Caza das Vellas Loreto is one Lisbon’s oldest shops, and of all the Historic Shops, it is has been in the same premises, owned by the same family and producing and selling the same products the longest. Since 1789 to be exact. Going back so far in time requires a fair amount of imagination. What one would see is an extensively rural city, with trades and commerce concentrated in the Chiado and Baixa districts and many street vendors, carts and carriages, comings and goings and, of course, no source of artificial lighting other than the candle. This was a period when the candle played a role it has since surrendered to progress: it was light that was easy to generate and could be transported. When progress brought with it street lighting, and then private lighting for the wealthier – first gas and then electric – the candle business faced the challenge of modernising itself and finding new ways of remaining relevant. Which is what Caza das Vellas has been doing for a long time – keeping up with trends and achieving a balance between tradition and modernity and between the value of memory and heritage and renewal and changes in times, trends and customs that is not easy to strike.
Entering this shop today is not just a delight for the senses (the colours, the smells, a chance to escape the noisy street outside), but also a gratifying experience that is equal to any modern shop, thanks to the new candles that are designed, tested and produced in the workshop (see the various fruit forms or the white candles with expressive black markings). It is also a fantastic mausoleum of memories and evocations of times gone by. The pendulum clock above the arch between the front shop and the workshop behind it reminds one that time is not coming back. The tall glass vitrines topped off with ogival arch forms call to mind the form of a candle flame. The palette of colours produced by the careful arrangement of the candles, which changes from season to season, depending on the refined sensitivity of the owners, means that each visit to the shop brings something new. The characteristic smell of honey and essential oils that pervades the air helps to transport the visitor away from the hustle and bustle of Rua Loreto outside. In the back, away from the public’s eye, the workshop they refer to as the “factory” contains ancestral candle making processes and materials, such as the hoop made of pau santo hardwood, together with modern equipment.
There, the manufacture of candles follows the liturgical and seasonal rhythm: just as the landscape differs greatly coming up to Easter and Christmas, and from winter to summer. Which shows that, be it for decorative or religious purposes, the candle still has its place in the symbolic representation of our beliefs and customs – think of candles for baptisms – and as a special presence in our homes – a candle adorned with hand embroidered cloth, a candle that one can only find here and is made with honey, perfumed candles, etc. Candles in as many shapes, sizes, colours and fragrances one could possibly desire. If you don’t find one to your liking, the shop does take special orders. In addition to this, as wax can be used for much more than just candles, the shop also offers traditional Christmas crib scenes and ex-votos, votive offerings in wax form in return for cure “miracles”.
Candles for lighting; decorative candles; baptism candles