As a steady stream of Roman Catholic pilgrims from all over the world is beginning to flow into Lourdes, southern France, millions of candles are needed there for devotional and liturgical purposes.
GV Girl at work in candle factory
CV Girl prepares to dip candles into wax
CV Candles dipped
CV Rack dipped
LV Man dips candles in wax
CV Trims ends of candles
SV Man with wicks
CV Flat candles dipped into hot water
CV Man twists soft candles
LV Girl carries large candle in container
SV Large candle pulled from container
GV Large candle carried away
CV Wick inserted
CV Wick pulled through other end
LV Girl stacks large candles
SV Man takes large candle from container
LV Large candles stacked
SV Man builds up candles with hot wax
LV Girls embellish candles
LV Lourdes - pilgrims in procession with candles
CV Candles on grotto
GTV Procession with candles
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Background: As a steady stream of Roman Catholic pilgrims from all over the world is beginning to flow into Lourdes, southern France, millions of candles are needed there for devotional and liturgical purposes.
At Cahors in the Lot district, at Mussidan in the Dordogne region, and at Lourdes, candle-making is a time-honoured local craft. Even nowadays the different processes used require a great deal of skilled manual work.
Smaller candles are made by dipping the wicks, arranged on frames suspended from a horizontal wheel, into the candlewax - a mixture of paraffin, stearine and beeswax. As the wheel slowly revolves, each frame holding about 20 wicks is taken down, immersed and put up again, with layer after layer of wax forming around the wick. The difficult part of this method is for the candlemaker to judge the precise moment when the candles have grown to the desired weight and size. They are then cut from the frames, weighed ten at a time, and left to dry. Others are flattened out, dipped in warm water and twisted into ornamental spirals.
Large candles are either cast in tubular moulds of tempered tin or, if the percentage of beeswax is very high, formed by pouring liquid wax over a suspended wick until the required thickness is obtained. Some of these - used in the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes - weigh as much as 150 pounds and have as many as four wicks.
An example of the constant demand for candles at Lourdes is the procession of light, held every evening, when some 5,000 flickering symbols of purity and devotion are carried through the town. The total weight of all candles used at the pilgrimage centre every year is said to amount to some 500 tons, more than anywhere else in the world.