... was originally the association for merchants located in Basel, in particular those involved in the lucrative cloth trade in the High Middle Ages. It is presumed to have originated with a trader's guild in the late Roman period. Since the Reformation of 1529 it has been regarded as the premier Guild. As of the 17th Century the circle of professionals belonging to it widened to include those responsible for Basel's economic development such as ribbon manufacturers and the founders and promoters of the chemical industry.
Today, the Guild is no longer associated with one specific trade. In particular, it recruits new members from the ranks of the sons of its Guild members, but always ensures a representative proportion of candidates is included who are interested in the future of the Guild and want to establish themselves in a particular way in Basel with its help. All Guild brothers are expected to reach the highest levels of professionalism in their trade and to comply with the ethical requirements set for it. In addition, it is expected that the Guild brothers take on responsibility within the community and other charitable organisations. The number of Guild brothers is around 200 due to the limited space available at the Guild house.
The main task of the Guild is to maintain the 'house at the sign of the key' on Freie Strasse that has belonged to it since the 15th Century and whose name it bears. The Guild regards it as its duty to not only preserve this house as a historic and listed building, but to also open it up as a 'Gasthaus' for the benefit of the entire population. It also makes contributions to charitable and non-profit organisations. All of this requires substantial financial resources provided by voluntary payments from the ranks of the Guild brothers.
Its community life centres around traditional events, namely the annual Ash Wednesday meal in the 'Zunftsaal' and participation in Canton and State celebrations. Occasionally, other internal events are held such as the Guild Ball or a corporate exhibition.