Rights, Responsibilities
About this Site

When going into a medieval European guild, you were given many new rights, and many doors of opportunity were opened for you.  However, when you were entered into a guild, you were faced with many responsibilities that were required for being considered not only a quality producer of goods, but an honest person in general.  Abusing your rights or not carrying out your responsibilities could result in severe punishment.


     As a guild member, you had the right to create and sell products to others at your own set price (within reasonable guidelines) after being officially deemed qualified.  When you were sick or had a loss in the family, you were taken care of by other members of the guild.  If your house was plundered, robbed or burned, you were entitled to help from your guild.  Also, if a member of the guild was about to die, he/she had the right to a priest at his/her death bed.  Every citizen of a town had the right to apprentice for a guild, if they met the guild's requirements.  One of the most enjoyable rights of the guilds was the right to attend the annual feast in the town's guildhall.  This feast was exclusively for guild members, but many people in a typical medieval town were in a guild.  After your apprenticeship was over, you had the right to become a journeyman and search for work in a different town, even if your master has not changed locations.  This was a right that was widely used.  The leaders of guilds also had the right to join the town council, which provided most localities with their leadership.

     Before joining a guild, however, various rights were taken away from you in order to ensure high quality products and full concentration.  While in an active apprenticeship, you were prohibited from drinking any alcoholic beverages, visiting any sort of Inn or tavern, and were not allowed to court a lady, let alone marry her.  However, if you were already married, (which was very rare on account of most people were very young when they were an apprentice) this disadvantage was forsaken.  Also if you were already in a guild, there were some rules that had to be followed.  For example, some common rules included that you could not work during dawn or after the sun sets, or in some cases, even during particularly calendar periods.


     Guilds were excellent ways to establish a life and receive income, but in order to get all of the advantages that go hand in hand with entering a guild, certain responsibilities must be met.  A guild member had the responsibility to always create genuine, quality work, and to sell it at a fair price to whoever may want to purchase it. Their creations must be made by the experts of the trade, and whatever that particular guild specialized in had to be top-notch.  They were responsible for any type of damage or loss to their work when still in their care, and they also were responsible for each other.  For example, if a guild member stepped into some sort of misfortune, the other members had a responsibility to help him/her recover.  A guild member had to be on-time everyday, and an apprentice had to respect and obey their masters.  If you have ever heard the saying "the customer is always right" then you should know that this applied to them possibly more than ever.  They had the responsibility to take reasonable special orders and to accept almost any job, no matter how high the amount of work.  Efficiency was required, as was keeping their customers satisfied.  Every single item had to be perfected, so that the customer was getting their money's worth.  Defects were unacceptable, and were discarded once discovered.  (This especially applies to stonecutters for building foundations).  In short, guilds had a very high standard on their products and always upheld honesty in commerce.

Comments are requested, and quite welcome: Allyson Terry's email or Kacey Marton's email

  Page last updated: 04/11/2003 03:42