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The Old Guild

The Saint Michael's Guild Gouda is the successor to the historic Antwerp fencers' guild.

The old guild was officially recognized on September 19, 1488 as the third of the elite armed guilds of Antwerp, after the foot arch and the long arch; the Saint George and Saint Sebastian guilds respectively. The fencers' guild was initially used during ceremonial occasions as the personal bodyguard for the then Emperor Frederick of the Holy Roman Empire and his son, the later Emperor Maximilian. They were both avid fans of fencing.

In this period the guild acquired one of its many names "haertsiers van de croone", the protectors of the crown. Only later did they talk about the Guild of Saint Michael, the hellebardiers, the fencers or the swordsmen. Just like the other armed guilds, the fencers' guild originally played an important role in the defense and maintenance of order in the city. They provided the leaders and even formed the elite corps of the city militias.

The guild mainly consisted of wealthy citizens who were given the privilege of carrying weapons by the city government and they also obtained a monopoly on teaching martial arts.

Een lid staat in pak voor het altaar gewijd aan Sint-Michiel. Zijn rug is ons toegekeerd terwijl kaarsen het dak, de ramen en het altaar verlichten
De Val van de Opstandige Engelen van Frans Floris I. De Aartsengel Michael werpt de duivel, in de vorm van een draak, en andere duivels naar de aarde met schild en speer

Wealth and downfall

From prominence to footnote

As time passed, the military role of the armed guilds became less important. But until the end of the 18th century, the guild was one of the most powerful organizations in the city of Antwerp.

For example, the Guild of St. Michael, like many guilds, had a chapel in the Cathedral of Antwerp. What is special about this is the prominence of the place, as well as the fact that the fencers had a triptych made, with the Fall of the Rebellious Angels by Frans Floris I in the center. This is just one of the pieces that the Guild of St. Michael had made. Together with the silver prizes for tournaments, the Saint Michael's Guild was partly responsible for the prosperity of Antwerp.

In 1791 this changed dramatically. The French Revolutionary government stopped the functioning of the guilds. The organizations were considered expressions of the Ancien Régime. Guild brothers went underground, and the guild's wealth was sold publicly. Silver prizes, weapons, paintings and other art treasures were deported to France. The existence of the Guild of St. Michael was wiped from the history books with one stroke of the pen.

The New Guild

Forgotten but not gone

The Guild of St. Michael had been forgotten for 300 years, except by a few individuals and the Antwerp archives. When the founder, Alan Spaenjaers, went looking for an association with meaning, a brotherhood, he came across this one name in the depths of the archives: the Guild of Saint Michael of Antwerp.

When the Guild of St. Michael was officially re-established in 2015, it was decided as a school to transmit the Historical European Martial Art in a meaningful way; as a modern martial sport with its foundations in the history of the late Middle Ages and the tradition of the fencing guilds. The Guild strives for a revival of the rich European martial tradition and the skills of the old masters with, among other things, the long sword.

In 2017, our second guild was born in the Dutch city of Gouda. The long tradition of fencers' guilds spread across the Low Countries that bore the name of Saint Michael is thus continued.

Since 2017, we have been actively training in Gouda, participating in local events and organizing events by our diverse group of members.

Het vaandel van de Sint-Michielsgilde. Een wit vaandel, met in het midden Sint Michiel en de draak. Vier rode diagonale takken vormen het Bourgondisch kruis, eveneens zijn er links en rechts van de engel twee Bourgondische vuurslagen
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