In a variety of ways it does a great deal of social service similar to that of gilds of help. Its administration has always been in the hands of laymen, and it works through local "conferences" or branches, the general council having been suspended because it declined to accept a cardinal as its official head.
Further, it is subsequently found that certain classes of temple servants, the singers and porters, who had once been outside the Levitical gilds, became absorbed as the term "Levite" was widened, and this change is formally expressed by the genealogies which ascribe to Levi, the common "ancestor" of them all, the singers and even certain families whose heathenish and foreign names show that they were once merely servants of the temple.3 2.
In these Flemish cities the early oligarchic form of municipal government speedily gave way to a democratic. The great mass of the townsmen organized in trade gilds - weavers, fullers, dyers, smiths, leather-workers, brewers, butchers, bakers and others, of which by far the most powerful was that of the weavers - as soon as they became conscious of their strength rebelled against the exclusive privileges of the patricians and succeeded in ousting them from power.
All its charters were annulled, its privileges and those of its gilds swept away, and a heavy fine imposed.
In 1490 a treaty was signed at Damme between the people of Bruges and the archduke Maximilian, and very soon after this event the channel became completely closed up, and the foreign merchant gilds or "nations" left the place for Antwerp. This signified the death of the port and was indirectly fatal to Bruges as well.