The Tale of a Journeyman

German Journeymen Posing with tools and beer

In medieval times, the apprentice was bound to his master for a number of years. He lived with the master as a member of the household, receiving most or all of his compensation in the form of food and lodging. An apprentice could not charge a fee for his day’s work; in Germany, it was normal that the apprentice had to pay a fee for his apprenticeship. After the years of apprenticeship, the apprentice was absolved from his obligations. The guilds, however, would not allow a young craftsman without experience to be promoted to master and thus qualify to set up his own business. To gain experience, the craftsman could choose to work for someone else or to independently roam about looking for work as a “journeyman”.

Journeyman Hitching a Ride

Journeymen can be easily recognised on the street by their clothing. The carpenter’s black hat has a broad brim; some professions use a black stovepipe hat or a cocked hat. The carpenters wear black bell-bottoms and a waistcoat and carry the Stenz, which is a traditional curled hiking pole. Because many professions have converted to the uniform of the carpenters, many people in Germany believe that only carpenters go journeying, which is untrue–since the carpenter’s uniform is best known and well received, it simply eases the journey.

The journeyman carries his belongings in a leather backpack called the Felleisen. Some medieval towns banned the Felleisen (due to the fleas in them) so that many journeymen used a coarse cloth to wrap their belongings in.


The uniform is completed with a golden earring and golden bracelets, which could be sold in hard times and in the Middle Ages could be used to pay the gravedigger if the journeyman should die on his journey.

Only after the journeyman had completed half of the required journeyman years could he register with a guild for the right to be an apprentice master. After fully completing the journeyman years, the craftsman would settle in a workshop of the guild, and after some more years he would be allowed to make his masterpiece and present it to the guild. With their consent, he would be promoted to guild master and be allowed to open his own guild workshop in town.

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