The History of the Candle Arch

by Gregory Burton

As soon as winter starts, wooden arched candles, known as Schwibbogen, start popping up in windows all throughout Germany. It’s an annual tradition that kicks off the Christmas season and creates the atmosphere for this festive time of year. But where did it originate and how long have Germans been placing these elaborately decorated arches in their windows? Find out everything you need to know here about the unique and fascinating history of the candle arch.

Purpose of the Candle Arch

The beloved candle arch has been a staple of Christmastime décor in many a German home. Intricately carved with care and ultrafine precision, they serve as not only sources of soft lighting but also as a decorative storytelling keepsake. Traditional versions, as the name implies, incorporated real candles before many switched over to electrical bulbs, so a bit of heat was also possible in those early days when owning one of these pieces. Over the centuries, the design has evolved and expanded into a dazzling array of variations. Let’s now learn more about how the candle arch originated, along with the ways it has changed and been adapted for various generations.

Origins of the Candle Arch

Before electricity was readily available in the early 18th century, miners who lived in the Ore Mountains region of Saxony spent most of the winter months in complete utter darkness. Since they would finish work after the sun had gone down, the miners would often get lost in the woods when coming home. To help guide them home, family members would put candle lights in the windows. This led to the first known candle arch being created by a mountain blacksmith named Johan Teller.

How the Unique Arch Shape Came to Be

At first, the designs were basic in nature, with a painted metal arch and candles placed on top. Many believe that the arch was first intended to resemble the night sky, and that the candles themselves represented miners searching for daylight during the long, cold winters.. Decorative candle arches were not invented until woodturning became popular in the area. Soon following, wrought iron was replaced with wood, allowing for more intricate hand-carved designs to be created.  

Double and 3D Candle Arches

Since World War II, the Schwibbogen design has changed quite drastically. The designs that were primarily nature scenes and religious motives soon transitioned to nativity scenes, Christian motifs, Christmas themes, animal figures, and German forest landscapes. The traditional semicircular shape has also been expanded to include Christmas trees and triangle forms. And today, you can also find intricately designed arches with 3D effects that run on electricity.

Candle arches have been a German tradition for centuries. Today, you’ll find beautiful and uniquely shaped candle arches in windows across Europe and even North America. If you’d like one for your home or to give as a gift this year, shop our current selection online or visit our store today! At Frankenmuth Clock Company we specialize in German Christmas ornaments, souvenirs, and clocks, and have a wonderful selection of candle arches to choose from. For more information or assistance, feel free to reach out to our team today. We’re happy to help you decide on which candle arch to order – one you’ll surely enjoy for many years to come!