The Hierarchy Of The Traditional Stonemason

As one of the oldest crafts in history, one that has shaped the world from the very start of civilisation itself, stonemasonry has built up a huge, sprawling and vibrant tradition, much of which is still seen by those skilled in the craft.

As long as there is a desire to repair, restore and retain the great works of this past, there will always be a place for traditional stonemasonry, and this retention of tradition spreads to the continued use of a three-tiered hierarchy that traces its origins to medieval masonry guilds.

Whilst this hierarchy is not followed by every mason and there are no legal restrictions on which types of jobs qualified stonemasons can do, it is still sometimes followed even as the masonry guild gives way to an entire industry of stonework.

Apprentice

The first stage of any medieval guild, but particularly masons is the apprentice, typically employed by a master of a craft to work in exchange for training, food and lodgings.

Unlike modern apprenticeship systems, apprentice masons began working as early as ten years old, living in the house of their trainer for around seven years, learning everything they needed to become a qualified mason.

They started with the basics before being trusted with more complex techniques and tasks.

Journeyman

Once that apprentice period is completed, an apprentice becomes a journeyman, becoming qualified and skilled enough to charge a daily fee for their work. However, they could not employ others and thus typically do work as an employee of a master mason, although that is not true today.

Whilst the term comes from the French term for “day” (journée), it is fitting that many journeymen will travel to different towns to learn a range of traditions in preparation to become a master.

Master Masons

A rank that no longer formally exists, masters of a craft used to be the only masons who could join a guild and employ others, as well as take on apprentices. With that said, the term is still used to describe masons with a lot of experience and skills at honing their craft.

Traditionally, to become a master, a mason needed to produce a masterpiece and pay a sum of money to be elected to become a master mason, and many journeymen never did.