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Crafts and Trades

Guild chest of the Steinmetzen (stonemasons)

Key data

dated 1592

Probably Basle

Oil painting on wood (pine and cherry)

height 17 cm, width 45.2 cm, depth 28.4 cm

Inv. 1870.898.


Guild chests were used by guilds for storing important documents and other valuables. While many chests have a rich architectural articulation, that of the Basle stonemasons is remarkable for its painting. The four sides are painted with illusionistic architecture with round arched niches. Two escutcheons occupy the two niches on the front. Their significance is not known, although the one on the right with stonemasons' tools resembles the coat of arms of the Breiter family. The date 1592 is painted above the heart shaped keyhole plate. In the niches at the sides stand four crowned figures, who have stonemasons' tools such as compasses, setsquare, ruler and plane as attributes. They are fairly exact copies of four paintings formerly set into the panelling of the guildroom of the Spinnwettern (building trade workers' guild). The four crowned figures are the patron saints of stonemasons, four brothers, all stonemasons, who suffered martyrs' deaths during the persecution of Emperor Diocletian (284-305): as Christians they had refused to carve statues of the pagan gods. They wear crowns instead of haloes, recalling the crowns of thorns placed on them during their martyrdom. The chest is interesting evidence of the long persistence of the cult of saints in Protestant Basle.

Selection of similar objects


Basel Historical Museum
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PO box
CH – 4001 Basel

Reception: +41 61 205 86 00

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