Craftsmen, Merchants and the Tailors’ Guild

Pivoted scissors, early 15th century. Iron. Photo by Vytautas Abramauskas. National Museum, Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania

Could you call yourself a city dweller these days? In the 15th century, a city dweller meant a free resident, i.e., a craftsman and merchant – a member of a workshop or guild. Back in the times of Gediminas, in his letters the Grand Duke invited craftsmen and merchants to come to Vilnius. As a result, in the 15th century, Vilnius was one of the biggest cities in the region and its merchants and craftsmen were among the richest. Trade was carried out with their counterparts from Antwerp, Nuremberg, Tallinn, Moscow and Constantinople. Representatives of the church, the manor of the ruler, noblemen and city dwellers were important for the merchants. However, newcomers were forbidden to trade among themselves due to the principle of stowage – in this way, local merchants could dictate buy-in prices.

What goods were most desired among residents of Vilnius? The most important imported good was salt, as well as wine, fabrics, metals, glass and paper. Lithuanian merchants exported forest materials, fur, wax and from the 16th century – grain. Today, when you pass the building at 24 Didžioji Street, you can see the Merchants’ Guild where all goods were stored. There were also workshops of important crafts in Vilnius: goldsmiths, tailors, furriers and mead makers. They operated like trade unions but also sought to monopolise production.

Didžioji g. 24
+370 5 279 1644
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