Parish Fraternities and Craft Guilds

Andrew D. Brown

in Popular Piety in Late Medieval England

Published in print March 1995 | ISBN: 9780198205210
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191676550 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Historical Monographs

Parish Fraternities and Craft Guilds

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)
  • History of Religion


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Fraternities were not new in the later Middle Ages: the burial of dead members, the celebration of masses and anniversaries, so integral to late medieval fraternities, were features present in the tenth century, as guilds at Great Bedwyn (Wiltshire) and Abbotsbury (Dorset) testify. Activities such as the commemoration of the dead and communal feasting reached back to a pagan past. However, more and more guilds, providing spiritual intercession for their members, seem to have been founded from the thirteenth century onwards: the fifteenth century has been called their ‘golden age’. This chapter explores the activities of three different, yet often intricately related, types of guild: those that bound together the elite of a town, particularly mayors and burgesses in borough towns; but first of all, those whose membership was based either on the economic ties of a particular craft or on less well-defined criteria, those that were often more closely connected with a particular parish.

Keywords: fraternities; Middle Ages; commemoration; death; guilds; parish; elite; craft

Chapter.  11107 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500) ; History of Religion

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