Every year, during the Advent time, decorative candle-holders appear in people’s windows. The so called “Schwibbogen” (“flying buttress”) is a tradition that has its origin in the Ore Mountains and it wasn’t directly connected to Christmas at first.
Initially, the Schwibbögen were made of metal and put onto the windowsill to guide the minders home during the darker seasons. Even today, although the mines are mostly used for touristic purposes now, the Schwibbögen can be seen in almost every window in the Ore Mountain region.
The word “Schwibbogen” comes from “Schwebebogen” (“floating arch”) which describes an architectural element that looks similar to the decoration. Nowadays, they’re traditionally made of one piece of wood. In the early days – the first “Schwibbogen” seems to be from 1740 and comes from the town Johanngeorgenstadt – traditional mining scenes were depicted.
The most famous design – consisting of two miners, a wood carver, a bobbin lace maker and several smaller decorations – is from 1937 and is popular even now. The design possibilities are sheer endless, however. Most often the Schwibbögen show Christian elements or landscape scenes, but there are also designs featuring widely known sights, such as the “Frauenkirche” in Dresden or the church in Seiffen, a small town in the Ore Mountains which is famous for Schwibbögen.
The decoration also comes in lots of sizes: There are small ones, which only have one candle on each end and are most often bought as a souvenir, but also Schwibbögen so big, they’re taller than most people. One example for the latter size is the one at the entrance of the “Striezelmarkt”, the Christmas market in Dresden.
And last but not least, a fun fact: Due to it’s form, the “Waldschlösschen” bridge is collquially known as “The Schwibbogen”.
Text: S. Schückel