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The chest is made of oak, with inlaid work made of ash. The inlaid work presents two angels, and between them there is a wooden bathtub (on the lid) and two mallets, callipers, and an axe (on the front wall). There are metal handles on the sides of the chest, and, in the middle, there is a compartment for guild privileges.

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The chest is made of oak, with inlaid work made of ash. The inlaid work presents two angels, and between them there is a wooden bathtub (on the lid) and two mallets, callipers, and an axe (on the front wall). There are metal handles on the sides of the chest, and, in the middle, there is a compartment for guild privileges. The eagle is painted on the inside of the lid, and there is also a Wettin coat of arms with the inscription: “AD 1752, die 3, 10-bris” and the names: “Ignatius Dobrzański, Adalbertus Kurpielski, Joannes Szczypka, Joannes Tekieli”.
The chest, also known as a counter or a guild treasury, served to store privileges, seal pistons, hallmarks, and money collected from the candidates for the masters, from the entry fee for learners, as well as from penalties and fines. The keys to the chest were in the hands of the senior guilds.
In Wieliczka, cooperage was one of several professions functioning mainly for the needs of Żupa [mine and brewhouse]. Initially, coopers were not associated in any guild; it wasn’t until the middle of the 15th century that they entered the guild of blacksmiths, which consisted of craftsmen working in the salt-mining and salt-making industries. Later, in the 1670s, coopers belonged to the guild of related crafts working with the same raw material (wheelwrights and carpenters). Finally, at the beginning of the 17th century, they established their own guild. The importance of coopers in Wieliczka gradually increased with the increased demand of Żupa for their wares.
On the chest, there are images of the product and cooper tools: a baking bath, a compass, two mallets, and an axe. The baking bath is an example of one of many coopers’ products. In Wieliczka, the following were also produced: vats and small kegs for beer, mugs, watering cans, buckets, bowls, tubs, ladles, casks, barrels for cheese and butter, flour and cereal dishes, and normal barrels, of which a large number were bought by Żupa of Wieliczka. Coopers used few and very simple tools, most of which were depicted on the chest. The callipers were used to measure the bottom. The mallets, made of wood, were used to hit the staves when mounting the bottom in the vessel. Wooden trunks and logs were cut with an axe, from which staves and other parts of the vessels were then produced.

Elaborated by Kraków Salt Works Museum in Wieliczka, © all rights reserved

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About the coopers of Wieliczka

In the mid-18th century, the coopers’ guild was one of the most important in Wieliczka. There is evidence for this from that era. In 1760, the mayor and the town council of Wieliczka confirmed the previous year’s dispositions determining the order of seats occupied by individual guilds during services in the local church.

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In the mid-18th century, the coopers’ guild was one of the most important in Wieliczka. There is evidence for this from that era. In 1760, the mayor and the town council of Wieliczka confirmed the previous year’s dispositions determining the order of seats occupied by individual guilds during services in the local church. There were ten guilds in Wieliczka at that time: barbers, weavers, associated crafts, rope-makers, butchers, blacksmiths, tailors, furriers, cobblers, and coopers. The places where craftsmen sat in the church were determined by their importance. The first row — in front of the grand altar — was reserved for coopers.
On the inside of the chest’s lid, the names of the elders of the cooper’s guild are listed; among them, the name of an insubordinatey cooper — Jan Tekieli — was mentioned. This man married Franciszka, daughter of Jakub Woytowicz, the master cooper. Thanks to this marriage, he came into possession of one of the twelve workshops, but he did not submit to the guild and city jurisdiction. He settled in Klaśnie, on the estate of the Lubomirski family, and there, for many years, he engaged in his craft. He stood against the city and the guild. Under the protection of the nobles, he took no heed of court judgements which were unfavourable to him. Finally, Jan Tekieli was caught because he did not want to pay his municipal tax of twenty zloty and was imprisoned in the town hall. However, as a result of an intervention on his behalf, he had to be released. He then spoke: “... let the councillors account for what they take from the barrels, but I will not pay this tax”, and he did not pay. His case was much publicised and undermined the authority of the guild and city. Finally, King August III intervened, resolving that Jan Tekieli be removed from the guild and his workshop be sold to a free cooper who had city rights. A master craftsman such as Tekieli, who dwelled on noblemen’s or churches’ estates, was to be regarded as an unlawful craftsman and a miscreant (more in the article, “Guilds”).

Elaborated by Kraków Salt Works Museum in Wieliczka, © all rights reserved

See: 
Cooper’s guid chest
Seal of Koszyce

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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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Cooper’s guid chest

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