also work on the au pair. After completing the training, having mastered the basics of the craft, the disciple became an apprentice. Now his position changed somewhat. For his hard work, sometimes for 16 hours, he received a meager salary. To become a master, the apprentice had to pay an entrance fee to the treasury of the workshop, and also to make and submit to the masters a masterpiece – an exquisite and expensive product of his craft. If the exam was completed,

XV century. From the statute of the Lyubetsky goldsmiths

… Who wants to take the place of an independent master in the workshop, should do such things: a gold ring of lacework, an English bracelet, a bracelet that is given with engagement, engraved and blackened, and a ring for the handle of a dagger. These things he must give to the elders and the oldest members of the shop.

It is clear that not all apprentices had the means to make a masterpiece and organize a feast. In addition, trying to protect themselves from competition, the masters restricted the access of apprentices to the shop. Only the son or son-in-law of the master could become full members of the workshop. Thus a layer of “eternal apprentices” was formed. In the XIV-XV centuries. there was a gradual “closing of the shops.” To protect their interests apprentices created special unions – the Brotherhood.

The workshops at an early stage of their existence played an extremely important role in the development of the craft. However, the ban on innovations and technical improvements over time led to a slowdown in the production process.

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Craft in the medieval city. Workshops