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Traditional Handmade Byzantine


Tsoukas Workshop
Florina, GREECE

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"Candle making is the art of modeling and creation of art pieces from wax", Encyclopedia Britannica.


Nowadays, the art of Candle making manufactures mainly worship and decorative candles and is very little involved in production of art pieces and models. Candle making was since its birth a 'utilitarian' art, ie. its products are consumed for some particular purpose (eg lighting, worship) in their entirety, even when burning themselves. For this reason, there are few historical findings, as it happens in the case of other utilitarian arts. These few findings that are referred in the various sources cannot be  assessed accurately, therefore research for this folk art is little and lacking.

One thing certain is that candles were for centuries the main illuminant medium. After the Christian times, the candle was used by Christians as a means of lighting at family gatherings in the night. Simultaneously, it had a symbolic meaning, the light of the candle depicted the light of the Gospel, the warmth of the faith. The latter meaning contributed to the fact that candles that had a tone of grandiosity and solemnity were to be used during Christian rituals. So, in the minds of the believers, they
gradually became identified as a standard in religious rituals and as respected objects. Extraordinary properties were attributed to them and therefore there were used not only at worship but also in related events: baptism, marriage, death, memorial services etc.

Within the world of magic we see the use of candles too,  where the wax must have an excellent quality: "The candle's flame can also be used in divination, reflecting it in a mirror through a crystal or in a glass with water. As the romantics feel it, the light of a candle has its own strange magic and when reflected in a polished reflecting surface, it generates very peculiar impressions. It gets a new meaning and strength, an evocative emotional power that once was described at the old occult books as 'starlight'. In this dynamic field images and visions can emerge"
The candle is also among the usual offerings. Once the wax was established
as a ritual means other than a light object, the candle stores were multiplied and the Emperor Leo the Wise enlisted the candlemakers (named 'keroularioi') as tenth in the list of the twenty occupations that drew on taxation.

"The glittering beauty of gold and silver, the flicker of the diamond, ruby and other precious stones can not compare with the splendor and beauty of a candle flame. Its splendor of the evening is due to the flame which illuminates. The flame illuminates in the darkness but the light of the diamond does not, as it has no illuminated flame. Only the candle lights by itself, for himself and for those who manufacture it". These were stated in 1860 by Faraday, at the time when electric light was not even in our homes.

Such an art, therefore, with so much usufulness and with such benefits became a source of enrichment at the beginning and of competition afterwards. For this reason, the beeswax, which was among the first materials, of best quality ans most expensive to be replaced by animal fats which were cheaper, but their burning was problematic while the smell was unbearable and their touch unwanted. Thus from a moment that cannot be accurately identified, we find in Byzantium and throughout Western Europe Candlemaking products with quality materials and excellent appearance that are used for certain religious events at specific times and places. At that time the art of knitting candles started, although in a sense the first candle was a knitted one derived from the use of torches. Very old people removed from the trees and the climates thin strips, they knit them and created torches kept the flame. Much later in order to imrove the burning of these torches, they enriched these with resin, tar and even later wax, thus making the first candles.



The information mentioned in the Greek literature about the art of knitting wax, comes mainly from poor testimonies of candlemakers in Florina where this art is kept alive until today. Most of these are testimonies from parents and grandparents. These narratives falsely suggest that this art begins  and ends at this place but at a research I personally made the last few years, there are  written testimonies that suggest that knitted candles were to be found in various places in Eastern and  Western world. I mention some areas where this art was developed. In his letter Kleombrotos in 1971 asking me a candle custom knitting and notes on my word? "Art is Oriental and came to Greece in 1922 from the coast of Asia Minor where they built tons of 'shamasS'. "The same writer states and Davgiotis originating from Ayvalik. Athanasiadis Mr. Thomas was born in Istanbul who came to Greece in 1955, remembers when he was little knitted baskets candles, crosses, hearts and gospels) to fill with nostalgia: "erase everything in the City" (1992).

In Germany there are the candles, knitted by Biedermaier season. wound an artistic piece of wood that looks perfectly with our Gospel and the 19th century. Such candles are stored in the windows housewives and displayed with pride not to burn. Also the same technique, manufactured braids 2-3 series. In Spain, the Basque villages of this proud people who live on the border of Spain and France are knitted candles lit in memory of the dead. The candle is placed very long coiled, woven, in a paneraki in a specific part of the church. The lights every time a relative who is going to pray for the soul of the deceased and his off when he leaves. 'So the villagers can see by looking at every now and wax, which diminishes as the number of times that exploded or if the widow and children of deceased cry or not their man.

One of the most ancient traditions which still exist in parts of the Balkans, for example at Salamis is the construction of "Candle grandfather" ie knitted candles burning before and during Lent. The world says' candles grandfather "because the light on Clean Monday, the 1st of Lent and keep them lit throughout Lent and usually until Pentecost. Each candle represents a soul left.

We see that knitted candles can be found in East and West and were used either as resurrectional at Easter or during funerals for the dead, which they are used for until today in the town of Florina. The  knitted, I would say, are the latest evolution in candlemaking and this is neither random nor arbitrary, for the following reasons:
1) the materials used to produce them are the best. All threads must be clean and elaborate,and the raw material is beeswax because any impurity would make
further production impossible
2) the production cycle is hard and painful, detailed and there is no room for  frivolities and oversights
3) learning the art takes a long time and the candidate artist must have not only natural gifts and to be able to establish and compete with existing retail outlets, but he has to have artistic sensitivity, patience, imagination and perception
4) the creations of this art are burned in specific situations and during ritual where people except the contemplation and worship that they experience, they are is required to attend the burning candle, because any abscence of them or dissipation will destroy the wax and cause problems.