The attractive carved design element known as the “Barley Twist” enjoyed a revival in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (as shown in the wooden candlesticks, above). But the use of this design element is thousands of years old. They were originally called “Solomonic Columns” and are believed to have been used in the Temple of Jerusalem, over 500 years before the time of Christ. During Constantine’s reign as Roman Emperor (306 – 336 AD), he is said to have brought a pair of Solomonic Columns to Rome to be used in the old Basilica of St. Peter. During the late Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Jacobean periods, the Barley Twist became very popular in furniture design. On of the most impressive existing examples of Solomonic Columns is in the enormous and incredible baldacchino over the high alter of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. Made of bronze (in 1623-34), this Baroque work of art by Gian Lorenzo Bernini stands over the tomb of the first pope, St. Peter.
Today’s common name, “Barley Twist,” comes from a Renaissance treat made of barley and sugar. The twisted candies were enjoyed by children at fairs or on special occasions.