1280 - 1920

St Canute's Guild in Tallinn

Tallinn City Museum

The St Canute's Guild was established in the 13th century. The guild encompassed a number of associations of finer craftsman, mostly Germans by origin. The guild granted its members mutual support and spiritual welfare, it also controlled the practice of specific crafts (each organised in its own trade guild, 'zunft' or 'amt') in the town. Since 1698, after the St Olaf's Guild of 'simpler crafts' had been dissolved, it included all craftsmen in Tallinn. The guild's hall was located at Pikk Street 20.

Tallinn City Museum has an extensive collection of items that belonged to the different crafts associations dating from 16th to 20th centuries. Most of these items - cups, chests, sceptres et al - had their role in the ceremonies of the guilds.

The annual general meetings or the quarterlies took place four times a year (at New Year, Easter, Midsummer and Michaelmas). The fellow or master exams of a specific craft were conducted in front of an open chest. The alderman or the head of the guild held a sceptre and knocked on the table, calling for silence in front of the open chest.

The turned wooden handle of the sceptre has colourful silk ribbons tied onto it. The profiled edges of the sceptre were used to pull along the table-top. The sound quieted the loud room.

The guild chest had an important role during meetings, when it was displayed open.
The chest held money, the scra (statutes), protocol books, the guild cup, writing equipment, membership cards, collection box, etc.

The collection box was used to gather money for sick colleagues.
It is hammered from brass and on the bottom it bears the text "Weber Amt" (weavers’ guild in German).

The lid of this buckskin wallet has a hand-gilded ornament and text "Gehört/der st. Canuti/Gilde Cassa/ zu Lätare/von einem Mitbruder/H. G. Berggren" (Belongs to the St Kanuti Gild money box 1797/ (gift) from the guild brother H.G. Berggren, third Sunday before Easter).

These items belonged to the cooper's 'zunft'. The
first fraternity of coopers was born already in the 14th century, their first extant charter dates from 1435.
To become a master craftsman, one had to make three different barrels during one day, probably in sizes of 4, 2 and 1 bushels.

When the master's exam was finished, carousing began. The newly made fellow or master drank from a cup filled with wine and offered it to others.

The guild cups were richly decorated and belong among the finest examples of the work of Tallinn's silversmiths. A figure of Hercules bears the cup of Tanner's Guild on his head.

The cups were also decorated with hanging silver medallions that carried the names of the masters (or if it was the journeymen's cup, then names of the journeymen) as is the case with this cup of the Tailor's Guild.

When the newly-made master had drunk and shared the wine, the meeting protocol was read, the chest was closed and the pipes were lit. The tobacco plate was situated in the middle of the room.
Text engraved on the bottom "Das ist der Knopfmacher Gesellen ihr Tabaksteller" attests that this is the tobacco plate of the fellows of the Button-makers’ Guild.

Old-fashioned candlesticks called candle plates were still in use in the 18th century Tallinn.
The edges of the candle plate have engraved names, probable of journeymen of of a brass smith who belonged to the St Canute's Guild: Effrim Johann Jacob Kock; and the year it was made in: Anno 1761.

Brass candelabra with a pillar shaped column belonging to the St Canute's Guild.
The bottom of the base has a graved text: Gülde. L (Guild. L).

A short-pendulum table clock mechanism, made by the Tallinn watchmaker Gottfried Daniel Schmidt, sits inside a wooden box designed in a Neo-Classical style. The dial of the watch sees the craftsman’s name written on it: Gottfr. Daniel Schmidt/A. Reval. The watchmaker was active in Tallinn/Reval between 1779 and 1823.

Tallinn City Museum
Credits: Story

This exhibit is compiled by Ene Heimvell and Karel Zova.
Photos by Martin Vuks.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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