Cal Corderet, the oldest shop in Tarragona

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Wandering along Merceria Street, you come across a store, which catches your attention in a very particular way. Stones covering the bottom of the façade still preserve up to four roman inscriptions, which come to prove we are right in front of a historical building. Its wooden entrance gate is painted in a two-tone green, and the decoration on the window display demonstrates the long commercial activity of a store which talks, which has a characteristic smell, and which is capable of seducing both kids and adults.

In fact, no other store can boast of such a long-standing life as the one of Cal Corderet in Tarragona. The historical wax-chandler’s shop, located at number 17 Merceria St., right in the heart of the Part Alta, is already more than 260 years old, which is not a trifle matter. Maybe the credit must be attributed to its “spirituality”, ventures to say Xavier Pagès, senior craftsman who works there. Whatever the case may be, the historical thread of Cal Corderet continues to be as valid right up to these days; first, as a candle manufacturing workshop, and afterwards, as an altar candle and natural incenses store. Products still appealing to both Tarragona inhabitants and tourists –the latter, more into discovering a place which evokes city’s heritage and history, and that is able to take you back in time–.

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Cal Corderet origin should be set back in 1751, when candle manufacturing started –according to written documentation– in a small workroom, located on the building’s side wing, which would eventually lead to the current store.

As a matter of fact, one can still feel its historical atmosphere lingering in the air, and by entering the store, you are be able to admire its very first counter, today used as a display for candles of different colours, sizes and aromas. The rest of the décor is also the original one. Shelves filling its walls are also more than two and a half centuries old, despite showing some small later additions, such as the ‘gold leaf’ (pa d’or) that can be seen at its highest point. These shelves actually hide a sort of secret door, which in the past would lead to the house’s basement, where neighbours would have hidden during the Peninsular War (Guerra del Francès), and later, for the Spanish Civil War. This basement was also used as storage for the hand-made lye soap, very useful and efficient to clean wounds.

Particularly worth mentioning are the four gravestones with roman inscriptions that are kept at the main and lateral façades. One of them is signed to Fabia, a roman patrician beloved by her husband, Caius.

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Throughout more than two centuries, Cal Corderet has moved from one owner to another. Despite this, every single one of them have been able to preserve its essence, and have watched over it in order to transmit a piece of history which is part of the Part Alta’s DNA. Nowadays, the ownership of the store belongs to Montserrat Magriñà, whereas Xavier Pagès is the craftsman, both in charge of candles’ decoration, and taking care of customers. As a sort of curiosity, a little detail: one of Xavier’s great-grandmothers had also owned a wax-chandler’s shop at the Part Alta, known as Ca la Filomena, actually located very near Cal Corderet.

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What is to be found?
Cal Corderet is a wax-chandler’s shop offering the latest tendencies in aromas, colours, and shapes for the most modern types of candles, together with the most traditional altar candles. In fact, if you are looking for a custom-made product, don’t forget Xavier is an artist with his brush. However, one should be aware of the fact that paint and wax need a certain time to properly work together, and to achieve the ideal solidity grade. That is why a candle made to order may take a minimum of fifteen days to finish.

If you like incense, you can also find a great variety at Cal Corderet, although we would recommend the custom-made kind, which includes unique mixtures using resins from all over the world.

Cal Corderet
Carrer Merceria, 17
(0034) 977 234 625

Monday: closed
Tuesday to Friday: 9.30am till 1.30pm, and 5.00pm till 8.30pm
Saturday: 9.30am till 1.30pm, and 5.30pm till 8.30pm
Sunday: 10.30am till 2.00pm.

Coverage and pictures by @casalesi
Translated by Artur Santos

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