Welcome on the subsite about stonecutter's marks! You're invited to read the following outtake from the book of architectural workshops by the author Robert Peskar who will try to explain the basic concepts of the discussed area. Also very interesting are the words of dr.Ivan Stopar in the book "Bridka kopja, ostri meči" ("Bitter spears, sharp swords"), published by Viharnik, which are quoted below.
The list of stonecutter's marks in Slovenia and abroad can be accessed by following the links below.


List of stonecutter's marks in Republic of Slovenia
Stonecutter's marks in other countries
An unsorted list of stonecutter's marks, by Tina B.


Robert Peskar
GOTSKA ARHITEKTURA NA GORIŠKEM
STAVBARSKE DELAVNICE (1460-1530)
("GOTHIC ARCHITECTURE IN GORIŠKA
ARCHITECTURAL WORKSHOPS (1460-1530)")

3. STONECUTTER'S MARKS
Spade-work in research of stonecutter's marks was contributed by Franz Ržiha. Beside basic appearances he divided marks into four different constructional systems which supposedly belonged to four main workshops. But it was soon discovered that this kind of classification is astray. But despite new cognitions a lot of questions especially about the meaning and the purpose of stonecutter's marks were not satisfyingly answered. Opinion that the marks were used for settling accounts but in general they appeared as personal, authoring and ownership marks has prevailed. Günter Bindig also warned about new methods to research architecture although stonecutter's marks played a major role at this. Only Horst Masuch thoroughly devoted his research to the problem of stonecutter's marks and on the grounds of account books and building practice on the biggest construction sites in the medieval Europe determined that for merely accounting stonecutter's marks were not necessary. He also warned of some new viewpoints of not only the meaning and purpose of stonecutter's marks but also of different documenting methods which are along with some new findings also interesting within the sphere of gothic architecture in Slovenia.
Whilst rulebooks of stonecutter's brotherhoods in greater detail describe relationships between masters, journeymen, masons and apprentices they do not say much about their marks. More interesting mentionings come from documents from the begining of the 16th century in relation to a quarrel between the main masters of workshops in Magdeburg and Annaberg about the length of the prescribed learning period. Because the dispute was ruled in the favour of the first master and the master from Annaberg did not agree they threatened him to show his mark on the board of shame. He replied to the threat with: "...ich hab meyn zeichen, welches maynn ehr antrifft also redelich vnnd hertlichen erdineth...". According to this mentionings it is evident that we should treat stonecutter's marks as personal marks. They ment legitimation to the carrier, his pride, honour and they accompanied each educated stonecutter to the end of his life. This means that the stonecutter did not change his mark. The only exception are some mirrored marks which were adapted to the simetry of the composition by the masters or journeymen; these are mostly located on the hidden sides of the portals or vaulted key stones. From domestic material we know of two examples of the master's marks described above and one of them can be found of the aisle arch of the church on Pungert in Kranj from 1478 and the other on the center key stone of the choir of present parish church in Škofja Loka from around 1524 where the master H.R. together with his mark also depicted mirror image of his monogram. Only in the works of master Hansa Vechselperger his mark is known in three versions.
If we talk about stonecutter's marks as of personal marks then we have to treat them parallel to other marks which are known in medieval era, because the marks were in similar forms also spreaded among the other craftsmen, such as carpenters, and among traders and citizens (house marks)[see remark below]. Only the nobles had family coat of arms at their disposal. These personal marks had in important role among mostly illiterate residents and were used as an instrument of law in the middle ages with which the right or a duty was marked. This means that the marks could be inherited or impart to lawful heirs. But it cannot be determined how much is this true for stonecutter's marks. We can find in some known European architect families that marks were passed from one member to another but this occurences are more of an exception than a rule. This finding is even more valid because the stonecutter's marks can be in many cases understood as authoring mark. Horst Masuch was pretty held up about this. As a substantial argument he used a relatively short period of its intended use because they totally lost their purpose when the chisled stone was set up. But we cannot say the same for those marks (master's marks) which can be found with different inscriptions, representative places, year inscriptions, shields on vaults, that is accompanied by saints in which along with strenghtening of architects self-confidence and social position also aspiration for authors individuality is reflected.
So numerous moments show that stonecutter's marks differ among themselves by the meaning and the purpose: on one side we deal with marks of masters and on the other side with the marks of journeymen and their marks had very short period of intended use compared to master's marks. And that is the reason why most writers assumed that the stonecutter's marks were necessary to establih the amount of work done when accounting the payment. And in this context, as stated before, Horst Masuch warned that marks in this role don't need accounting books. Even if on numerous construction sites (Prague, Vienna) the stonecutters were payed by pieces, this means by work, they received payment every week and counting the chiesled pices was not hard especially if we take into account a small number of simultaneously working stonecutters and a small number of chiesled pieces in one week. Even more significant fact is that we cannot find stonecutter's marks in accounting books, not even in cases when stonecutters had the same name. Representative on the person placing an order used instead of their marks stonecutter's body particularity (i.e. Henrich maius and Henrich minor) or stonecutter's origin. Thesis that marks were not necessary for accounting is also supported by figuratively shaped architectural segments signed with marks. In Slovenian material we can find a lot of such plastic art and among the most beautyful are definitely figurative consoles with stonecutter's marks in Pleterje charterhouse (reference: M.Zadnikar, 1996, pp. 120-121). It should also be mentioned that stonecutter's mark, who chiesled consoles, cannot be found on any other architectural segment. This all evidents that the usage along with meaning and purpose of stonecutter's marks was spread only among stonecutters, ie. inside the workshop, and they didn't have any special function in relation with the person who placed the order.
As it was emphasized by Horst Masuch some answers regarding the purpose and the meaning of stonecutter's marks can be hulled from work relations on the mediaeval construction sites which are best documented in Nürnberg (St.Lorenz), Prague (Sv.Vid), Konstanza and Vienna (St.Stefan). On all of the construction sites markedly oscillation of the number of hired stonecutters can be observed. In Prague, Nürnberg and Vienna the biggest number of employees was during the summer months but in october after the chiesled stones were set in the number rapidly decreased. The other way round can be observed in Konstanza where the biggest number of employed stonecutters is in winter months, even if the stones were also set in in the summer time. This fact can be explained by the climate of that place because contrary of the northern towns it was possible to work in the winter time. But in any case everywhere a tendence to change the construction site can be observed. In Prague for example between 1372 and 1378 a number of stonecutters was 162, but most of them (94) collaborated at construction only a few months and some of them (14) only one week. Only six stonecutters remained on the construction site for more than three years. At the sime time we observe that the stonecutters frequently, after a few months or a few years long break, returned to the construction sites. On the other hand they also moved to another places on the same construction site. They stopped chiseling because of the work in a quarry or because of setting up chiseld pieces or they found extra work at the same time. About this a permit from Maksimiljan I. speaks, that the stonecutters in Konstanza can also take jobs on other profane buildings in the city, if the work on the cathedral will not suffer from it. Because of interruptions of this kind some pieces stayed half chiseled or were even the reason for stonecutter's absence on the pay days. The last cen be raed in the rule books of the brotherhoods, which state that the payment can only be received by those journeymen which are present on a pay day (usually saturday evening). These circumstances pose a question of what part do stonecutter's marks have here. Horst Mauch concluded that stonecutters because of their frequent absence or other reasons could not always assert their rights to payment. So there coud be no abuse while they were absent, this means that some journeyman received payment for the work he actually did not perform, stonecutters chiseld in their marks on the pieces for which they didn't yet receive payment and thus guaranteed appurtenant rights for themselves. On the other side the stonecutters were frequently leaving the construction sites before their chiseled pieces were put into place so the marks prevented that anyone of the other journeymen requested payment for a work already done. If an unchanged and constant team of journeymen were working then stonecutter's marks were not necessary.
Even when from a viewpoint of construction processes in later periods accordingly with the appearance of stonecutter's marks reflect more or less special construction circumstances, we will not talk about this matter anymore because it certainly demands more detailed treating in which we should have to take into account also the marks which can be found ie. on original plans from 15th century. But it has to be emphasized that a mark from one stonecutter can be found even in a period of one year over numerous construction sites not regarding to the distance between them. With this the chance that two stonecutters would have the mark of the same shape is getting smaller, especially not in the narrower geographical area. And this is already enough to excuse the greater role of the marks in art-historical interpretations of gothic architecture, especially in the cases where we can't hold on to style characteristics and the marks are the only starting-point to chronologicaly determine and to date individual monuments. But stonecutter's marks as one of the most visible elements of the organized workshop community or educated stonecutters are not welcome only to assess the chronology of its origin. Their appearance can also show the connection of any kind of individual stonecutters with certain workshops which is best shown by the number of stonecutter's marks on one building. For this it takes proper documentation of marks, which concerns not only the shape, but also the exact location ant count.


Gothic house mark of some craftsman under the window in Kamnik.

dr. Ivan Stopar
BRIDKA KOPJA, OSTRI MEČI
("BITTER SPEARS, SHARP SWORDS")

They began to build (page 32, 2nd paragraph)
The masters who were leading the construction works were at the begining educated in monastery workshops, so called stonecutter's lodge, which later, in Slovenia from the 14th century on attained independence or binded with an important feudal lord. Lodges of this kind was in Celje binded with Counts of Celje, which along with the Marija's chapel at the parish-abbey church of St.Daniel and some other important gothic buildings also constructedž charterhouse with an eminent church in Pleterje and as its leader master Melfrid was testified, builder on Friderik's tower in Celje. We do not find out much in sources about masters who worked in our region in middle ages but we know what kind of skills and knowledge thay had to posses. Along with masonry they had to master at least stonemasonry (stone cutting), mathematics, especially geometry, and among their journeymen who actively took part at construction, the first place was occupied by stonecutter - latomus, lapicida. Right behind him was mason - murator, caaementarius, who was probably skilled in stonecutting, too, and with them also blacksmith - faber, faber ferarius, who maintained the tools and the carpenter - lignarius, carpentarius. Of course the new buildings needed ceilings and roofing so that finally roofer could arrive which covered roofs with shingles, schist or dippers (antique tradition in Slovenian Littoral region). The unprofessional works had to be taken care off by the castle lord himself, the person who placed the order, and had to be carried out by serfs. But they didn't feel shortage of work, they had to prepare needed wood, timber, break rocks in the quarry and also burn lime, transporting construction material to the construction site and many other things. How the work was then carried out can be seen in miniatures, scattered around the meadiaeval manuscripts, where we can also learn about tools that was used, from protractors and sounding lines to axes, choppers, chisels, hammers and heelbarrows and many kinds of devices which eased up lifting loads into height.


Signatures in the stone (page 40, 3rd-6th paragraph)
Stonecutter's marks on the castles are one of the most important messages from the past. A century ago researchers surmised that they were stonecutter's signatures - they were supposedly marking chisled stones so they could settle accounts. This claim is still valid but it also raises doubts. The marks do not appear everywhere and when we encounter them their density and diversity change. Luckily, when we find them, they help us at dating individual building elements and with their it is easir to determine what was made by the same workshop or belongs to the same constructional phase in an architectural complex. Here we must not change stonecutter's marks with similar but ambitiously designed located on emphasized places master's marks. These are similar to stonecutter's marks but are always bigger and are seen only on important architectural elements, consoles or key stones of arches.

Stonecutter's marks appear on middle-European architectural monuments in the second half of the 12th century, until they disappear along with mediaeval stonecutter's lodges in the first half of the 16th century. Oldest marks in Slovenia can be found on residential tower of castle Pišece in Bizeljsko, which origins are determined (with reservation) in the time of around 1200. All lower part of its eastern wall is strewn with marks and they can also be found in the walls of big romanesque loop in the first floor. The marks are, similarly as on cathedral in Krka in Carinthia, shaped as Roman letters and are randomly arranged, without any pretermined order. Marks on the castle in Pišece are in given shape unique in our region and maybe we will sooner or later be able to connect them with a sonecutter's lodge which was active at the time in the region of archdiocese Salzburg.

Stonecutter's marks which have preserved on the first outer wall of Žovnek castle in Braslovče are dated into the 13th century, but unfortunately marked stone blocks are already in the secondary position. So they just document the existance of a building from the era but do not date the defence wall itself where they embedded. Not regarding to this they represent interesting and still unique example of stonecutter's marks in our conditions, which with its characteristics, very simple, from short lines composed shapes show of their creation in the early gothic era.



In the 14th and 15th century the stonecutter's marks become more frequent on our castles. They are smaller on the outside, only a few centimeters, and at the same time much more complicated compared to romanesque or early gothic, and at the end of the era they are very playful. They were not yet systematicaly documented or studied but it is true that they are more rare on the castles as on the churches of the same era. This is probably on the account of a circumstance that on our mostly ruined castles stonemasoned parts ie.windows and doors didn't preserve like at sacral architecture which mostly survived through the time. Stonemasoned architectural elements were always the first wanted prey because they could be used at new constructions. And where they were preserved are very valuable, especially those found in the 1980's when researching prince's manor in Celje. They are from around 1400 and by their shape it can be determined, like in abbey church in Celje or monastery church in Pleterke, that they originate from a lodge of architectural master Melfred from Celje and its branched activities.




STONECUTTER'S AND CRAFTSMAN'S MARKS

One must differ between stonecutter's and craftsman's marks. Of course the stonecutter's mark can also be craftsman's mark and vice versa and on many occasions we will encounter in literature depictions of medieval craftsmen who because of their class could not (were not allowed?) afford their own coat-of-arms and hence they pride themselves with their, in certain area unique, mark. Craftman's marks were depicted inside of shield, same as coat-of-arms and exposed on a visible place painted on the wall of embedded as a keystone at the windows or by the doors.


Stonecutting (masonry) master and architect Anton Pilgram (1450 - 1515) chisled his self-portrait in a St.Stefan's cathedral in Vienna. He also chisled his craftsman's mark on the window frame. Near the inscription under the window frame (a.d.1880) another mark is found. Maybe in this case it's the craftsman's mark of the workshop.


In the old town center of town Tabor in Czech republic we can find this remarkable example of painting on facade of some craftsmen house. Judging by a symbol in red coloured shield a tailor lived in this house. Probably his craftsman's mark in on the left in the shield and on the right a craftsman's mark of a master who built/renewed this house in 1579.


Also interesting is a painting in a manuscript "Kronika koncila v Konstanci" ("Chronicles of council in Konstanza") from the years between 1414 and 1418. One of the pages shows craftsmen, in this case fish salesman who has his craftsman's mark depicted on a barrel.

After many years of studying craftsman's marks we can sometimes somehow feel if it is stonecutter's of only a craftsman's mark which was never carved into a stone. This can be seen mostly from lines which are in stonecutter's mark more sharp, rarely curved and if they are curved the angle of curves is uniform from the start and to its end - but this is not a rule.



I don't know how much are designers of Slovenian passport aware of importance of stonecutter's marks, but it is very interesting that the stonecutter's marks appear on one of the pages of the passport! Actually it is a copy of a page from a book by Mariaj Zadnikar titled "PTUJSKA GORA - Visoka pesem slovenske gotike" where he sketched some (maybe all) of the stonecutter's marks gathered in 1950.
I wonder, how much can we say that these marks are Slovenian. I presume that most of these marks belong to the masters who came here to work on stones from abroad. So, what is a stonecutter's mark from ie.Upper Styria doing in Slovenian passport?

Below you will find links to a list of stonecutter's marks. Emphasis is on stonecutter's marks, collected in the region of Republik of Slovenija. Because I had the possibility to see some of the selected architecture abroad, I also added a list of "foreign" stonecutter's marks.


List of stonecutter's marks in Republic of Slovenia
Compact list (only sketches of marks) - under construction!
Stonecutter's marks in other countries



Everyone, who wishes to contribute information about stonecutter's marks in Slovenian architectural region, is invited and welcome to cooperate and co-design the web site. Together we can accomplish more!