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The guild chest was also called the treasury, counter or mother. This one, belonging to the guild of millers and bakers in Kęty, is made of sycamore wood and comes from the beginning of the nineteenth century. In contrast to the other guild chests from Kęty, it is simple in form; neither is there any hidden box nor decorative painting inside. What distinguishes it, are the beautiful fittings that make it appear very impressive.

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The guild chest was also called the treasury, counter or mother. This one, belonging to the guild of millers and bakers in Kęty, is made of sycamore wood and comes from the beginning of the nineteenth century. In contrast to the other guild chests from Kęty, it is simple in form; neither is there any hidden box nor decorative painting inside. What distinguishes it, are the beautiful fittings that make it appear very impressive. The metal corners connecting the walls of the vault are beautifully constructed in a fanciful manner, as are the longitudinally profiled hinge slats and an elaborately cut out oblong sign to the lock, which completes the whole. The base of the chest stands on rounded legs. Inside, there is a toolbox, otherwise known as a half-box, where writing implements were kept. Because of the carelessness of a writer—who had probably closed the ink bottle badly—it has large blue ink stains up to this day.

In the guild inventory from 1817, the chest was described as follows: Skarbona (money chest), namely, a counter of sycamore wood with handles, locker, and a key." The handles mentioned in the description of the chest are the ones located on the sides of the chest; they were used to carry it. In many guilds, a change of the guild master was associated with the ceremonial transfer of the chest. During such a ceremony, the chest was carried through the city centre as a kind of manifestation of his power over the guild. According to this custom, it was carried from the house of the departing master to his successor's home. The content of the treasury at that time was also listed in the inventory mentioned. Among other things, there were numerous privileges, including the beautifully decorated statutes from 1593, which have been preserved up to the present. You can see it in the museum in Kęty, at the permanent exhibition.

Elaborated by the Aleksander Kłosiński Museum in Kęty, © all rights reserved

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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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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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Chest of the millers and bakers guild in Kęty

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