(vintners' guild) Basle, ca. 1500
Tempera on canvas
height 95 cm, width 95 cm
For centuries the 15 guilds, which were more exactly professional associations, exerted great influence in Basle, indeed up until the C19 they were the pillars of the state: the 30 strong council was made up of 15 councillors and the 15 guild masters. The four prestigious major guilds of 'Schlussel' (literally key[makers]), 'Hausgenossen' (house companions), 'Weinleute' (vintners) and 'Safran' (saffron [merchants]) represented the merchant and manufacturing class, while the eleven other guilds embraced the artisans. The vintners' guild, which was also called the 'Geltenzunft' (bucket guild) because of the measuring pail in its coat of arms, is mentioned for the first time in 1357. It comprised wine merchants, owners of wine taverns, wine transporters, wine measurers and 'Weinrufer', who publicly called out the arriving wine. Apart from duties relating to their trade and from political tasks, the guilds also had a religious role. The flag reflects the religious side of the Weinleute, as it shows not the guild coat of arms but the patron saint of vintners, Pope Urban 1 (222-30) who stands in front of a trellis wreathed in vines and holds up a bunch of grapes. St Urban's day (25 May), which coincided with the flowering of the vines, was especially associated with religious customs such as pilgrimages and processions in the wine rich region of the Upper Rhine.