Brotherhood The origin of fraternities in the Christian Church and world, whether clerical, lay, or mixed, is far from being satisfactorily ascertained. The formation of such associations was in direct opposition to the very impulse which produced monachism itself, and sent the solitary, as a "hermit," into the wilderness. Yet such fraternities were practically in existence in the Egyptian laurae, when Serapion could rule over a thousand monks; they received their first written constitution from St. Basil (326-379). Muratori was the first to point out the Parabolani (q.v.) as a sort of religious fraternity, in opposition to various writers quoted by him, who had held that such fraternities date only from the 9th or even the 13th centuries. Muratori also suggests that the lecticarii or decani, who are mentioned in the laws of Justinian (43 and 59 Novella) as fulfilling certain functions at funerals, must have been a kind of religious fraternity. On the other hand, the old sodalitas appears to have become more and more discredited, since the 18th canon of the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451) requires the cutting off of all clerics or monks forming "conspiracies and sodalities."
In the 8th century we find a disposition on the part of the Church to confine the idea of fraternity to clerical and monastic use. In the Dialogue by Question and Answer on Church Government of archbishop Egbert of York (middle of the century), the terms frater and soror will be found applied both to clerics and monks or nuns, but never apparently to laymen. There is at the same time ground for surmising that the term "fraternity," which in the 12th and 13th centuries is used ordinarily as a synonym for "guild," was already current in the 8th or 9th to designate these bodies, the organization of which Dr. Brentano holds to have been complete among the Anglo-Saxons in the 8th century, and the bulk of which were of lay constitution, though usually of a more or less religious character. The connection between the two words is established in a somewhat singular manner. A Council of Nantes of very uncertain date, which has been placed by some as early as 658, by others as late as 800, has a canon which is repeated almost in the same terms in a capitulary of archbishop Hincmar of Rheims, of the year 852 or 858. But where the canon speaks of "those gatherings or confraternities which are termed consortia," the archbishop has "gatherings which are commonly called guilds or confraternities." But the term "guild" itself was already in use to designate fraternities for mutual help before the days of Hincmar. We meet with it in a capitulary of Charlemagne's of the year 779, which bears "As touching the oaths mutually sworn by a guild, that no one presume to do so." It occurs in two other places in the capitularies. It is thus clear that the guilds of the latter half of the 8th century existed for purposes exactly the same as those which they fulfilled several centuries later. So far indeed as they were usually sanctioned by oath, they were obviously forbidden by the capitulary above quoted, as well as by several others against "conjurations" and conspiracies; the last (the Thionville Capitulary of 805) of a peculiarly ferocious character. The subject of religious or quasi-religious brotherhoods or fraternities in the early Church (apart from monastic ones). has been but imperfectly investigated as yet. Specific bodies are found apparently answering to the character, attached to particular churches, during the 3d, 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries. In the West, however, we seem first to discern them under the Teutonic shape of the guild, which in its freer forms was palpably the object of great jealousy, to the political and spiritual despots of the Carlovingian aera.