The roots of the traditional walk are largely obscure in the history of mankind… We know very few things about the development of the guilds in old Egypt 3000 years ago or the travelling journeymen, who could cross the borders of the Roman Empire without any difficulty, as the only ones beside the legionnaires.
In the 12th century the first guilds originated in the cities of the middle ages. Bit by bit they attained more potency and soon they became an inherent part of the European social order and their feudal systems. To gain more experience in their craft young journeymen (women and men) were send on the traditional walk by the guilds, and back then this walk took them already beyond the borders of their homeland.
The cultural and architectural development of Europe wouldn’t have been possible without the journeymen. How come architectural styles (Romanesque, Gothic, …) could spread over the whole continent, if not the people who were responsible for the building process carried out and took their knowledge from abroad, in times without internet and without planes? How could fashion, ornamentation or technology extended themselves, if not through the people who travel to learn and gad about to teach?
In the 15th century the traditional walk became an obligation for every journeymen, who wanted to become a master. Depending on the type of guild the times the journeymen had to be abroad amounted between 3 to 12 years. If a journeymen arrived in a foreign city, she/he had to register at the headship of her/his guild, who placed her/him a local firm. A guild was a regional establishment, but also could have been in charge for various trades. Though all of the European guilds were organized similarly, what relieved the intercultural understanding. Also master incorporations and journeymen Unions exsisted beside the guilds, who attended the issues of their members and sensed the duties and responsibilities, which fall to health funds, compensation insurances or labor unions nowadays. But the guilds and the travelling journeymen were a thorn in the empery´s flesh through every period in history. The impossibility of controlling them carried a certain risk, because they could easily team many people in one place shortly. Especially in times of Napoleon and the Third Reich the travelling journeymen experienced backlash.
The obligation to go on the travel was abolished at varied times in the different countries of Europe and therefore the tradition of travelling craftsmen was mostly buried. For example, in Italy the traditional walk was forbidden when Napoleon entered the country, in Great Britain the days of the travelling journeymen passed by in the course of the industrialization, in Romania until 1940 the guilds were still existing and as recently as the invasion of the Nazis and the following socialistic system they became extinct. In Germany and France the obligation to travel disappeared too, but the tradition of the travelling craftsmen was kept in a modified form...
Around 1870, the period when Bismark was the source of power, the guilds in Germany had found their end. But the journeymen who wouldn´t lump it, that the traditonal walk should perish as well, they continued the ancient tradition of their forefathers...
However if it had been tens of thousands on the streets of our continent afore, the number of people shrank abrupt after the obligation to go on the travel was droped out manyfold. In the past developed the even today common suit of the journeymen, because it had became neccessary to reciprocate each other. Basic rules were founded, which every journeymen had to consider: unmarried, fancy-free and unindebted a journeymen should go off, to be on the travel at least 3 years and one day and to not come closer than 50 kilometer to her/his hometown.
The first journeymen unions of the modern age originated, later known as “Shafts”, brotherhoods, who represent the tradition of the travelling journeymen over and above the journey time too. Today there are existing 7 German-speaking Shafts and the possibillity to travel free.
From 1850 there was a sharp fall in the Compagnonnique of France too. Until the year 1889, when there was a thorough restructuring with the foundation of the “Union Compagnonnique des Devoirs Unis”.
With the building of one´s own houses the opportunity was established, to take charge of the job training and the social upbringing of young people as a brotherhood. So the aspirants have their apprenticeship and further education in the trade and at the same time they are more and more installed into the close relations of the trade union. In 1941 the "Association Ouvrière des Compagnons du Devoirs" followed the “Union Compagnonnique des Devoirs Unis” and in 1953 the "Fédération Compagnonnique des Métiers du Bâtiment" was found. Today there are male craftsmen of every trade organised in the “Union Compagnonnique des Devoirs Unis”, women and men of popular trades with large membership in the "Association Ouvrière des Compagnons du Devoirs" and in the "Fédération Compagnonnique des Métiers du Bâtiment" the members are men from the building trade.
After the finishing of the journeymen´s piece in a satisfactory manner, the “Jeune” (apprentice) usually becomes a “Jeune Homme”, “Aspirant” or “Affilier” and starts with the “Tour de France”, which means to work in different cities for a certain time, in order to become a “Compagnon” after the building of the masterpiece.