Musee ‘Les Compagnons Charpentiers du Devoir de Liberte’


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You could walk right by this free museum 10 Rue Mabillon, not far from St. Germain de Pres and St. Sulpice. ‘Les Compagnons’ or journeymen can be skilled artisans – masons, architects, cabinet makers, breadmakers, to name a few, who commit to a four to seven year traveling apprenticeship. In the old days they used to walk from town to town and stay with a resident compagnon ‘den mother’ who housed and fed them. The arrangement is similar nowadays but compagnons drive instead of walk. They commit to working long hours, leaving behind family and friends, learning their trade with a master. Those that finish their four to seven year circuit complete their ‘devoir’ or duty by creating a masterpiece which is judged by fellow compagnons.
You’ll note in the museum a mention of King Soliman (which according to the compagnage history is the origin of the tradition). The know-how that was used to build Soliman’s temple was passed down throughout the ages and it’s the compagnonnage that preserves these traditions and know how.
If you meet a compagnon, you will have met someone who is considered a master in his profession. He carries a staff which is the traditional symbol of the bygone days when he traveled from town to town by foot.

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