A Lenten “Pilgrimage” to Marklin Candle

Tammi and Garrick pose beside "Big Bertha," the fattest candle Marklin makes.

Tammi and Garrick pose beside "Big Bertha," the fattest candle Marklin makes.

Two maxims express the spirit of Marklin Candle in Contoocook and guide its work: “God is in the details” (the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe) and “None [church furnishings and objects] should be made in such a way that it is far removed from the print of the human hand and human craft” (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Environment and Art in Catholic Worship). Our hour-long tour of the Marklin plant and shop (yes, they have a gorgeous gift shop with both religious and secular items for sale) was very much like an hour-long worship service (only more exciting than many of these!).

Martin Marklin displays one of his company's hand-crafted Paschal candles.

Martin Marklin displays one of his company's hand-crafted Paschal candles.

Most candle companies offer only mass-produced goods. Decorations are superficial and often deteriorate in use. Marklin has developed special techniques for incising their candles and then filling the designs with colored waxes. They also follow painstaking procedures for blending waxes, double dipping, smoothing and sizing candles. Besides Paschal candles, which they ship all over the world, they make a variety of altar candles, baptismal candles, candles for special events (not all religious) and decorative candles for the home. Nor are candles their only product. The Holy Cross group saw some of the liturgical furnishings (Paschal and Advent candle stands, ambos, altars, presider’s chairs) they make in their plant.

A Marklin craftsman works on the Holy Cross candle.

A Marklin craftsman works on the Holy Cross candle.

Owner Martin Marklin grew up in a Roman Catholic parish in St. Louis (also named Holy Cross). His pastor was deeply affected by the liturgical movement that grew out of, and helped shape, the Second Vatican Council and its reforms — as well as parallel reforms in the Episcopal Church, culminating in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. An old Polish woman each year decorated the Holy Cross Paschal candle. When she died, the Marklin family figured out how she had done this and took over her ministry. Out of this grew Martin Marklin’s vocation of crafting fine liturgical appointments and his company, now 25 years old. Most of the processes and equipment in the plant have been designed and built by Marklin itself. Its employees are as dedicated to care and beauty as its owner.

A note about Paschal candles: The word paschal means Easter, coming from the Greek word for Passover. At the heart of all Christian worship down through the ages is the liturgy celebrated on the eve of Easter Day, the Great Vigil of Easter. Beginning traditionally in the dark (in the days before Daylight Saving Time and when people were up to spending all night at church), the service begins outofdoors with the kindling and blessing of the New Fire. From this the Paschal candle is lit and carried into the church, symbolizing Christ the Light of the World, triumphing over death and darkness. An ancient hymn, the Exsultet, is sung as the candle is placed in its stand beside the ambo or lectern. It will burn there throughout the 50 days of Easter, and afterwards will stand by the baptismal font where it is lighted at baptisms. (It also burns beside the casket at funerals, symbolizing the Christian hope of the resurrection of the dead.) Paschal candles come in many sizes. The Holy Cross candle is 3″ x 36″, a nice large size; it rests in a wrought iron stand made for Holy Cross by a local Weare blacksmith. Marklin makes Paschal candles that weigh as much as 75 pounds, requiring two deacons to carry them into the church at the Vigil. Every year on Holy Saturday (the day before Easter), Martin Marklin rises in the dark to pray at the very hour that one of his candles is being lighted at the Easter Vigil in Guam, where Easter Day first dawns on the world.

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