from 22. 4. 2014
The City of Prague Museum has one of the world’s largest collections of guildrelated objects where the best artefacts from its collection are the main focus of the permanent exhibition featuring the craftsmen’s association.
The European history of craftsmen’s associations began in the 11th and 12th centuries. The towns were settled largely by craftsmen who were organized in guilds which were referred to as “pořádky” (orders) in Bohemia. Their goal was to keep the crafts in order, meaning to foster good relationships, check the quality of products, maintain prices, take care of the ill, and so on.
Craftsmen held regular meetings. The first ones took place in guildhalls or pubs. As soon as the guild chest was placed on the table and opened, the meeting began. The chest was used to collect fees and fines and to provide financial distress benefits.
The guild master had a ferule, a kind of a sceptre denoting his position and used for the ceremonial punishment of apprentices and journeymen. Craftsmen carried multicoloured banners in ceremonial processions to commemorate coronations and religious holidays. Craftsmanship was a lifelong commitment; when a craftsman died, the guild organized his burial. The permanent exhibition presents a selection of guild chests, ferules, banners, funeral escutcheons, tankards, welcome goblets, masterpieces, and other objects.
The exhibition is not confined to the life of the guilds (they were abolished in 1859). Our aim is to portray the craftsmen’s association as a society-wide phenomenon. Thus, we subdivide the development of craftsmen’s associations after 1859 into the following periods of time: 1859 to 1948, 1948 to 1989 and from 1989 to the present. The latter is represented by the most active organizations in our country. Visitors will become acquainted with traditional crafts, such as butchers, wine growers, cooks and confectioners, furniture makers, stovemakers, etc. Yet, professions that would be hard to find in history will be also presented: IT, tourism, and museum activities. The latter ones also honour the principles of the medieval guilds.