Waxworks – T.I. Christou

Candles and candlemaking


It is not chronologically determined when the candle was first introduced as a lighting medium. However, from written sources and findings, it is known that it was widely used by the Gauls, the Romans, the Etruscans, the Greeks and the eastern peoples; also in national worship, but also in ceremonies and weddings, according to Plutarch's testimony. Christians also took the use of candles from the national worship and, in fact, have been found in catacombs performances with early Christian candles. During the great Christian holidays and ceremonies, the lamps took on a festive character and their use was also associated with purely liturgical needs. In Byzantium, in fact, according to a Florinian oral tradition, certain lamps with embossed wax representations of double-headed eagles and crosses were lit in front of the throne of the church, where the emperor sat. Such lamps were lit to the right and to the left of the beautiful gate and in front of icons of saints.

Wax rarely appears in church frescoes and portable icons. The only saint who is depicted holding a candle is Saint Phanourios, while the representation of the Entry of the Virgin with the torch-bearing maidens is classic, as in the mosaic found in the narthex of the Daphni Monastery, in this most important monument in Attica from the time of of great heyday of Byzantine art (11th-12th century).

Candlemaking, as a separate branch of art, was known to the Egyptians, the Persians, the Eastern peoples and of course the Greeks. In ancient Greece, wax artists mainly made plagons, human effigies and wreaths, flowers, etc. who used them in the spring religious festivals. From the fourth BC century the sculptor Lysistratus Sikyonius uses wax figures and waxwork flourishes.

The first Christians inherited this art and samples of wax works (holy faces, statuettes, etc.) were found in catacombs and churches. Also, in many portable icons, the faces of the saints are in relief, made with wax and mastic.

Candlemaking flourished during the Middle Ages, especially in Italy and France. In recent years the use of wax was limited to prototypes of medicine, physics and other sciences. Today, candle making is a separate branch of artistic craftsmanship and in Greece there are many workshops that deal with the production of decorative or use candles, many of which are distinguished by their beautiful forms and their variety of designs and colors. It is about the production of the well-known cast candles, for which various materials are used (paraffins, steatins, etc.) and not pure beeswax. At the same time, even the artistic candle making of the hand survives, as it happens in Edessa and Florina.

The great importance that people gave to the candle, whether they used it for religious purposes or as a means of lighting at home, can be seen from the wide variety of candlesticks invented by various artists. The candlestick added decorative and functional magnificence to the candle, when indeed the former was impressively and luxuriously crafted. From the ancient times, until Byzantium and to our days, the "secular" and "ecclesiastical" candlesticks and manuals, are made of various materials (eg: clay, bronze, silver, gold). Many of them are actually sculptural works.

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