How were the dark naves and high vaults of medieval churches lit after dusk?
Wax candles were used to fight the darkness. Although expensive, and the potential cause of fires, they were indispensable. The faithful made donations to the churches in the form of such candles so that their houses of worship would be lit.
The most impressive method of creating light in the dark was through wheel chandeliers. These symbolized the walls of Heavenly Jerusalem, and were filled with donated candles.
Four medieval chandeliers are preserved in Germany, three of them dating from the twelfth century:
The Barbarossa-chandelier in Aachen Cathedral, recently restored and over 4 meter in diameter. It holds up to 48 candles.
The Hartwig-chandelier in Comburg Abbey, over 5 meter in diameter. It holds up to 48 candles as well.
The Hezilo-chandelier in Hildesheim Cathedral, with a diameter of 6 meter the largest wheel chandelier. It holds up to 72 candles. What a sight it must be when the light of its burning candles reflects upon the walls and towers of the symbolic city.
The Azelin-chandelier (or Thietmar-chandelier) in Hildesheim Cathedral should be regarded as a smaller "sibling" of the Hezilo-chandelier.
For the sake of completeness: the beautiful wheel chandelier in the Basilica of St. Godehard, also in Hildesheim, dates from the nineteenth century.
Translation: Erik Eising (MA)