Glass Hung High

Joshua before the Angel of the Lord
Wall mosaic in the St. Maria Maggiore, Rome

Polycandelon for 16 lamps
7th century A.D.

As Constantine and his successors built new churches throughout the Holy Land, donations flooded in for their decoration. Inner domes were decorated with gold-rich mosaics that glistened by the light from glass lamps held high in massive gold and silver chandeliers (polycandela).

In the 5th century A.D., bishop Paulinus of Nola captured the effect of such lighting in this way: "With the abundant foliage of their flames, they resemble close-packed stars, and stud the heavy darkness with countless flashes...." (On the Providence of God XIX.416)

There was an equally strong demand for glass lamps in the churches of all the towns and villages throughout the Eastern Empire. These lamps would be mounted in polycandela made from either bronze or wood, depending upon the wealth of the region.