This article explores the careers of craftsmen and other commoners, who succeeded in joining the bureaucratic system and occupying high positions in the Mamluk administrative establishment, eventually acquiring great power and even political authority. At the same time Sufi shaykhs, also men of common origin and beneficiaries of Mamluk philanthropy, emerged as mighty and authoritative figures, venerated equally by the aristocracy and the populace. The newly privileged groups also figure as founders of Friday mosques following a flexible new attitude on the part of the authorities. This social fluidity, often criticized by historians of the period, was the result of the pious patronage of the Mamluk aristocracy, which brought academic education to the reach of a large part of the populace. Towards the end of the Mamluk period, the structure of religious institutions had itself been levelled: the Friday mosque with Sufi service replaced the earlier madrasas and khanqāhs. The article also discusses how the visual arts of the period mirror the social changes with new aspects of artistic patronage.