||The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (December 2010)|
A bricklayer or mason is a craftsman who lays bricks to construct brickwork. The term also refers to personnel who use blocks to construct blockwork walls and other forms of masonry. In British and Australian English, a bricklayer is colloquially known as a "brickie".
The training of a trade in European cultures has been a formal tradition for many centuries. A craftsman typically begins in an apprenticeship, working for and learning from a master craftsman, and after a number of years is released from his master's service to become a journeyman. After a journeyman has proven himself to his trade's guild (most guilds are now known by different names), he may settle down as a master craftsman and work for himself, eventually taking on his own apprentices.
The German word for a bricklayer is Maurer. In Germany, bricklaying is one of the most traditional trades.
The aspiring bricklayers start graduate by successfully completing an exam held by the guild (Innung). The apprentices must show that they are able to construct masonry, know how to protect a house from humidity or water ingress, know about thermal insulation, know about the science of construction material and about occupational health and safety. If the apprentices are successful, they are awarded with the journeyman's certificate (Gesellenbrief) and are now allowed to call themselves journeymen (Gesellen).
After graduation, the journeyman may choose to go on a three years and one day journey known as the "journey years" (Wanderjahre, Walz, Stör, Tippelei). For this purpose he may join an association for journeymen (Schacht). The most important journeyman associations are as follows:
1. The righteous journeymen (Rechtschaffene Fremde)
The members of this association wear traditionally black ("the blacks") to express their decency (Ehrbarkeit). The association is more than 200 years old. The members have a secret ceremony which they are not allowed to describe, but people say that its content and language are of great beauty. This association is very near to the unions and many of its members are members of the unions as well.
2. The free journeymen (Fremder Freiheitsschacht)
This association was founded on May Day 1910 by the famous bricklayer Hermann Schäfer. They wear red and are called the reds. Their maxim is "we all are brothers, we all are the same" ("Wir alle seins Brüder, wir alle seins gleich" dialect). They call each other "Dear Brother" (Bruderherz).
3. Association of Roland (Rolandschacht)
They wear blue and are called the blue ones. Their maxim is "loyalty and friendship and brotherhood will unite us brothers of Roland all the time" ("Treue, Freundschaft, Brüderlichkeit, vereint uns Rolandsbrüder alle Zeit" ).
After their journey years, the craftsmen are allowed to settle down (to become a local/citizen (Einheimischer)), but they will only be allowed to do so if they behaved respectably on their journey.
A person who has had many years of experience in their trade will be allowed to become a master. He will have another exam. In this exam he will show that he is an expert of the trade. He also must show that he can work well with other people and have some teaching skills, because as a master he will be allowed to educate younger bricklayers.
If he does well in the exam he will be rewarded with the master craftsman's diploma (Meisterbrief) by the chamber of crafts.
As a master he will be allowed to start his own construction company.
Bricklaying and masonry is an ancient profession that even centuries later required modern training. Masons must attend trade school and/or serve apprenticeships requiring they demonstrate they know how to protect home from humidity or water ingress, know about thermal insulation, and know about the science of construction material and occupational health and safety. While some online sites say they can get you certified in a little as 30 days, most bricklayers today attend vocational or technical schools and receive in-depth and thorough training.
It’s likely that as long as man seeks shelter from the elements, there will be work for these skilled professionals. While steel and glass make up the modern skyscraper, it’s hard to imagine a world where the work of a mason isn’t held in high demand and esteem.
Bricklayers in fiction
- In several novels and short stories by Italian-American author, John Fante, hod carriers, bricklayers, and stonemasons feature prominently (perhaps most notably in his debut novel "Wait Until Spring, Bandini," "Brotherhood of the Grape," and "The Orgy"—one half of the posthumously released collection "West of Rome"). This is due to the highly autobiographical nature of much of Fante's writing. Fante's father, Nick, was an Italian-born bricklayer descended from—at least in Fante's fictions—a long line of Italian artisan bricklayers and stonemasons. Moreover, the author spent a significant portion of his youth apprenticed to his father, experience that lent him the knowledge to write accurately about various details of the trade: from descriptions of the actual work, the physical toll it took on workers, the color and character of those workers, and the pride and satisfaction of a job well done. Because Fante looked up to his father (despite their numerous quarrels and fallings-out) he thus held the trade in very high regard, at times verging on romanticizing the quite difficult work it took. To him, bricklaying (and hod carrying) was something that ennobled poorer classes; it was a respectable manual labor that required a degree of artfulness, and was a manly occupation.
- In Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, the title character, a Gulag prisoner, worked as a bricklayer.
Bricklayers in German poetry
- Armin Berg: Der gewissenhafte Maurer
Guild clothing of the German bricklayers
- Picture of an Ehrbarkeit
- Traditional belt-buckle of a bricklayer (it reads: Extol the bricklayer's art).
- The buckle is worn on a belt very much like this (this is a belt of a roofer)
- Bricklayer trousers
- Traditional bricklayer waistcoat (most times this is not white, but rather grey)
- Richard T. Kreh (2003). Masonry Skills. Thomson Delmar Learning. ISBN 0-7668-5936-3.
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