At KLEIO, our goal is to not only recreate aromas of the past but also to share the fascinating history behind each candle.
Ancient libraries safeguarding the world’s historically important books—these are places filled with the deepest mysteries: secrets begging to be discovered, but perhaps not for centuries to come. Premier among such hallowed spaces is the Vatican Library, legendary for the enigmatic documents it protects.
Dating back to the fourth century, there are records of a Scrinium of the Roman Church: a library and an archive. As writings and books were gathered, they were overseen by individuals called Bibilothecarius, or Librarian. Collections attributed to the early Popes resided in cities like Perugia, Assisi, Avignon. The beginnings of the Vatican Library as it is known today can be traced to Gregory XI, who established a site in Rome, in 1378.
That very insititution was housed in the ground floor of a building with an entrance from the Cortile dei Pappagalli, and a façade on the Cortile del Belvedere. The building remains today, refurbished and enhanced, nevertheless original at its core. At that time, there were four rooms, respectively called Bibliotheca Latina and Bibliotheca Graeca (for works in these two languages); Bibliotheca Secreta (for manuscripts which were not directly available to readers, including certain precious ones). Until very recently, that particular collection—the records, letters, and texts of Popes—has been known as The Secret Archives. Today, it is called The Apostolic Archive. But it is no less a repository of some of the world’s most enigmatic documents.
Such forays into centuries past prompt a profound feeling among those who enter the age-old space. It is a multi-sensory experience: visual, spiritual, auditory, but importantly, olfactory. The smell which greets readers permitted to explore the recordings of the past is significant and very important. To open a volume created perhaps 500 or 600 years ago is to immediately experience the aura of time immemorial; words of writers long gone; those whose pen scratches filled the pages.
The Vatican Apostolic Archive (Archivum Apostolicum Vaticanum), formerly known as the Vatican Secret Archive, is the central repository in the Vatican City. The Vatican Apostolic Archive has been estimated to contain 53 miles of shelving, with 35,000 volumes in the selective catalogue alone.
In creating Secret Archives, we collaborated with Sandra Vasoli to recreate the key aromas that make up the atmosphere.
What does such time-travel smell like in the case of a venerable library and the books it holds? That of civilizations past: leather, hand-rubbed wooden furniture, the skin of animals stretched and pulled to make vellum, wax burned for candlelight, the oil from monk’s hands as they toiled, laying down color for illuminations. Incense: the frankincense and myrrh used in cathedral services. Smoke from wood fires, critical to warm cold stone chambers. And the smell of stone walls themselves—a little dank, but not unpleasant.
The fragrance of old books, old letters, historic documents—they all combine to create a signature scent of the environment in which they reside. Each is its own stamp; iconic libraries possess their own redolent watermark.
Secret Archives recreates the aroma which surrounded Zara, the heroine of the novel Pursuing A Masterpiece, as she desperately hunted through a volume of ancient Papal letters, finally stumbling upon a clue which was to change her life—and history.
The fragrance is a unique composition which includes scents of venerable texts as a dominant note, suffused with resins from long ago. To invoke the feeling specific to Zara’s Secret Archives, the candle has whispers of frankincense and myrrh–those age-old spices so valuable thousands of years ago. Earthy, enigmatic, and distinctly magical, when the candle flickers, its intimate perfume will transform a space into the Archives of the Vatican Library.
KLEIO's Secret Archives candle features fragrance notes of resin incense, ancient scrolls, and sacred papers.
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