Masonic Miscellanies – Adulterine Gilds

Guilds were a significant aspect of medieval European society, playing a crucial role in the economic and social development of towns and cities.

These associations, formed for mutual aid, protection, and the furtherance of professional interests, were divided into two main types: merchant guilds and craft guilds.

Merchant guilds encompassed a wide range of traders within a town or city, while craft guilds consisted of artisans and craftsmen in specific industries.

Guilds exerted influence in the local economy by establishing monopolies, setting standards, maintaining stable prices, and seeking control over town or city governments to secure their members’ interests.

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It is within this context that the concept of adulterine gilds emerges. During the Anglo-Saxon period of English history, the majority of gilds were religious, military, or social fraternities.

However, in the twelfth century, secular gilds, which later came to be known as City Companies or Livery Companies, started to arise.

These secular gilds were different from the traditional religious or social fraternities due to their governmental functions and legal authorization. In order to enforce laws, enact rules, and levy fines and penalties, they required legal sanction.

There were two primary ways to obtain such legal sanction: through “prescription” or by receiving a Charter of Incorporation from the King.

Prescription involved having the rules and records of the guild approved by the Court of Aldermen at certain times.

By following this process, guilds could ensure that their actions were lawful and that they were recognized as legitimate organizations.

On the other hand, receiving a Charter of Incorporation granted official recognition from the King, giving the guild the authority to carry out its functions.

Guilds that performed guild activities without the required legal authorization were considered adulterine gilds, and upon being discovered, they faced heavy fines or other punishments and even the risk of dissolution.

The existence of adulterine gilds in medieval Europe is notable in the context of Masonic history. Masonry, considered a craft guild, was no exception to the requirement of legal authorization.

The Masons Company of London, for example, became a recognized body by prescription, not later than 1220. In 1481, it received its “Enfranchisement,” which granted permission to wear Livery, further solidifying its legitimacy.

It wasn’t until 1677, when the Masons Company received a Charter from Charles II, that it obtained official recognition from the monarch.

This emphasis on legal authorization and official recognition is closely tied to the Masonic tradition of valuing Charters and Old Charges, as they served as written sanctions to ensure that Masonic Lodges were not considered adulterine gilds.

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Much like City Companies or Livery Companies, Masonic Lodges sought to have written authorization, ensuring their legitimacy and avoiding the classification of an adulterine gild.

The written Charters and Old Charges served the purpose of establishing the Lodge as a permanent society and demonstrating that it operated within the confines of the law.

In this way, the Masonic tradition draws a parallel between the importance placed on legal authorization by guilds and the imperative for Lodges to possess written warrants or Charters from recognized governing bodies.

The concept of adulterine gilds continues to be relevant in the present day, particularly in the context of clandestine Lodges.

A clandestine Lodge is a Masonic body that operates without a regular Charter or recognition from a legitimate governing body.

These Lodges are considered the modern form of the ancient adulterine gilds, as they lack the legal authorization that bestows legitimacy and ensures adherence to standards and regulations.

The interconnection between guilds and adulterine gilds showcases the significance of legal authorization and recognition to maintain order and legitimacy within medieval European society.

Guilds played a crucial role in shaping the economic and social landscape, and their adherence to legal processes was imperative to avoid being labelled as adulterine and facing heavy fines or dissolution.

The Masonic tradition, embodying the craft guild structure, reflected this emphasis on legal authorization and utilized Charters and Old Charges to establish legitimacy and avoid the classification of adulterine gilds.

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In conclusion, guilds were integral to the development of medieval European towns and cities, providing mutual aid, protection, and serving the economic interests of their members.

The concept of adulterine gilds emerged as guilds sought legal authorization and recognition to exercise their governmental functions.

The Masonic tradition, as a craft guild, also valued legal authorization and utilized written warrants and Charters to establish legitimacy and avoid the classification of adulterine gilds.

The interconnected nature of guilds and adulterine gilds highlights the importance of legal processes and recognition in maintaining order and legitimacy within medieval European society.

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