Compagnonnage, network for on-the-job transmission of knowledge and identities

Inscribed in 2010 (5.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Country(ies): France



Compagnonnage, network for on-the-job transmission of knowledge and identities

The French Compagnonnage system is a unique way of conveying knowledge and know-how linked to the trades that work with stone, wood, metal, leather, textiles and food. Its originality lies in its synthesis of varied methods and processes of transmitting knowledge: national and international educational travel (known as the ‘Tour de France’ period), initiation rituals, school-based teaching, customary learning and technical apprenticeship. The Compagnonnage movement involves almost 45,000 people, who belong to one of three groups of compagnons. Those aged 16 years or over who wish to learn and/or develop their skills in a given profession can apply to join a Compagnonnage community. Training lasts on average five years, during which apprentices regularly move from town to town, both in France and internationally, to discover types of knowledge and ways of passing them on. To be eligible to transmit this knowledge the apprentice must produce a ‘masterwork’, examined and assessed by the compagnons. Compagnonnage is popularly perceived as the last movement to practice and teach certain ancient craft techniques, to deliver true excellence in craft training, to closely integrate the development of the person and the training of the worker, and the last to perform trade initiation rites.


Decision 5.COM 6.12

The Committee (…) decides that [this element] satisfies the criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, as follows:

  • R.1: Compagnonnage is a system of transmitting knowledge through apprenticeship that is rooted in its community and is constantly recreated to adapt to changing social environments;
  • R.2: Its inscription on the Representative List could give visibility to intangible cultural heritage, promote inter-cultural exchange and raise awareness about the continued relevance of traditional systems of learning;
  • R.3: The current and proposed safeguarding measures, focusing especially on awareness-raising and promotion, benefit from the commitment of both the community and the State;
  • R.4: The various Compagnonnage organizations participated actively in the nomination process, and their leaders have provided free, prior and informed consent;
  • R.5: Compagnonnage is inscribed in the inventory of intangible cultural heritage of France, established by the Mission of Ethnology of the Ministry of Culture.



© 2009-AOCDTF

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