When we think of candles in the Middle Ages, we probably picture dark castle rooms illuminated by wrought iron candle holders. And you’d be right- at least in some settings.
Candles in the Middle Ages were a common and vitally important item.
Most Western cultures before the Middle Ages used primarily animal fat (tallow) to make their candles. During the Middle Ages, however, beeswax was introduced in Europe and candles were much improved. The animal-based tallow had a smoky flame, whereas the beeswax burned cleanly and purely. The smell was also much improved- no lingering animal smells! But since beeswax candles were more expensive than tallow candles, the beeswax candles were usually used for religious ceremonies and in the homes of the wealthy. You had to have a decent amount of money to be able to afford beeswax candles- they were a sign of wealth and affluence.
For Europeans, tallow candles were common household items. By the 13th century, candlemaking had evolved into a guild craft in France and England. Chandlers (candlemakers) would walk from house to house creating candles from kitchen fats that housewives saved for just that purpose. Other chandlers made candles and sold them in their own shops.
Scholars in the Middle Ages used candles to illuminate the pages of the scrolls and texts that they read, translated, and wrote. Without candles, their written works would have been even more difficult to create, if not impossible.
Unlike in the Middle Ages, you don’t have to be wealthy in order to enjoy beautiful, fragrant candles that do not smell like animal fat. You can buy stunning scented candles that fit your budget and your décor. Treat yourself to luxury without the price tag!