The Minuto Popolo— skilled and unskilled workers including weavers, spinners, dyers, boatmen, labourers, peddlers and others—despite constituting a majority of the population, were barred from forming guilds.
Entrance to the Arti was highly structured from the first records; it was necessary to be the legitimate son of a member, to give proofs of competence in the craft involved, and to pay an entrance tax. Masters of the guilds, who possessed the means of production, took on apprentices and garzoni, the "boys" or journeymen who might work through a long career without ever becoming a master.
Each of the Arti was ruled according to its statutes, which had the force of law, and might pass judgement in controversies among its members and with their workers. In the fourteenth century the guilds established the market tribunal called the Mercatanzia to hear causes that involved more than one of the Arti. The Palazzo del Tribunale della Mercatanzia (illustration, right) still occupies a prominent place in the piazza della Signoria, befitting the controlling role of the Arti in governing Florence.
As elsewhere, the guilds of Florence protected its members from competition within the city by strangers and Florentine outsiders, guaranteed the quality of work through strict supervision of the workshops (botteghe), stipulated work hours, established markets and feast days, and provided public services to its members, and their wives, widows and children. During the fifteenth century city watchmen were organized by the Arti to protect closed workshops and warehouses.
From the beginning, not all arti were equal: to the original seven Arti Maggiori were added fourteen Arti Minori as the guild system spread.
The first scheduled list of Guilds, including twenty-one, appared in 1236. The second scheduled list of Guilds, differentiating seven "Greater" and fourteen "Lesser" Guilds, appeared in 1266. That same year the consuls of the seven "Greater" Guilds became the "Supreme Magistrate of the State". The first five of the "Lesser Guilds" were designated "Intermediate Guilds" (Arte Mediane) in 1280, when the Signoria first assumed office, and their consults were admitted to the conferences of the consuls of the seven "Greater" Guilds.
In 1282, three "Priors of the Guilds" were elected, with powers only inferior to the Chief-Magistrate of the State. The third scheduled list of guilds, finalizing their order of precedence appeared the following year. The nine lowest guilds were allotted banners and coats-of-arms in 1291.
A General Code, "Il Statuto", for the guilds was promulgated in 1296 with the founding of the Corte della Mercanzia. The Statues of all the guilds underwent a complete revision between 1301 and 1307, and the "New Code" was first adopted by the Calimala; the statutes were again revised in 1386.
Three new operative guilds were formed in 1378 after the Ciompi revolt. The fourth scheduled list of guilds, appearing in 1415, however, still included only twenty-one guilds. The Grandi attempted in 1427 to reduce the "Lesser" guilds to only seven. Indeed, in 1534, the fourteen "Lesser" guilds were arranged in four Universities, and saw many of their privileges curtailed.
|Arte di Calimala||Workers in wool, cloth merchants||Circa 1190||Suppressed in 1770 by Pietro Leopoldo, Grand Duke of Tuscany|
|Arte della Lana||Wool merchants||Pre-1192||Took charge of Santa Maria del Fiore in 1282|
|Arte dei Giudici e Notai||Judges, lawyers, and notaries||1197||Listed first among the "Twelve Greater Guilds" on a 1282 list currently at the British Museum; Abolished in 1597, the same year a "College of Judges and Notaries" was incorporated.|
|Arte del Cambio||Bankers||Pre-1197|
|Arte della Seta||Silk weavers||Pre-1192||Included bronze sculptors|
|Arte dei Medici e Speziali||Physicians and pharmacists||1197||Included painters from 1314, and as an independent branch from 1378; also included shopkeepers who sold spices, dyes, and medicines|
|Arte dei Vaiai e Pellicciai||Furriers||1197|
|Arte de' Beccai||Graziers||Circa 1236||First of the five intermediate guilds|
|Arte dei Calzolai||Shoemakers||Pre-1236|
|Arte dei Fabbri||Iron workers||Pre-1236|
|Arte dei Maestri di Pietra e Legname||Workers in stone and wood||Pre-1236||Included sculptors|
|Arte dei Linaioli e Rigattieri||Workers of flax, tailors||1266|
|Arti dei Vinattieri||Wine||1266|
|Arti degli Albergatori||Innkeepers||1282||Cleaved from the Vinattieri in 1282|
|Arti dei Oliandoli e Pizzicagnoli||Millworkers||Pre-1236||Arte de' Galigai renamed Arte degli Oliandoli in 1415; missing in the 1282 and 1295 lists of guilds, replaced by the "Arti dei Venditori del Sale".|
|Arti dei Cuoiai e Galigai||Leather workers||1282|
|Arti dei Corazzai e Spadai||Armourers||Pre-1236|
|Arti dei Correggiai||Military leather workers (e.g. Saddlers)||Pre-1236|
|Arti dei Legnaioli||Wood||Pre-1236|
|Arti dei Chiavaioli||Keymakers|
|Arti dei Fornai||Bakers||Pre-1236||Regarded as the seventh of fourteen lesser guilds in 1236; lowest in the order of precedence since 1282|
The guilds were important patrons of the arts. The statues of the Orsanmichele were a lavish joint, and highly competitive, effort, the Calimala were responsible for the Baptistry and paid for Ghiberti's famous doors, while the Lana were responsible for the cathedral itself, and paid for the cupola, the altar frontal and other works, and the Seta built and ran the Ospedale degli Innocenti