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Musée du Compagnonnage
Musée du Compagnonnage

17th century

The 17th century saw divisions spring up between societies, which started experiencing difficulties with the Church.
There are increasing numbers of documents bearing on guilds and concerning a wide range of trades. Many French cities now contain journeymen’s associations. Stonemasons and other workmen leave graffiti – nicknames and drawings of tools – on the Pont du Gard, the spiral staircase at Saint-Gilles-du-Gard, the Temple of Diana in Nîmes, and elsewhere.

Legal action is taken in Dijon against the shoemakers, due to their agitation against the masters and constant brawling.
Throughout the century, there is solid evidence of guilds formed among stonecutters, construction carpenters, carpenters, turners, milliners, shoemakers, saddlers, hosiers, casters, locksmiths, blacksmiths, tailors, cutlers and printers.

645 to the end of the 17th century: The Church condemns and sanctions the disorder, debauchery, and “impious, sacrilegious and superstitious practices” of numbers of guilds. It pronounces a “Resolution” against them at Sorbonne in 1655.

Graffiti de compagnon tailleurs de pierre, Nîmes

Graffiti by companion stone-dressers, Nîmes

Henry Buch

Henry Buch


1677: The Dijon judiciary notes the existence of two rival associations of journeymen carpenters – the du Devoir and the Gaveaux (or Gavots). Contrary to popular belief, they do not appear to have resulted from conflict between Catholics and Protestants. Two enemy associations also exist among milliners – the Compagnons du Devoir (“Companions of the Duty”) and the Droguins or Bons Enfants (“Good Children”) .

A group of associations

The word “Guild” in fact connotes a number of associations and movements. Referring to the total body of regulations and traditions of which it is comprised (the Devoir or “Duty”), members of such associations and movements are known as Compagnons du Devoir (Companions of Duty), Compagnons du Devoir de Liberté (Companions of the Duty of Liberty), Compagnons des Devoirs (Companions of the Duties) and Compagnons des Devoirs Unis (Companions of United Duties).

At the same time, guild members (Compagnons) belong to job-specific associations: journeymen stonemasons, carpenters, bakers, joiners, cobblers, coppersmiths, painters, etc. du Devoir; joiners and locksmiths du Devoir de Liberté; journeymen carpenters and mason-stonecutters des Devoirs, and so on.

These various Devoirs and trades finally grouped together into larger movements, federating them and enhancing their collective position: the Union Compagnonnique (Guild Union) (1889), the Association Ouvrière des Compagnons du Devoir (Workers’ Association of Journeymen of Duty) (1941) and the Fédération Compagnonnique des Métiers du Bâtiment (Guild Federation of Construction Workers) (1952).

The general term “Compagnons du Tour de France” encompasses all of these associations.

Flowing staircase

Musée du Compagnonnage

8 rue Nationale
37000 Tours
Tel: 02 47 21 62 20

Escalier à dessous coulissant (1825) Map
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