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Votive candle

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Title: Votive candle  
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Subject: Sanctuary lamp, Votive offering, Anglican devotions, Elevation (liturgy), Crucifer
Collection: Candles, Christian Prayer, Christian Religious Objects, Votive Offering
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Votive candle

A votive candle rack at Grace Episcopal Cathedral, an Anglican Christian cathedral in Topeka.

A votive candle or prayer candle is a small candle, typically white or beeswax yellow, intended to be burnt as a votive offering in an act of Christian prayer, especially within the Anglican and Roman Catholic Christian denominations, among others.[1][2][3] In Christianity, votive candles are commonplace in many churches, as well as home altars, and symbolize the "prayers the worshipper is offering for him or herself, or for other people."[4][2][3] The size of a votive candle is often two inches tall by one and a half inches diameter, although other votive candles can be significantly taller and wider. In other religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, similar offerings exist, which include diyas and butter lamps.


  • Use by Christian denomination 1
    • Anglicanism 1.1
    • Catholicism 1.2
    • Eastern Orthodoxy 1.3
    • Lutheranism 1.4
    • Methodism 1.5
  • Composition 2
  • Gallery 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Use by Christian denomination

Votive candles at a small Roman Catholic Christian grotto in the American state of Texas
Votive candles on sale for Hallowe'en in a Midwestern department store

Candles are lit for prayer intentions. To "light a candle for someone" indicates one's intention to say a prayer for another person, and the candle symbolizes that prayer. Many times, "a board is placed nearby with names of those for whom prayer is requested."[1] A donation box intended to defray candle costs sometimes is placed near a votive candle rack in order that Christians lighting the votive candles can help defray the cost of votive candles.


Some Anglican (Episcopalian) churches, especially those that worship in the High Church or Anglo-Catholic tradition, have votive candles for purposes of praying for the dead as well as asking for saintly intercession.


In the Roman Catholic Church, candles are placed before a statue of Jesus or of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Often, in older or traditional churches, this will be before a bye-altar. Candles used may vary from long, taper-type candles to tealight candles. Tealight candles are either placed in holders or just on a platform in front of the statue. Long candles may be placed in a special holder.[5]

Eastern Orthodoxy

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, candles are lit before icons, usually of Jesus Christ or the Holy Theotokos. Usually Orthodox churches only use long, thin candles. These are usually placed in round containers, having either various sockets to hold the candles, or in a container filled with sand, in which the worshippers place their candles. Orthodox churches will usually have a separate place to put candles lit for the departed; Anglican and Roman Catholic churches make no such distinction.


Lutheran churches may use votive candles which may be lit at home, as a part of personal of family devotions, or at the church. They are usually lit on the altar rails, or in front of the altar cross. They are also often lit during the liturgy of Good Friday.


In the United Methodist Church, those churches which worship in the High Church tradition make use of votive candles. During the liturgical celebration of Allhallowtide, especially on All Saints' Day (All Hallows' Day), votive candles are lit and a prayer is said for each person of the congregation who has died that year. Votive candles may be also lit during communion services.[6]


Votive candles are made from different types of waxes including paraffin, soy wax or beeswax. There are different grades of wax with different melting points. Paraffin is often mixed with other types of waxes, such as beeswax or vegetable wax. This is done to obtain the rigidity necessary for the type of candle being made. The speed at which the candle burns depends on the composition of the wax. A taper candle that sits in a ring-shaped candle holder may have a low melting point and produce little to no oil, whereas a votive candle set in a glass cup may have a very low melting point and turn to oil. Pillar candles, large candles often with multiple wicks, have their own formula. Soy jar candles tend to have a lower melting point than pillars and votive candles. Candle quality also varies widely depending on the candle maker. The aroma of a lighted scented candle is released through the evaporation of the fragrance from the hot wax pool and from the solid candle itself.

Lead wicks are unlikely to be found in any candle sold in the U.S. today: lead-core wicks have been banned from the U.S. since 2003, and members of the National Candle Association — which account for more than 90% of candles made in the U.S. — have not used lead wicks for more than 30 years. Reputable manufacturers use cotton, cotton-paper, zinc-core or tin-core wicks, all of which are known to be safe. [7]


See also


  1. ^ a b Geddes, Gordon; Griffiths, Jane (2002). Christian Belief and Practice. Heinemann. p. 68.  
  2. ^ a b Keene, Michael (2000). Christian Life. Nelson Thornes. p. 11.  
  3. ^ a b Cross, Frank Leslie; Livingstone, Elizabeth A. (2005). The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church.  
  4. ^ O'Toole, James M. (1 July 2005). Habits of Devotion. Cornell University Press. p. 128.  
  5. ^ "Ask a Catholic: Why light candles at church?". Retrieved 2010-07-10. 
  6. ^ Benedict, Daniel. "Emerging Worship: Votive Candles, Prayer, and Postmoderns". United Methodist Church - General Board of Discipleship. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  7. ^

External links

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