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Date added: 11/21/2012 Schwibbogen Patterns (lighted arches)

30 March 2008


Scwibbogen Patterns

In response to my email about the lighted arches or Schwibbogen patterns, I’ve had numerous requests for more information, so here is a bit of history on the Schwibbogen (as written by Chase Smeeks). The lights we use are known as mini lights, fairy lights, or rice lights. The 10 or 20 string lights are ideal for lighted arches.




The history of lighted arches or Schwibbogen, originated from the Erzgebirge region of Germany more than 250 years ago.

The Largest Schwibbogen is made of wrought iron and measures 23 feet high and 13 feet wide!  This large metal arch stands on the highest point of the Erzgebirge town of Johanngeorgenstadt.  The smallest Schwibbogen fits in a matchbox!

The practice of decoratively lighting windows and tabletops with Schwibbogen is gaining favor among all who love Christmas.

Most Schwibbogen are crafted by hand, in small family-owned cottage industries in the Erzgebirge region.  Designed with scenes depicting mining towns, landscapes, and religious themes, the Schwibbogen is then given vitality with its integral lighting.  Some Schwibbogen use candles for illumination, while others use electric lighting.

The name “Schwibbogen” originates from one of its architectural features, the suspension arch.  It is said that the miner and blacksmith, Johann Teller from Johanngeorgenstadt, created the first wrought iron Schwibbogen candleholder in 1726. Travelling through villages and cities of the Erzgebirge region, one will notice lighted Schwibbogen in windows of many buildings.  This tradition traces back to the Erzgebirge miners.  During the last shift on Christmas Eve, the miners held the traditional “Mettenschicht”, a time when the miners, the foreman, and all the workers hung their lamps on a wall in the shape of a horseshoe.  This symbolized the entrance to the mine.  >From this tradition developed the candle arch, or Schwibbogen.  The miners’ yearning for light played a great role in this tradition.  During their 10 – 12 hour shifts, the miners saw little daylight, especially during the short days of winter.  The miners carved arches of wood for their homes, decorating them with scenes from their village life.  The traditional designs and motifs of Schwibbogen have remained relatively unchanged throughout the years.  The magic of lit Schwibbogen fills windows and rooms with a warm glow.  Schwibbogens remain one of the folk pieces most closely identified with the Erzgebirge region and at Christmas the candle arches of all sizes may be seen adding a festive glow to the towns and villages of that region and reflect another wonderful German Christmas tradition.

Today’s’ Schwibbogen are still very similar to the earlier models, generating the same dazzling effect as in the miners’ days.

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