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Popular Medieval Lamp Designs: A Look at Historical Lighting Techniques

Lighting has always been a crucial element of interior design, and the Middle Ages were no exception. In fact, various lighting techniques were used during this period to cast a warm and inviting glow in both secular and religious spaces.

From candlesticks to torches, medieval lamps illuminated the way during a time when artificial light was not readily accessible. What are some popular Medieval lamp designs? This article will examine the various Medieval lamp designs and their characteristics.

Exploring the Versatility and Charm of Medieval Lanterns Designs

Medieval lamps were frequently categorized according to where they were hung or placed: hanging lamps, table lamps, and wall lamps. Here are some of the most popular medieval lamp designs:

Hanging Lamps

1. Chandeliers: Chandeliers were a popular way to hang lamps in grand medieval halls and churches. Although some were small and simple, others were ornate and featured various decorative elements. The Great Chandelier of Ulm Minster, the world’s largest chandelier, is an excellent example of a grandiose chandelier with intricate designs and motifs.

2. Lanterns: Medieval lanterns were also hung via chains, but they were smaller and more portable than chandeliers. These lamps were often used as a light source on journeys or in medieval castles.

Table Lamps

What are some popular Medieval lamp designs

1. Candlesticks: These tall and elegant lamps were used on tables, usually in pairs. The main light source was a candle placed on top of the candlestick. Metal and wooden designs made candlesticks an effortless yet classic lighting option. Candlestick designs varied from plain to ornate, usually with tall stems and a circular base to hold the candle, sometimes adorned with detailed carvings.

2. Oil Lamps: As the name suggests, oil lamps were powered by oil, usually used on home table lamps. They were less versatile than candlesticks but burned for much more extended periods. Oil lamps were an inexpensive option for the common people of the time, often made of simple materials like clay or wood.

Wall Lamps

1. Sconces: Sconces are medieval decorative lamps fixed on the walls. They refracted light to create a soft and warm glow, typically used to highlight walls’ decor. Sconces were used in various settings, from grand castles to modest homes in rural areas.

2. Trches: Medieval torches are a unique twist to medieval wall lamps. They were oil lamps with wooden torches fixed on top of them used as mounted wall lamps. These torches were typically made of wood, sometimes with intricate designs, and were used to light passageways and entrances.

Classic and Elegant: A Closer Look at Medieval Designs

Understanding Medieval Oil Lamp Designs

Medieval lamps’ aesthetics and characteristics were essential in illuminating medieval halls, churches, and homes. Here are some of the most notable attributes of Medieval lamp designs:

Materials and Colors Used

Medieval lamps were usually made of bronze, brass, copper, tin, and iron. These metals increased the charm of the lamps, and the color schemes were often influenced by the lighting fixture’s location or design. For example, bronze sconces were popular for churches, while iron lamps were commonly used in homes.

Decorative Elements

Medieval lamp designs were known for their intricate decorative elements, using religious and mythical motifs to adorn their lamps. Red and green enamels were common features in lamps depicting religious figures, while dragons and other mythical creatures were often used in sconces and wall-mounted lamps.

For example, dragon wall sconces were often used in medieval castles to create a dramatic and imposing effect.

Shapes and Sizes

The shapes and sizes of medieval lamps varied considerably and were often tailored to the purpose and location. Tall, elegant candlesticks adorned tables as conversational pieces while smaller sconces complimented wall tapestries. Chandeliers in grand European cathedrals were often designed to be large and impressive, with intricate patterns and multiple tiers.

Medieval Lamp Aesthetics and Design Principles

Medieval lamps weren’t just a source of light and a significant design feature in the spaces where they were used.

They were designed to create an ambiance that illuminated a room and added a touch of warmth, richness, and splendor. The design principles of medieval lamps emphasized the importance of the air, and how it can be impacted by light.

The glow provided by these medieval lamps was not too bright or clinical. The light provided a soft, flickering effect that was designed to make the room feel more intimate and welcoming.

In large spaces like medieval castles and churches, the lighting created a sense of grandeur and awe. Designers employed colors in different ways depending on the location and purpose of the lamp.

For example, red oil lamps could create a warm and romantic atmosphere in a private bedroom, while golden chandeliers added a touch of opulence in grand halls.

The shapes and details of the medieval lamps were also significant design features. Intricate details such as carvings and engravings were used to create beautiful motifs, including religious, mythological, and nature-inspired designs.

The lamps were sometimes designed to complement architectural features such as doors, windows, and alcoves, and their styles varied depending on the region and era.

One significant aspect of medieval lamp designs was the use of religious motifs. Christianity was the dominant religion in Europe during the Middle Ages, and religious imagery was often incorporated into lamp designs.

Crosses, saints, and other religious figures were commonly displayed on lamps for aesthetic and symbolic purposes. Lamps were a symbol of religious devotion, and illuminated images of saints were believed to protect the space they were hung in.

 Advancements in Lighting Technology of Medieval Lamp

 Advancements in Lighting Technology of Medieval Lamp

With the advent of the Industrial Revolution and the introduction of electricity, lighting technology underwent significant changes in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

The incandescent light bulb was invented in 1879 by Thomas Edison, and it quickly became a popular alternative to older lighting methods like gas lamps and candles.

These advancements in lighting technology significantly impacted interior design, and lamp designs evolved to incorporate new materials and lighting techniques.

Metal and glass designs became increasingly popular, and lamp shapes became more geometric with clean lines. As a result, the demand for medieval-style lamps decreased, and many were relegated to museums and antique shops.

Despite the decline of traditional medieval lamp designs, modern-day lighting designers still draw inspiration from these historical lamps’ intricate designs and motifs.

Many designers incorporate medieval lamp elements into modern lamp designs to create unique and sophisticated pieces that add depth and character to today’s spaces.

For example, with their elaborate designs and ornate details, wrought-iron chandeliers are often used to create a sense of grandeur in modern homes.

Candlestick lamps, with their classic elegance, are still popular for intimate and romantic settings. Sconces, which were once used mainly in castles, are now commonly used in modern homes to create a cozy and inviting ambiance in living spaces.

4 Famous Medieval Lamp Designs Worldwide

Some of the most well-known medieval lamp designs remain visible in historical sites worldwide. Here are four of the most famous Medieval lamp designs:

The Great Chandelier of Ulm Minster: The world’s largest chandelier, hanging from the Gothic Ulm Minster of Germany, depicts a mix of religious symbols, floral motifs, and other beautiful crafting patterns.

The Strozzi Chandelier: The Strozzi Chandelier is a grand bronze chandelier that was owned by a well-known family of Florence, Italy. Although it’s admired for its precise details and beauty, this chandelier is unique because it’s part of a historical art collection.

Gothic Torchieres: Gothic torchieres were wall-mounted oil lamps that remained in use during the Gothic-Renaissance period, and it featured wooden torches as decorative elements.

Dragon Wall Sconces: Dragon wall sconces were bronze lamps that played an essential role in illuminating castles. The lamps were intricately crafted with a fire-breathing dragon to provide a touch of medieval flair.


Here are questions you may need the answer to:

What kind of lighting was used in the Middle Ages?

Medieval lamps, including candlesticks, oil lamps, chandeliers, lanterns, wall sconces, and torches, were mostly used.

What materials were used to create Medieval lamps?

Medieval lamps were made of bronze, brass, copper, tin, iron, and other similar metals.

How did Medieval lamp designs influence interior design?

Medieval lamp designs have a lasting influence on interior design. Designers and decorators still use them to create historical depth in modern spaces with intricate details and warm lighting.

What was the significance of religious motifs in Medieval lamps?

Religious motifs were an essential part of Medieval lamp designs because they were a significant source of inspiration for medieval craftsmen and also because lamps served as a symbol of religious devotion.

Are there any existing examples of Medieval lamps that we can see today?

Many historic sites and ancient churches still have examples of Medieval lamps on display, which showcase these ancient lamps’ beautifully crafted details and intricate designs.


In conclusion, medieval lamp designs were integral to illuminating European architecture during the Middle Ages. From elegant candlesticks to grand chandeliers, these light fixtures not only provide light but they were also decorative pieces of art.

They added warmth and welcomed the inhabitants of these Gothic-style rooms, setting a welcoming ambiance. Even today, Medieval lamp designs remain an important influence on lighting design, and designers continue to incorporate these historical styles into modern-day interior design.