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Obesłanie (plate bearing an emblem of a guild) was a characteristic element existing in the organisation of individual guilds. It was a sign used to authenticate the message being conveyed. If a messenger summoning, for example, guild members to a meeting, had an obesłanie with him, it was used to confirm that the message was from the guild master. Without this sign, the information was considered unreliable.

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Obesłanie (plate bearing an emblem of a guild) was a characteristic element existing in the organisation of individual guilds. It was a sign used to authenticate the message being conveyed. If a messenger summoning, for example, guild members to a meeting, had an obesłanie with him, it was used to confirm that the message was from the guild master. Without this sign, the information was considered unreliable.
The obesłanie of the shoemakers' guild of Chrzanów has the form of a carved and polychrome hand holding an apple, mounted on a short wooden handle.
The history of the shoemakers' guild of Chrzanów dates back to the 15th century. Initially, the brotherhood of shoemakers was mainly a rosary confraternity of religious nature. Shoemakers of Chrzanów took care of the altar of Our Lady of the Rosary in the Parish Church of St. Nicholas in Chrzanów. The guild organisation was based on the Kraków models because in 1537, at request of Piotr Ligęza, the owner of the town, shoemakers of Kraków made their statutes available to the Chrzanów guild.
In the collection of the Museum in Chrzanów, there are other monuments connected with activities of the guild of shoemakers that are worth seeing: a document issued by the subsequent owner of Chrzanów — Andrzej Samuel Dembiński, dating back to 1641, which specified, among others things, responsibilities and privileges of guild members; a book of admissions to the guild from the years 1603—1790; a list of members of the Brotherhood of Shoemakers from the years 1884—1948; a map of land of the shoemakers’ guild of 1826 and a guild seal of the Brotherhood of Shoemakers of the 19th century.

Elaborated by Anna Sadło-Ostafin (Irena and Mieczysław Mazaraki Museum in Chrzanów), 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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“Obesłanie” – wooden plate bearing the emblem of the guild

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