Thirteenth Century

time, guilds, education, beautiful, various, guild, told, training, religious and crafts

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

The century saw the publication of what must be considered the first of encyclopedias_ Vincent of Beauvais, under the patronage of Louis IX, with The aid of a great many young assistants of the Dominican Order whose ex penses were generously defrayed by the king, was enabled to gather an immense amount of information for his time. In spite of the dif ficulty of hand transcription, his work extends to over 50 of our volumes octavo. The matter is well chosen and of wide interest, and the surprise is how many things supposed to be much more modern in human knowledge are to be found in Vincent. Pagel declared the reading of the work easily becomes absorbing.t The century provided a magnificent series of contributions by explorers to the knowledge of the world at that time. Travelers in the Near and the Far East told the stories of how other people lived and their books still extant demon strate what excellent observers they were. The greatest of these explorers was Marco Polo, whose name was for so long a by-word for credulity and tendency to exaggeration, who proves now, like Herodotus, to have had a basis of real truth for all that he told. He visited the Christian kingdom of Abyssinia as well as China and nearly all the works between. He told of Burmah, of Siam, of Cochin China, of Japan, of Java, of Ceylon and India and he had heard interesting accounts of the coast of Zan zibar and distant Madagascar and at the oppo site end of the world of Siberia and the shores of the Arctic Ocean. Colonel Yule, a modern authority on the literature of travel, can scarcely find words to praise Polo enough. There were many other famous travelers whose works have come down to us from the century and are republished in recent years. Friar John of Car pini went on a mission to the Tatar emperor of the time, across the Ural Mountains and River, past the northern part of the Caspian Sea, across the Jaxartes, along the Dztingarian lakes to the Imperial camp near the Orkhon River. Friar William of Rubruk or Rubruquis, the account of whose travels was printed by Flak luyt in his collection of voyages at the end of the 16th century, went even further: Some of his observations, as for instance on Chinese writing, are surprising enough, but he has many details of Asiatic nature, ethnography, manners, morals, commercial customs, that were true to life. Friar Oderic a little Later traveled through India and then through China to Nan kin and Peking, reached the Great Wall, en tered Tibet and appears to have visited Lhasa. Sir John Mandeville (15th century) borrowed much from him, as well as from the Pramon stratensian monk Hayton. Most of the men who thus wandered in distant lands were gradu ates of the universities of the time and while they were credulous with regard to what they heard, very much as Herodotus himself, they could be absolutely depended on for informa tion with regard to things which they them selves had seen.

Besides the intellectual education which came in the cathedral schools and their develop ments at the universities there was a great phase of popular education along artistic lines which was initiated in the midst of the build ing of the cathedrals. Most of the beautiful things in the great Gothic churches were made by workmen of the little mediaeval towns in which they were built. None of these had more than a few thousand and probably did not average 10,000 inhabitants. Somehow ar tistic artisans to do all the beautiful work de manded were found and there was the popu lar taste to appreciate and the diffusion of lib eral education to patronize and encourage the making of such beautiful things. There are

receipted bills for the payment to village black smiths and village carpenters, for iron and woodwork, which we now rank as artistic mas terpieces. Practically all the decorations and fittings of their cathedrals were executed by the townsmen themselves and even their bells and stained glass were made at home, not brought from a distance. Transportation diffi culties threw them back on themselves and compelled technical developments while trans portation facilities in our time have had an opposite effect. To secure the making of such beautiful things there had to be a skilled and well-trained group of artisans. There has probably never been a time when the arts and crafts, in our modern sense of that term, have been so appreciated and cultivated. In this culture the working classes were probably the most important factor. Technical training was provided by the guilds. Boys were ap prenticed to trades and crafts of various kinds, and after four or five years of training became journeymen and traveled from place to place to learn the secrets and customs of their craft in the various regions. After two or three years of this on the presentation and accept ance of an example of their work called a masterpiece— this is where this old English word comes from—they were admitted as master workmen into the guild. This repre sented a degree in technics. The guild training was practically a technical school and as the guilds existed everywhere opportunities .f©r arts and crafts education abounded. Any growing youth who had taste or talent for any form of artistic work could easily secure the opportunity for its development and then, more important still, obtain the chance to do his work in conditions where encouragement and appreciation would come to him. In England at the end of the Middle Ages there were 30,000 guilds (Toultnin Smith), the county of Nor folk alone having 900, the small town of Wy mondham having 11 still' known by name. One of them possessed a guild hall. All the guilds of the town are said to have been gwell en dowed with lands and tenements?) In Bury Saint Edintmds, Suffolk, there were 23 guilds; Boston, Lincolnshire; had 14 of which the' titles and particulars are and London had a large number. The guild had increased in num ber greatly from the 13th century but there is definite evidence that most of the important guilds in ekiStenCe in England at the end of the 15th century had been in existence for several hundred years. During this time they had accumulated very large amounts of money and invested funds of various kinds, not so much from the fees paid by their members as from bequests of various kinds made to them because it was felt that they were doing great good work. Unfortunately it was this accumu lation of money that led to their legal destruc tion, though a few of the London guilds which were spared in the time of Henry VIII on the plea that they were trading or secular associa tions and not religious organizations have at the present time an income of over $50,000 per year each. The old guilds were trades unions, social clubs, insurance societies, civic organizations, popular entertainment commit tees, but withal religious sodalities enforcing fulfilment of religious duties yet not permit ting the clergy to hold office or dominate policy.

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7