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The tailors’ guild chest is the oldest guild chest in the collection of the Aleksander Kłosiński Museum in Kęty. Tailors from Kęty set up one of the oldest guilds in town. Also, the oldest surviving charter issued by King Sigismund Augustus in 1558, mentioning the guild chest belonging to them. Unfortunately, the chest from that period has not survived, but a chest somewhat younger, made in 1792, belongs to the museum collection.

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The tailors’ guild chest is the oldest guild chest in the collection of the Aleksander Kłosiński Museum in Kęty. Tailors from Kęty set up one of the oldest guilds in town. Also, the oldest surviving charter issued by King Sigismund Augustus in 1558, mentioning the guild chest belonging to them. Unfortunately, the chest from that period has not survived, but a chest somewhat younger, made in 1792, belongs to the museum collection.
Guild chests belonged to the most important equipment which craftsmen’s guilds had. They were called mothers, vaults, or chests because they were treated as something sacred. The most important documents of the guild, stamps, standard measures, frequently money and guild jewels were kept in them.
It is rectangular and supported on round legs. The iron fittings have a decorative shape, and the sign itself — the fitting for the keyhole — is heart-shaped. On the outside, the chest is painted red and brown. Inside, it is an intense blue. This considerable contrast was to heighten the effect of opening the chest with which a certain ritual was connected. According to the guild custom, the moment the guild chest was opened was a common sign for the start of a session. From that point on, the brothers were obliged to keep serious and be silent, and for the infringement of these principles, severe punishment was imposed. The closure of the chest was a sign of the end of a session and the beginning of feasting.
The Kęty chest is equipped with a toolbox, also called a half-chest; writing instruments were kept in it. But the most interesting part of the chest is the hiding place, which was placed in the lid. The opening of the hiding place is cleverly camouflaged with the image of Christ. Pulling out the upper strip with the picture causes the hiding place to be revealed. Its creators hoped that money and valuable documents hidden in this way would not fall into the wrong hands.

Elaborated by the Aleksander Kłosiński Museum in Kęty, editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums, © all rights reserved

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Guilds

The main aim of the existence of guilds was to ensure that the associated craftsmen would have exclusive rights to practice their craft in town (craftsmen who did not belong to guilds were called botchers). But the role of guilds was not limited to administrative functions...

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The main aim of the existence of guilds was to ensure that the associated craftsmen would have exclusive rights to practice their craft in town (craftsmen who did not belong to guilds were called botchers). But the role of guilds was not limited to administrative functions (representation before the town authorities, acquiring new qualifications, ensuring standards of workmanship, caring for equal chances of sale by limiting the production and sale), the organisations also fulfilled religious and culture-forming functions.
Did you know that guilds were the courts for the first instance, resolving all disputes among craftsmen. In case of brawls, gambling, disputes connected with debts, or work outside of guilds (botchers), guilds imposed fines, which were usually paid with candles or wax.
Guild organisations still function, for example, the Polish Association of Stage Actors, although, under somewhat different names today.
In the past, a craftsman membership was obligatory; today guild associations only encourage voluntary association because thanks to this “the plant gains prestige and a craftsman does not feel lonely in the trade“. This is particularly significant when certain professions are dying out.
The mechanisation of many professions that used to be made by hand in workshops has resulted in a marginalised role of guilds and also in the disappearance of many guild rituals and celebrations.
Guilds which work to this day (there are 479 registered guilds in the structures of the Polish Craft Association) fulfil a communicative function – they settle disputes that may arise between a client and a craftsman; its members sit on examination boards before which young apprentices of the craft take a master’s exam to receive the title of master or journeyman).
The activity of guilds was not limited only to administrative and professional matters. Guild meetings and also rituals interfered in the zone of guild brothers’ spirit. Every member of the association was obliged to participate in religious rituals and ceremonies (masses, Corpus Christi processions).

Participation in ceremonies was often an occasion to show other people the affluence and wealth of a given association (banners embroidered with a gold thread were exhibited).
After the death of a guild brother, a funeral service was celebrated in a particular solemn way.
Members of guilds also founded altars, in which they placed valuable jewellery, treating them as a kind of treasury protecting them from being robbed.
Did you know that guilds were equipped with instruments of punishment, also called good advice?

Elaborated by Editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums,
Licencja Creative Commons

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

See also:
Chest of the tailors’ guild and related guilds in Kęty
Cross of tailors’ guild in Kęty
Stamp of the drapers’ guild
Obesłanie” – metal plate bearing the emblem of the grand guild of Tarnów
Welcoming cup of Sword Bearers' Guild
Manuscipt Charter of shoemakers’ guild

Read more about guilt chests.

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Guild chests

Guild chests were particularly valuable — they were also called counters or mothers and were treated with high respect.
Particularly celebrated was the moment of raising the cover and opening the chest, which was always accompanied by an atmosphere of concentration and solemnity. Administrative and legal activities...

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Guild chests were particularly valuable — they were also called counters or mothers and were treated with high respect.
Particularly celebrated was the moment of raising the cover and opening the chest, which was always accompanied by an atmosphere of concentration and solemnity. Administrative and legal activities could be conducted only when the chest was opened.
The usual contents of such chests were privileges, books, stamps, all important documents as well as guild insignia. No wonder then that the chests were always carefully secured with special devices and locks (cryptological path).
Chests were often equipped with secret compartments; they had semi-chests in which writing accessories were kept. A vital element of guild equipment was stamps with which important documents were confirmed. The oldest ones, belonging to a tailors’ guild, had a symbol of scissors. Guild accessories also included obesłania (wooden or metal plates bearing the emblem of the guild, used to confirm guild documents) and statutes.

Elaborated by Editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums,
Licencja Creative Commons

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

See also:
Chest of the furierrs’ guild in Kęty
Chest of the millers and bakers guild in Kęty
Chest of the shoemakers’ guild in Kęty
Chest of the tailors’ guild and related guilds in Kęty
Cooper’s guid chest
Counter of the guild of red tanners, leather dressers and glove makers
Counter of the surgeons’ guild

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Chest of the tailors’ guild and related guilds in Kęty

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Audio

Skrzynia cechu krawców i cechów pokrewnych w Kętach Tells: Piotr Krasny
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Skrzynia cechu krawców i cechów pokrewnych w Kętach [audiodeskrypcja] Tells: Fundacja na Rzecz Rozwoju Audiodeskrypcji KATARYNKA
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