The use of torches at the Elevation of the Host

The use of hand-held torches at the elevation of the host at mass, is something that is depicted fairly constantly in northern European art in the Middle Ages. Even when there are no altar lights, which in many depictions of altars there aren’t, these hand held lights are always depicted. Of course none of these torches actually survive, so frustratingly we have no real idea of how they were made. They seem to take the form of a number of candles twisted together, with their wicks united at the top, which is then attached to a long pole. Any other suggestions?

Doddiscombsleigh, Devon, nII, 3a, Eucharist
The Elevation of the Host at mass, part of the Seven Sacraments window in Doddiscombsleigh, Devon. Photo by Gordon Plumb.

The Elevation of the Host in Dat Boexken Vander Missen – the torch is not held but is stood up to the right of the deacon.

Friskney, Lincolnshire
Friskney, Lincolnshire. A torch bearer is built into the stonework of the east window.

The mass of St Gregory by Adrien Ysenbrandt Netherlandish, about 1530s – 1540s

The mass of St Giles by the Master of St Giles, now in the national gallery.

York, St Martin, nII, 4a, St Martin as acolyte assists St Hilary at Mass
St Martin serves St Hilary’s mass. Glass in St Martin le Grand Coney Street York. Photo by Gordon Plumb.

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