Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The sort of trade unions I like!

One of the many casualties of the Reformation in Great Britain were the Guilds of Craftsmen.

These guilds existed for every occupation in just about every English and Welsh parish prior to Henry VIII's rampage against the Catholic Faith. They were a form of security, professional companionship and a vehicle to support the pious elements that existed as part of the guild structure.

Blacksmiths, weavers, metalworkers, foresters, ropemakers, think of a craft and there would be a guild in a given town or village comprising of a few good men who enjoyed feasting, fasting and the faith and who pooled their resources to their common temporal and spiritual good.

When a guild was formed the first action would be to elect a patron saint; the Holy Trinity, the Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady were among the most popular and then, of course, saints would be selected often according to their own occupations. So St Peter might be the guild patron for fishermen and St Hubert the patron of huntsmen.

In effect, the guild provided a framework of welfare and pastoral needs to its members. Those who fell on hard times would receive a small allowance, a widow of a member might receive financial aid or a member dying away from his home village would have the benefit of a delegation of members travelling to collect the body at their expense. There was always the strength and support of members should one of them require aid.

In a spiritual sense the guild provided money for a candle to be constantly lit before the image of their patron saint, a pledge for all members to attend the Requiem Mass of one of their own and prayers for the souls of members were a daily practice.
The feasting was an integral part that flowed from the spiritual. A Blessed Sacrament Guild would, on the feast of Corpus Christi, attend Mass as a group, process around the town with their banners and end up with some pretty rigorous feasting in the best of British Catholic traditions.

The duties of the guilds were not restricted to members only; social events for the whole parish would be undertaken as would deeds of charity, SVP style.

Banner of St Winifrede of Wales
patron saint of the Tailors and Skinners Guild
 Some larger guilds even began to invest funds (members subscriptions) for the good of members. Livestock was purchased and hired out to members and loans were made to brothers wanting to expand their enterprise.

By the time Edward VI came to the throne, the day of the guilds were numbered and, by the end of his short reign they had disappeared never to return. O tempora O mores!

No comments:

Post a Comment