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The Chandlers of Medieval Europe by Michelle
Transcript of The Chandlers of Medieval Europe by Michelle
Their place in society, how they earned a living, responsibilities and benefits of living as a Chandler in Medieval Europe.
At the height of the Middle Ages, chandlers, meaning candle makers, began to organise themselves into guilds. True to its name, a group of candle makers were part of the chandler guild.
There were two different types of chandler guilds in medieval Europe: Tallow chandlers, who dealt with tallow candles made of animal fat, and beeswax chandlers, who made their candles with beeswax.
Place in Society
In Europe, during the 10th to 14th Centuries, candle making was a highly important and substantial trade. Many chandlers were successful businessmen as, during this time, candles were in high demand due to it being one of the only sources of light after sundown.
The chandlery guild was also a significant part of medieval cities and towns. The guild was exclusive, being an ordered organization, and was created to preserve the rights and privileges of their members.
Benefits of being a Chandler
Benefits of being a chandler in the 10th to 14th centuries include the fact that they organised themselves into guilds made up of apprentices, journeymen, and masters. For this reason, many chandlers were able to develop their skills as an apprentice as they had a master to teach them the beneficial foundations for working effectively and productively in the chandlery workforce. Once they have mastered the required skills, they could move on to being a journeymen. This would greatly benefit a chandler as he would be able to develop his skills in chandlery, giving him a much higher chance of becoming more successful in the future when he goes on to sell his items. Not only that, but if a chandler happened to fall ill, the guild would care for him until his health restored. In addition, being a member of a guild was an honour as it was a sign that the chandler was a skilled worker who had some respect in society.
How they earned a Living
Chandlers made a living by selling their hand-made candles. In order to make tallow candles, the chandler would fill a sturdy pan with tallow and heat it up over a boiler. Tallow, which is the hard, whitish fat found in cows and sheep, was said to ‘stink when burning’ depending on how much it had been processed by the tallow boiler. Tallow could either be pale in colour or look similar to creamy fat, resulting in it either being not to smelly when alight (pale), or full of impurities (creamy fat) – which produced an unremarkably disgusting odour. Chandlers would then take a wick, which was usually made of braided string, and dip it into the melted tallow. The chandler would take it out, wait for it to dry, then continue dipping until the candle reached the desired size. This method of making candles was known as the dipping technique.
The responsibility of a chandler during the middle ages was to provide his townspeople and church with candles for everyday use. However, different classes of the social hierarchy during medieval Europe tended to purchase two different kinds of candles. The rich, such as the King, Church, Nobles, and well-respected knights, preferred beeswax candles as they were luxurious and the smell they produced was long-lasting, beautiful, and sweet. In addition, the wealthy medieval church was also one of the chief purchasers of beeswax candles. When candles were used in the church, they had to be at least 60% beeswax, or else they simply could not be used.
The Chandlers of Medieval Europe
By Michelle 2015
(Demand Media 2011)
This picture is of the beeswax candles that the Church and the rich people of Medieval Europe would have used
This image depicts what a tallow/ beeswax boiler would've most likely looked like back in Medieval Europe. This image, however, specifically displays a beeswax boiler and some of the finished beeswax candles.
This painting comes from the book ‘Tacuinum Sanitatis’, which was first made in the 11th Century in Europe. Since it was made in Europe and during the middle ages, this source is quite reliable. However, it is worth mentioning that this book was made and produced based on a manuscript created by an Arabic physician and philosopher, also in the 11th Century. This means that the Tacuinum could be slightly inaccurate as it was based on a book about health, and would not contain the exact same material as the original manuscript. Regardless of that, though, the Tacuinum Sanitatis is still an extremely reliable source as it was created in Europe during Medieval time.
Primary Source 1
Reference: (Tacuinum Sanitatis, 11th Century)
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The Telegraph 2010, Egyptian priests lived on junk food diet, viewed 2 August 2014, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/7317619/Egyptian-priests-lived-on-junk-food-diet.html.
Chandlers could also make a living by trading items in their store. If a chandler was in the beeswax industry, he/ or she, could trade easily. However, trading tallow candles was not so common or popular among the rich because of how trivial tallow-made candles were, but trading tallow candles for other basic household items and life necessitates was popular between the lower-end class of Europe. In contrast, the finished product of a beeswax candle was so valued that it could have even been accepted as a payment for other fundamental items, including tithe, meaning tax, in place of hard-earned money.
This image is a representation of a Chandler Guild Workshop
The lower-class end of Europe, on the other hand, had to substitute the extravagant beeswax candles for tallow as they were a great deal cheaper to make, and could even be mass-produced at home if households had all of the necessary materials.
The responsibility of a chandler was to provide two types of candles – beeswax and tallow – to the two main classes of the social hierarchy: the wealthy and the poor.
A disadvantage of being a part of a guild, on the other hand, was that if someone was found to be cheating the public in their industry, they would either be fined a hefty payment, or forced to redo their work again at the risk of their own cost. Not only that, but the worst possible punishment was to be banished from the chandlery guild and to never be included again, meaning that the expelled chandler was to never trade or sell in his/ or her town.
This painting dates back to the 11th Century and illustrates the life of a chandler selling candles for a living. In this image, it is obvious that candles are sold in bunches, and are long in length and thin in width. The candles are also one basic colour and are tied together in bunches with white string. The chandler would have most likely hung the candles on a hook from a rack in order to let the candles dry and harden when first made, and to display them to buying customers.
From this image, it can be seen that the chandler guild sold candles in a small stall, and their finished products were approximately double the length of the human hand.
Primary Source 2
Reference: (Tacuinum Sanitatis, 11th Century)
This painting, also from the Tacuinum, shows what a chandler's stall would have looked like in Medieval Europe. Displayed in this image are candles hanging from a hook above the seller. The candles are either tied up into bunches consisting of quite a few short candles, and others are tied up in pairs of considerably much longer candles. The painting also depicts a woman selling candles, and shows that she is using a weight to measure out some ingredients. The practice of trading items instead of paying money was quite common during this era. It is assumed that the woman would have been weighing spices or sugar in return for a few candles. According to an article found on a website titled, “The Material Culture of Merchants”, a chandler, or perhaps a spicer, used “hand-held scales to weigh a small quantity of luxury goods (possibly sugar) for his customer.” This means that the woman shown in Source 2 is perhaps trading, or selling, some sugar or spices to her customer.
The seller, the woman, and the buyer, the man, are also both wearing robes of similar fashion, which most likely represents what civilians from the Middle Ages wore daily.
Source 2 comes from the same book as Source 1, the Tacuinum Sanitatis. However, there is a significant difference between the two illustrations. For example, this Source contains different elements that are not shown in Source 1. The weights and sugar, for instance, are demonstrated in Source 2, while the former does not. Although there is a difference between the images, this source is still considered reliable. A reason for this is the fact that, over-time, many new forms of trade developed within guilds, so it can be assumed that Source 2 was created a little while after the first source, hence the slight differences between them.
Primary Source 3
Reference: (Tacuinum Sanitatis, 11th Century)
The next primary source displays the chandlery stall. This image shows quite similar themes to that of the previous. The painting displays weights, candles being hung from racks above the seller’s head, and a small stall in which the candles are being sold. The painting, however, incorporates some new elements that were not found in the last 2 sources. Some jugs can also be seen beneath the candles. These jugs were most likely sold as household items for the wealthier of Europe as they would of been quite expensive, seeing as they were made of porcelain, finely painted, and coated with a layer of varnish and patterns.
Yet again, this image comes from the exact book as the previous two sources: the Tacuinum Sanitatis. Although this image has some distinctive and different features from the previous two sources, it is still reliable as it was made in the middle ages. Once again, it is assumed that this painting was created some time after the first primary source, and around the time of the second, as the chandler stall was selling some newer items and used weights as a way of trade. It also corroborates and supports the two previous sources as it shows the environment, and the way in which candles were being sold during the 11th Century.
Primary Source 4
Reference: (Bullenwächter 2007)
These three candles date back to the 6th to 7th Centuries, and are the oldest surviving beeswax candles of all-time. Found in Europe, the candles are considered a significant part of understanding the chandlery methods of Medieval Europe. This image demonstrates the skill of chandlers in the middle ages. It also shows the wick (string) that was used for lighting up the candle in order to provide a source of light after sundown. The image also shows the colour of the beeswax that was used. Although the wax is dark brown in this picture, it was most likely a light yellow-gold colour when first made. Time passing and the wax changing texture has probably altered the appearance of it.
These three ancient candles are of great reliability as they were made around the 7th Century. However, that is a 300 year gap between the time period in which it was created and the middle ages. Although the time difference is quite vast, it is still a trustworthy source as it gives historians an impression of what candles during the middle ages would have most likely looked like, if not the same, as they did not evolve much advancing towards the middle ages. These candles were found in Alamannic, Europe and are, therefore, a reliable and primary source.
Primary Source 5
Reference: (Book of Hours, 13th Century)
This image displays 5 candles from medieval time. The candles appear to be made of beeswax, and are sitting in a brass holder. The reason why these 5 candles are most likely made of beeswax is because, looking around, the men and women appear to be of the richer class of Europe. This can be determined by looking at their clothing, which was colourful, heavily ornamented, and of great style. Therefore, the candles must be beeswax as the wealthy of the middle ages used only beeswax as it gave off a much nicer, long-lasting, and pleasant smell that tallow candles, which were reserved for commoners.
This drawing demonstrates what candles would have probably looked like during the 10th to 14th centuries. The beeswax candles in this image are illustrated to be quite yellow, thin, and long. Because of the significance and importance of candles in Medieval Europe, they had their own special holders made specifically for them, called a candle holder. This helps to reveal the significance of candles back then. Not only, but these candles seem to have been made with much care and precision, being perfectly long, smooth and all equal in size, helping to, once again, prove the worthiness of expensive beeswax candles in the middle ages.
The book in which this drawing comes from is the Book of Hours. The Book of Hours was made in the 13th Century in Europe, and consists of a wide variety of collections of texts, prayers and psalms.
As this source comes from a book of manuscripts created in the middle ages, it is quite reliable. However, it is worth mentioning that many artists and writers contributed to the finished product, meaning that the book could contain bias and unsupported context and facts. However, because it was created in the middle ages, this source is still classified as a primary source from medieval Europe.
Moreover, the Book of Hours can now be found at the British Library Board museum, making its reliability and trustworthiness as a source increase. This is because museums only display to the general public factual, dependable sources and information that can educate people on previous worlds, the present, and also predictions on the future.
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Book of Hours. (13th Century).
Bullenwächter. (2007) Candles Oberflacht. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_candle_making#/media/File:Candles_Oberflacht.jpg (accessed: 24 August 2015).
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Old& Interesting. (n.d.) Tallow candles& snuffers. http://www.oldandinteresting.com/tallow-candles-snuffers.aspx (accessed: 12 August 2015).
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(Old& Interesting n.d.)
(Janick Jules 2015)
("Development of the candle," 2015)
(Janick Jules 2015)
(The material culture of merchants 2014)