Religious brotherhoods

Dutch: Religieuze broederschappen, Italian: Confraternita.

In the context of institutions for collective action, religious brotherhoods were associations that united fellow worshippers and fellow tradesmen with the formal goal of religious worship, but often offered conviviality as well. Unlike craft guilds, membership in these associations was not compulsory. Nevertheless, because religious confraternities could also unite members of the same occupation – such as in the southern part of the Low Countries or in France – they are often mistaken for guilds because of their overlapping characteristics. By our standard definition of a craft guild, religious brotherhoods differed because their main goal was religious and not economic.

Conversely, though the craft guilds’ primary concern was economic, in all guilds religion played a role. The extent of this role changed after the Reformation, which formed an important watershed, especially in North-Western Europe.

(Thijs, 2006)

More information about religious brotherhoods per country can be found by clicking the links beneath:

Religious brotherhoods in the Netherlands / Belgium

In the north of the Low Countries, guilds resigned many of their religious tasks, such as joint worship or paying tribute to the Catholic Church. The south of the Low Countries and France remained Catholic (or restored the Catholic faith) and many guilds retained their religious tasks (Bos, 1998, 395-426).

Religious brotherhoods in Italy

Religious brotherhoods were present in many Italian cities. They were generally called confraternita (confraternities). The confraternities were affiliated with a church, where they had a chapel. The linkage between members could be the same trade or the same origin, but sometimes confraternities included people coming from other regions. While the religious aspect was important, they also offered assistance and access to social capital within the city (Canepari, 2008).