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Big Guild

The Big Guild or St. Mary’s Guild (German: Die Große Gilde zu Riga, St. Marien-Gilde) was the merchants brotherhood of Rīga that existed from 1354 till 1939 and held its gatherings in the Muenster Room which still remains in its original form in the building of the Rīga Big Guild.

It existed alongside the Small Guild or St. John’s Guild, the association of Rīga master-craftsmen. The Guild’s Charter stipulated its mission: ”fostering conviviality, genteel socialising, feasting, charity and spirituality”.
Around 1252 the citizens established the Guild of the Holy Cross (Heilig-Kreuz-Gilde). When Rīga joined the Hanseatic League in 1282, the Guild brethren convened on public premises named the Muenster Hall (Latin: stuba de Monasterio, Low German: den groten Gildenstoven) and the Soest Hall or the Small Hall built around 1300 and located near the Catherine Monastery.

In 1354, merchants from the Muenster Hall split away from the fraternity and drew up their own Charter (Schragen); this year is now regarded as the year when the Big Guild was established.

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