Unrelated to the Tour de France cycliste, ‘les Companions du Tour de France’ stands for a French community of craftsmen and artisans. History says that the ‘companions’ organisation already existed at the time of the construction of the temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, 900 years BC. However, historical archives proved their existence with certainty in the 15th century and it is still operational. Through the course of the centuries, their role remained taking turns touring around France and being apprentices of several professionals.
The companions operate in the most diverse professions, from the stonemason and carpenter to the confectioner, from the mechanic to the carpenter or the shoemaker.
Before touring, aspiring companions need to follow a two year course. Once they successfully complete their course, they receive an award called the ‘ Certificat d’Aptitude Professionelle’ , the basic French trade qualification. After receiving their qualification, artisans and craftsmen head on a tour of France for a period of three to five years, staying in various cities, working alongside tradesmen to learn the basics of their craft. ‘The tour de France’ is for carpenters a crucial period during which they learn, while working, the most successful techniques in the art they have chosen.
In order to be admitted to the companions, the aspirants need to prove their abilities by conceiving wooden models or a ‘maquette’. Subsequently, the masterpiece will be presented to the board of Companions, who will determine the carpenter’s admission to the Companions.
On admission, each new companion is named after a region or town in France, often associated with the carpenter’s origins, and receives a personal attribute.
For instance, a carpenter from Normandy who’s said to be very determined, might be nicknamed ‘le Normand Courageux’.
In medieval times, companions had to strengthen their groups or ‘compagnonnage’ by applying utter secrecy as they were persecuted by the King and the Catholic Church for not to living under their rules.
Today, the ‘companions of the Tour de France’ does still train professionals. Being a companion now is one of the best ways to get involved in the profession and become one of the best in the industry. The organization of ‘Les companions du Tour de France’ ( website here ) offers both a full training and community living or ‘compagnonnage’. What’s more, living in ‘compagnonnage’ enables craftsmen to live in a community alongside fellow professionals that share a common goal and common skills.
If you want to view some of the most incredible companions’ masterpieces, it is worth visiting any of the five French museums and exhibition rooms located in Arras, Paris, Tours,Limoges and Bordeaux. (more info here)
If you are looking to buy a property in France which needs renovation you can use the service of a Compagnon. It will be more expensive compared to the work of a normal builder but you can rest assured that his work will be state of the art, a masterpiece of craftsmanship.