European Master craftsman for stonemasonry

Reception at the EU-Commission after graduation. Front: the six Master-of-Craft-graduates.

The idea has its roots in the legendary mediaeval Comacine masters who journeyed across Europe assisting in the construction of such edifices as Notre-Dame in Paris, the Metropolitana Cathedral in the Spanish city of Burgos or the Nidarosdom in Trondheim, Norway to name but a few. Kindling the fire of the trade of master craftsman is the aim of a pan European initiative. The courses are open to master craftsmen – those who have already achieved the highest professional qualification in their trade.

The first 6 candidates graduated from this unique vocational training last May. They worked in various companies and fabrics or masons’ lodges respectively and in several countries throughout Europe during its course.

The European Association of Building Crafts and Design (EACD) was the initiator; schools, professional associations or craftsmen’s’ lodges from 16 European countries are participating members of this unique professional learning opportunity.

Jürgen Prigl, President of the EACD, explains the concept of the master craftsman course: „The art of cathedral construction is simply the distinguishing mark of European building culture. The professions, which traditionally carried out the work, have fallen victim to industrialization to a very wide extent. We want to conserve the skills.”

One of the distinguishing elements of the Master of Craft degree is that its academic level resembles that of a Master of Science or Master of Arts degree. Prigl’s aim is „that our master craftsmen should be able to measure their achievement on the same scale as university graduates”.

The course takes 3 years to complete and takes participants through 6 workstations where they must complete 2 or 3 weeks of skilled work for firms, fabrics or masons’ lodges respectively. Food and lodging are provided by the hosts. Participants carry all other costs themselves.

The practical work is meant to allow participants to acquire new skills as well as to implement their own know-how.

Prior to the hands-on part of the course, participants must wade through unknown theoretical territory such as history and art. They are also required to hone their communication skills by writing reports, which they must recount before colleagues or the public.

Public presentation is an integral and important part of the course for Prigl: „Only he, who has something to say, will be taken notice of publicly.“

Applications for the second commencement are being accepted now. The course is predestined to suffer from a lack of lingual diversity as was the case for the first course: the multilingual European melting pot prevents participants from other linguistic backgrounds from taking part. The last course was comprised almost solely of German-speaking participants and most of the sites were in German-speaking areas.

Prigl is aware of this shortcoming but concedes that there is no other way at present. „We do not send participants to functions like masons’ symposia where they could get by with little knowledge of the language – for this exchange professional language is needed.“

Considering the length of time the cathedrals have already been standing, he is optimistic that this problem, too, will solve itself eventually. „The concept needs time and what we are carrying out here is but the first step.“

Interesting to note: in mediaeval times language was no barrier in Europe. The educated class conversed in Vulgar Latin.

Applications are accepted in German language only, but can come from any European country. They must be tendered in writing to the EACD-office, Walburger Straße 56, D-59494 Soest.


Comacine Masters

Photos: Jürgen Prigl

Worked entirely in stone: The emblem of the Master of Craft.

(July 2009)