As a crowning statement of elegance, grace and glamour, a chandelier — also known as a “ceiling rose” — sits at the top of the lighting fixture hierarchy, looking down proudly on all entering the room. Throughout history, chandeliers have been hung in important spaces like theaters, libraries, museums, cathedrals and other places where society’s upper crust is likely to show up. In many instances, chandeliers were strictly ornamental, offering no artificial light at all, their shine and sparkle coming only from the glass and metal they were made from. The more practical chandeliers of the Middle Ages and colonial times were called candle beams or hanging candelabras.
Made from iron or wood, they supported sets of candles made from animal tallow, capturing the wax in shallow bowls. The ornamental chandeliers of Europe carried on the idea of overhanging light by setting candles into metal frames fastened to strings of glittering glass and crystal drops. When gas and electric light arrived, chandeliers adapted and adjusted but never lost their impressive shapes and symbolic purpose of making a room more regal. Read on through this timeline to learn more about how the ceiling rose has played a part in world history and carries on today. Note: The pictures included are all modern products made in the image and motifs of their times, but are not actual historical relics.
Medieval & Middle Ages
When Chaucer and Shakespeare were writing their literary masterpieces, it’s possible they sat beneath the chandelier light of medieval times. Since electricity was still a long way off, these first chandeliers were designed with candleholders and drip pans, also known as bobéches, to hold the melted wax. The first chandeliers were practical constructions of two crossed planks of wood inset with carved grooves to hold the flickering flames, but they evolved into much more.